the perfume of flowers
As a child of seven or eight, I had a somewhat funny hobby. There
were no cinema halls, video parlours, televisions, cassette players or
radios. As the only child in my family I had no other recreation.
So I used to scribble short messages on pages torn out of exercise
books, fold and leave them at places people gathered.
After doing so I used to watch from a hiding place to check whether
people were reading them. To be honest, some of them read my messages,
smiled to themselves and went about their business. Others simply
crushed the paper and threw it away.
The World War II was in full swing. I heard elders discussing about
the Japanese bombing Colombo.
However, no bombs fell on us living in a malaria - infested village.
Farmers went to their fields as usual. Some villagers gossiped in the
‘Kopi Kade’ while gulping down coffee. We received some rationed goods
such as rice and flour. However, even without them we could survive on
manioc and bathala.
For me every day was full of excitement. Some days I used to go to
the shallow stream flowing by to have a dip in the blazing sun. I was
never alone. I had the company of like-minded friends of my age.
They were not, however, the lazy type, who wasted their precious
time. All of us wanted to enjoy life to the full. In those far off days
everything was possible and life seemed to go on for ever.
Unfortunately, we cannot go back to those magical, wide-awake joys of
childhood. But as adults we have journeys of our own to take. Unlike
children, today we reason out before doing something. We argue, haggle
over prices and negotiate our salaries.
I can still remember a day in early April when the rain started
disrupting all the work. Elders ran indoors. Those who really wanted to
go out had no umbrellas. They carried plantain leaves to cover their
The young ones, including me, sneaked out of our homes and started
enjoying a real shower bath. When our parents found us, we were
thoroughly drenched. With a light warning I was given a cup of steaming
The times have changed. Today we do not allow our children to go out
in the rain fearing that they might catch a cold. Sometimes, I wonder
whether we are over conscious of death rather than living. Even when the
sun is blazing through the window like a trumpet of the down, some of us
continue to sleep.
Mine was a small family living a frugal life. Home was the centre of
my life. I never thought of diseases or death. Life was meant for
living. Although we had no money, we had everything else.
In particular, my mother was an early riser who used to go to the
stream to bring fresh water in a clay pot. I used to run behind her not
only to keep company but also to enjoy the beauty of nature in the
I did not have many books to read except “Ganadevi Hella”,
“Sakaskada” and “Vadankavipotha”, I could remember the text of all these
books by heart because they were the only books I read at that time.
Mother did not read but she was an amazing story teller. Some of the
stories she narrated are still vivid in my memory. Meanwhile, father
encouraged me to memorise slokas and poems. He also had brought home the
full set of Royal crown copy books for me to develop my cursive writing.
Six decades ago, we as children ran here and there in the village
wakeful as the blazing sun. Our days appeared to be short as they were
full of activities.
As an adult, I will never be able to go back to those halcyon days.
The desire for travel is irresistible but we remain home-bound for
various reasons such as lack of money, fear of catching diseases or
morbid fear of suicide bombers.
In my waking moments childhood memories come flashing into my mind.
As children we responded to life and many of its fascinating miracles.
Today I can only make a mental trip to my bygone childhood with total
understanding. What happened to that lovely world and the wonderful
Even today some parts of the world are pleasant to live in. Garbage
heaps and bombs are man-made. Nature supports human life so long as we
do not try to destroy our environment. Apart from our surroundings, most
of the people with whom we live are kind and generous. There may be some
bad eggs among them. You cannot help it.
Once father had entrusted me to one of his friends in the city to
facilitate my schooling. However, I felt like a fish out of water in the
asphalt jungle. So I ran away to be with my parents living in the
When the night fell I found myself stranded in the Matara railway
station. I had no money or anything to eat. I struggled to bear up my
hunger but sorrow grew and engulfed me.
Suddenly I felt that somebody was looking at me intently. When I
raised my head, I saw a stranger a middle aged man. He invited me to his
shanty just behind the railway station and offered me food and shelter.
That was one of the most delicious meals I ever had. In a rush of joy
and tenderness I saw and felt the love in the world, the goodness of
In the modern world, most of us are dreamers. We drift along on the
surface of things enjoying day-dreams. We do not trust our fellowmen
because of the dishonesty practised by a few. We have failed to do what
we wanted to perform. Those who desired to receive our love never got
it. We have not corrected our wrongs or improved our talents.
Sometimes, I feel, most of us want to remain drifters. If we really
want to live, we must be wide awake. This is not an easy task to
perform.For a start, stop running away from life. When you live, you
have to face challenges. Secondly, you must think that you are a unique
person however imperfect you may be. When you realise that the world
will never see another person like you, you can feel proud of yourself.
The most important thing in life is to feel like a child. As Helen
Keller said, “Use your eyes, as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind;
hear the music of voices, the song of a bird, as if you would be
stricken deaf tomorrow. Touch each object as if tomorrow your tactile
sense would fail.
Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if
tomorrow you could never smell and taste again”
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