Itipahan (Burly Lamp) Chapter 1 continued...
(Translated by Ranga Chandrarathne and Edited by Indeewara
"I am a lamp burning
on both ends
Known well that
I cannot pass the night
See my friends
How powerful light
To dispel the darkness"
Continued from last week...
"I call her Somawathie in memory of my late sister Somawathie", said
Duleena who took a piece of stick and scratched her back by inserting it
through the jacket.
"Somawathie died by devil's attack. I can still remember how she lay
down at the well with a bluish body. Duleena, there is no such a
beautiful girl as Somawathie in the village", said Kumatheris looking at
Kumatheris imagined as if today, how Duleena's sister Somawathie who
went to the well in the morning had died as victim of the devil's
attack. Kumatheris experienced pangs as he recalled inviting smiles
thrown at him by Somawathie on her way to gather firewood.
"She could also be a beauty as your elder sister was. Do not allow
her to walk around alone. Devil might attack her," he advised the
However, Kumatheris thought that the girl was not in the age which
attracts devil. Devil attacks girls in their teens.
When the news spread that Duleena's roof is being thatched, villagers
gathered to help. Duleena who disappeared for years had returned to the
village as a very attractive woman prettier than she had been. Everyone
attracted to her brand new garments and the way she knotted her hair.
They looked at the girl as if looking at a pandol during the Vesak. The
girl looked down on the earth with a frowning face. She saw villagers as
apes. She saw apes both on top of rubber plantation and on the ground.
Sominona, Elisiahami and Jane Nona together came to see Duleena. When
Duleena was a teenager, it was with them that she went to the temple on
the Full Moon day, for bathing, washing clothes and walk along the paddy
fields for Mallum. Sominona married Haramanis, who is wealthy. She, now,
has seven children, at the rate of one child per year. Elisahamie eloped
with a man from a neighbouring village. Jane Nona lives together with
her sister's husband.
"Duleena, you are now a different type of a person and you changed in
your complexion. But you should have come with the man," said Jane Nona.
Duleena as well as the other understood what Jane Nona wanted to know
and was about to utter. There was no husband for her to accompany to the
Scenes from the
This fact Duleena knew had been speculated by Jane Nona. Duleena
thought that she should not respond to queries regarding her husband.
Though the father of the girl asked for her, she could not agree to
sacrifice her even to his father as the girl is her only possession.
Girl's father had asked for the girl by good and foul means. She knew
that by no means could she make the girl loathsome to her. She has got
nothing to lose and she could not sacrifice the only thing. She knew
that Somawathie has to endure hardships as she lives with her. It was
true that the girl could have led a princely life if she had been given
to her father. Even though, she could not agree to an unbearable task.
What should be done, now, is to look after the girl like a princess. As
if in a dream Duleena thought that she would be able to live up to her
Duleena made it a point not to respond to any question posed by Jane
Nona or Sominona with regard to her husband. (Women started to chat and
"Now, we have thatched your father's cottage so that you and your
mother can live. Why are you frowning at us? Don't you like to live in
it?," asked Welung Goiya who gave Somawathie a rubber shell fan.
Somawathie did not take it for something to play with. Instead she
looked at Welung Goiya with wide-opened eyes. She became happy when she
saw Sirinatha from afar. Sirinatha clad in a striped -Sarong and Baniyan
hanging from a shoulder. He had a catapult in his hand.
"Why is Sirinatha Punch Mahattaya here? "Welung Goiya asked Sirinatha.
" Aunt told me to see whether they have finished thatching the roof,"
said Sirinatha shooting a pebble at dried rubber seed* with a catapult.
As the pebble hit the target, he sported a proud smile. Somawathie liked
the catapult in Sirinatha's hand. She wanted to shoot with the catapult.
"Let me try it out," she said reaching out for the catapult.
"You can't ", said Sirinatha.
"Why can't I? I also can," said Somawathie whilst trying to grab the
catapult from Sirinatha. Welung Goiyya stopped the attempt and gave the
catapult back to Sirinatha Punchchi Mahattaya.
"She seems to be very tough," said Walling Goiyya loud enough so that
Kumatheris could hear it. The girl frowned at Kumatheris. Her eyes were
wetted with tears. Welung Goiyya joined Kumatheris and others who were
thatching the roof saying "Punchchi Mahattaya, you may go now". He
whispered to himself, "She is a tough bit".
Sirinatha offered the catapult to Somawathie. He was sorry over not
giving the catapult to Somawathie. Aunty said Somawathie was younger to
Then Sirinatha reminded father telling him that younger children
could not comprehend anything. Though Sirinatha gave the catapult to
Somawathie, she did not take it. Instead she hit a rubber seed with a
stone that she picked up. Though it missed the target she was very happy
as if it hit the target.
"Duleena, we leave now. Now, you and your daughter could shelter from
the rain. If you need any help, tell us. Heen Appu is no longer there to
look after you ", said Kumatheris Aiyya. Kumatheris, Welung Aiyya and
few others went saying "let us go to bath".
"Thank you. What else could I say? ", said Duleena looking at them.
Sirinatha looked at Somawathie's frock. He thought that it was good
enough for a wedding. Sirinatha reminded of Aunty telling that Duleena's
daughter was like a grape fruit (Jumbola). Though Jane Nona, Sominona
and Elisahami tried to fondle the girl, she was disturbed by it.
Therefore, women went away giving up the attempt to play with the girl.
Duleena turned on to two children. As Nanawathi Haminie told her,
Punchchi Mahattaya is eight years old. Daughter is seven years old.
Duleena thought they would make good playmates. Duleena thought instead
of associating with ordinary children of the village, it was better that
the child should associate with Sriyadari Nona and Punchchi Mahattmaya.
"Sirinatha Punchchi Mahattaya, our daughter speaks fluent English.
There she talked mostly in English. Will you speak with her in
English?," said Duleena patting Sirinatha's head. Sirinatha smiled with
"Oh, I could not speak in English", Sirinatha smiled.
"Why can't you? Amarawardena Ralahamie those days spoke in English
with high ranking officials. There are English books there too."
"Yes, that was father. Now father is no more and we do not know
English", said Sirinatha shooting a stone with the catapult without any
"Then Sirinatha Punchi Mahattaya, you may learn English by speaking
with our daughter. She is fluent in English. Aren't you dear? ", asked
Duleena passionately embracing her daughter on the head and the face.
"Duleena, does she attend school?" asked Sirinatha looking at mother
"No, she does not attend school there, Punchchi Mahattaya. But she
learnt English and she speaks English fluently. Can't we send her to a
school? Can Punchchi Mahattaya accompany her?"
Sirinatha nodded with a smile. The girl also smiled after a long
"Then you may talk while I will sweep the house," said Duleena
walking into the house. The girl and the boy looked at each other.
"What's your name?" Sirinatha whispered.
"I am Somawathie."
"That's not the way you answer. You say my name is.... That's how we
were taught in the school. I have two eyes. I have two legs. That's
Somawathie laughed with pursed lips.
Aiyya is a colloquial Sinhalese term for elder brother which is
commonly used in villages in addressing elder males.
Kaiyya is a practice of communal harvesting of paddy where the owner
of the paddy field provide food and beverages such as tea during the
harvesting free of charge in return for labour and when harvesting is
done in the neighbouring field, all the farmers engage in the harvesting
in the same manner.
Mallum - a dish made out of fresh leaves which are mixed with scraped
coconut and cooked on a pan.