Itipahan (Burly Lamp) Chapter - 13
(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"
As stated by Pranith, Shelton who hails from Sanchiaarachchi Watte
was not well. Daisy thought that she could not forget her visit to
Sanchiaarachchi Watte to see Shelton With Gnanawathi, Sugandi, Pranith
and Nimal. Pranith walked through the tiny lines of houses in
Sanchiaarachchi Watte alone the footpath. The group heard a song from 'Sudosudu'
sung by a girl from one of the houses. They lowered their heads to
prevent their heads touching the washed cloth hung on strings near
almost all the houses.
"Nayanakke, I took your Idala", said a girl loudly taking an ekle-broom
leaned against a backyard wall and began to sweep a tiny court yard.
"Some people call this Keuneman's estate (watte)," said Pranith who
lowered his head again looking back at the group. Daisy thought that he
spoke with a tender voice and that he had a remarkable talent in
explaining things to others. She thought that Pranith had an innate
talent to relate to things with interest and was knowledgeable. Daisy
thought that although he was not handsome, the girls showed their warm
feelings towards him because of his knowledge and manner of speaking.
"Why do they call Keuneman Watte? Keuneman may be living in Colombo
seven," Sugandhi said curiously. "Compared with others, Keuneman is not
a bad guy", Pranith responded which was outside the question but was an
answer to the question.
"That's another story. Why do they call this Keuneman Watte?"
Gnanawathi asked. "Shall I tell you another interesting story about
Keuneman?" asked Pranith with a smiling face.
"No, you would finish telling the story until the dawn. I will
arrange another time for that. I expect the correct and shortest answer
to the question," Gnanawathi said with a sarcastic tone.
Unintentionally, Daisy smiled staring at Pranith. "All of those who are
here are Keuneman's supporters. Don't forget that most of them are
educated. So they always vote for Keuneman. That's why our Shelton got
involved as an activist of the National Students' Union?" Pranith
provided a further explanation as the group arrived at Shelton's house.
Though looked into through the opened door, there was no one in the
house. Before anyone spoke, a girl who came into the courtyard from
nowhere shouted, "Shelton", "Wimalakke, someone has come!" A not so tall
girl in a short blue skirt and yellow blouse with hair tied into two
flat pleat came out of the house. She smiled with the group with a wide
"Wimalakke, we came to see Shelton. Is he not well? ", Pranith asked
Wimalakka with a smile.
"Yes, Pranith. Malli has high fever. Mother and I brought medicine
from the dispensary. But he is still not well." All of them approached
Shelton tried to raise his head and smiled and but fell back onto the
The sunlight filtered through a small window and had settled on the
book shelf. There were a couple of books, a shirt and a trouser on
The foul smells of sweat from two shirts hung on the wall infused the
There was not a drop of kerosene in the bottled lamp on tea-pour.
Daisy understood that wicker had turned ash without kerosene oil from
the manner it had burnt. The walls of the room were adorned with
portraits of Lenin.
Some of these, thought Daisy as inappropriate for the walls.
"Are you taking medicine or throwing them out of the window?" Pranith
asked looking at the window. "Pranith, that's what I also wanted to
know. I poured coriander. The medicine from the dispensary would respond
well to all others in the house. There is no reason that medicine would
not respond only for him," said Wimala inviting them to have tea.
"Did you pour tea so fast?" Sugandhi asked. "The water had already
boiled. I poured tea quickly", said Wimala smiling in a friendly manner.
Daisy thought that though she lived in the city, she had the same
type of a friendly smile of a villager. The villagers, who frown when
angry and spit on to the face, would smile from the bottom of their
heart, thought Daisy.
"How about the progress of the book?" enquired Pranith sipping tea
from his cup. Daisy thought that Pranith as a person who enquired
everything and had answers to everything.
"Wimalakke, why have you got to be afraid? Soon, we would not be able
to get hold of the woman called Wimala Abeysinghe. Let's see. What is
the name of the book?", Pranith asked winking at the girls.
"You can see it when the book is printed", Wimalakka whispered.
"Our suffering is depicted in each of the stories written by Akka.
How many educated youth live in this estate? They do not have a way?"
Shelton said raising his head a bit. Smell of fever emanated from him.
