The five women
The story of Bull See Nidikira Cowya
Para Vina and my silly wife
The time is about 9 p.m.
in the night. I was returning home after a particularly strenuous day in
office, thinking pleasant thoughts about the bath and the shot of
"mellow water" waiting for me at my bachelor digs, and then the Kottu
nestling in my bag, and, a book of Shelly's poetry to serve me as a
nightcap, when I came across my neighbour and fellow "travailer" to the
metropolis in private buses, Jayaweera, sitting on the parapet wall
bounding his property.
I had known this educated, well-read Advertising Executive from the time
I moved to my present place of occupation, a large, rambling, old
bungalow where the ancient caretaker, an elderly retainer of the family
now living abroad, supports his living by letting out "rooms" for
"single gentlemen working in offices".
Jayaweera used to be a fairly heavy tippler, a habit he had picked up
in his younger days, The destructive habit did not abate after his
marriage to Rajini, a pretty, dark executive working in the same office.
In spite of all Jayaweera's drinking, Rajini managed to bring up
their children very well and educate them in Colombo schools, and now
the eldest son is in the university. Both of them travel to office
together in the morning, and whenever I meet them, she was always
beseeching me to advise Jayaweera to stop his drinking.
I could not advise him as I also like my occasional drink, but, I
used to tell him to stop destroying his own life, as well as the lives
of others near and dear to him. He used to brush off my exhortations
with a laugh.
Then, I moved on to a new job, which made me change my commuting
times, and I lost touch with them, though, occasionally, coming home
late at night, once or twice I met Jayaweera, sozzled to the gills.
But then, about one year back, I met Jayaweera at the bus halt. I
could not believe my eyes. I met a Jayaweera, vastly different from the
unkempt, unshaven caricature of a man, still smelling from the Gal he
had last night, a clean shaven, well-dressed respectable office worker,
a person every commuter would feel proud to associate with. "After the
customary greetings he said, "Machang, I have stopped drinking. Now, for
more than one year, I haven't touched a drop of alcohol!"
I told him, "Then, Rajini must be very happy!"
He replied, with some pride, that it was so. "When I return home
after work, my wife starts talking about her day in office, I tell her
about mine, our children come and speak about their studies, and then we
will discuss various current topics.
And then, all of us have dinner, and go to sleep. Machang, it is
great to wake up without a hangover, and not having to think what
drunken blunders you have committed the night before. I think that I
have wasted away over 20 years of my life with my addiction, but, as I
am only 48 now, I still have time to build a good life for me and my
Then the bus came, and we were chatting all the way to Colombo.
Jayaweera told me how he met with a near-fatal accident just after
marriage, and how selflessly Rajini cared for him. He went on to tell me
that Rajini is a caring mother, and he spoke with pride of his children.
He praised Rajini so much that I began to regret my bachelor status.
Above all I could not help seeing how happy he was. He radiated
happiness, and it was a wonder to see his transformation. Then the bus
reached Pettah, and my parting advice to him was "Keep up the good
So, my first reaction after seeing this same man, seated dejectedly
on a parapet wall in the dark still in his office attire, my first
thought was that he had reverted to his former ways. But when I spoke
with him, I realised that he was cold sober.
I asked him, "Hey, Jayaweera, what is the matter? Why are you sitting
on this parapet wall without going home?"
"Ah, Lal, I didn't recognise you in this darkness. No, Machang, I
can't go home just yet. There are four women at our house, and I am
waiting for them to go."
"What? Four women? You mean that your mother-in-law and
sisters-in-law have come visiting and you are waiting for them to go as
you don't like them?"
"No, Machang, I like my mother-in-law and I have only one
sister-in-law who adores me. Come, I know you have time to spare for a
lonely man, being a bachelor yourself. I will tell you the story of the
four women" so saying, Jayaweera patted the parapet wall next to him.
As the following day was Saturday, I sat down, and prepared to
listen, "Machang, my life was bliss till my wife wanted to visit her
sister and attend the first birthday party of her niece. I also let her
go with my kids, but I didn't go, as I dislike these tamashas. Then,
they returned after two days, and everything was back to normal.
The next day when I returned from work, I found my wife glued to the
TV. When I came back after a wash and a change, she was still sitting in
front of the TV, enraptured. When I stated to tell her about a humorous
incident in the bus, she shushed me, almost savagely.
Only after 10.00 pm was she ready to listen to me, but , then I had
to watch the news. By the time I finished watching the news, she was
asleep. I didn't think much about this incident, and as I was tired, I
also went to sleep.
The same pattern of things was repeated the next night. And next
night. And next...and next. Then, after making some inquiries, I found
out what is going on.
My wife had got hooked on to those dubbed Indian soap operas that are
shown on one TV channel! She had watched them for two consecutive nights
at her sister's place, and had become addicted to them!
When I tried to watch them, I found, to my disgust, that they are
utter crap! How can one with even an iota of intelligence go on watching
this baloney two hours a day five nights a week is beyond my
comprehension! And, to top it all, my daughter who just attained age, is
also watching those filthy soap operas with her mother! Now, almost
imperceptibly, my two sons are dragged into watching them!
I spoke to my wife at length about the harm of continuing this
practice, I argued,I threatened, I came home drunk once or twice, but to
no avail. Lal, you should see them to believe what utter rubbish they
They are based upon mythical families, where the women are always
dressed in expensive sarees and jewellery, and the men are always
immaculately dressed. The stories are fuelled by hate, intrigue,
adultery and jealousy, and the plots are impossible!
Now, I have found out that no amount of pleading or cajoling, arguing
or threatening, is going to stop my wife watching these silly soap
operas. And, I have noticed my wife also, changing from the loving,
caring and dutiful wife and mother she was, to a woman full of
suspicion, jealousy, angst and hate.
The whole set up of my home is changed for the worse, Lal! I don't
want to go home before 10 p.m. and listen to the laments and drivellings
of Bull see, Nidikira, Para vina and Cowya! So, I wait on this parapet
wall till 10 p.m. and go home after that! I thought of taking up my old
habit of drinking, but I can't destroy my life because of four silly
women on TV and one silly woman at home! All over Sri Lanka, I think
there exist, thousands of frustrated husbands and fathers like me! It is
time the government or some other authority take some concrete steps to
curb this insidious menace, that is crumbling the foundations of our
I tried my best to console him, but he could not be consoled. I made
sympathetic noises, and it being 10 p.m., we parted, Jayaweera walking
towards his home dejectedly, and me thanking the Gods for my bachelor
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