Daisy looked at Pranith who was listening sadly. Was it by experience or
being heard that Daisy knew that Wimalakka, Shelton, Sugandhi, Nimal and
Gnanawathi, were in the same boat?
"Try to get well soon," Pranith told Shelton as they were about to
Although Daisy thought that typing and shorthand would help her like
a torch to go through the dark door of future, she felt that subjects
she had learnt such as political science and economics would have a
greater influence on her.
"Mother, I have been selected for the university. I am wondering
whether to go to the university or follow what I am already doing",
Daisy spoke of university entrance with Duleena after she received the
last letter informing that she had been selected for the University of
Colombo. Duleena was weaving the mat. She thought that the girl was
inquiring on an important matter. She did not take off her eyes from the
mat fearing that she would mess up with the pattern.
"Which is good?"asked Daisy who had wrapped herself in a sheet on the
camp bed and was indifferently looking at Duleena weaving the mat. A
gecko peeped through aricanut column in wattle and dough wall and cried
'chick.. chick..'. Another gecko responded to the cry. Duleena thought
that she should not be afraid of the predictions of geckos. They cried
at anything always.
"Whichever good, you decide on because I do not know them. You know
what is to be done", said Duleena scratching her head and stopped
weaving. Though Duleena tried to catch the blood sucking louse on the
head, she failed to do so.
A seene from the
"There are a lot of lice in my head. When they bite I cannot
concentrate on anything," said Duleena staring at what Soome was engaged
in. Soome was silent and Duleena again commenced weaving. She thought,
"Let the girl speak when she wants".
Daisy thought it was better to have a university education than
learning typing though it would help her to find a job. She thought the
University education would give her the stamina for life.
"Soomakka, you may enter the university. Besides, very few would be
able to enter the university. It is worthwhile for persons like Soomakka
who loves the country to follow higher studies. Comrade Uttamasinghe
said that it would be better if Soomakka would go to University," said
Lal Malli when asked about this issue.
To be knowledgeable would pave the way. Soome or Daicy thought that
she should do the task that was expected of her and that she was capable
of doing without any hesitation. She herself had to take the decision.
She herself should execute it.
"Mother, it is good to enter the university. I would face financial
hardships, but I would go to university since I have passed the
"Is it ok to go through a little bit of hardship since I have endured
a lot? "Daisy said with a firm resolution. Soome did not expect a reply
from mother since she knew that she would not overrule her will.
"Where is that school? Is it in Colombo", Duleena asked while weaving
"I was selected to Colombo campus. It is near old Race Course. It is
not as grand as the University of Peradeniya. But it's okay. Mother,
would village folk, one day, respect my education." Duleena felt a heavy
weight on her chest. She immediately sensed the fear and the exhaustion
when one climbed a steep mountain carrying a heavy load.
"My dear, you should not bother about what village folk would think.
The villagers would not change their opinion. We should mind our own
business," said Duleena looking at the pattern for a moment.
"We can mind our own business if they allow us to do so. Villagers
hate me a lot," said Daicy lying on the camp bed. Duleena thought that
her daughter could not understand the village and villagers.
"That's the nature of the villagers and it is not due to hatred. They
have firm opinions without any thought," said Duleena.
"I will go to university. Mother and I have to suffer more when I go
to the university," said Soome and closed her eyes determining to sleep.
Lal Malli came in the early morning to meet comrade Uttamasinghe.
Although she alone could meet Uttamasinghe, Lal Malli came as a habit.
On the way to meet Uttamasinghe which was an interesting tour, all kinds
of subjects were discussed.
"Lal Malli, you seem to have no will to find a job," Soome asked Lal
Malli as they passed the bridge. Lal Malli smiled as he played with his
"Akke, if I find a job, my personal problems would be barely solved.
I decided to work for the organisation as a full-timer. Akke, therefore,
I will not find a job," said Lal Malli releasing his grip on the railing
of the bridge.
"I also like to solve common issues rather than solving personal
However, I must learn. I simply cannot do anything. I must build up
some strength," Soome told Lal as her explanations.
Comrade Uttamasinghe's dirty cloth and unruly hair created a sense of
owe in Soome. Intuitively Soome understood that she should respect
people who sacrifice their lives for the fellow human beings. Compared
with Uttamasinghe, Soome thought she could not assign any value to
persons like Sirinatha.
"Comrade, you should go to university for two reasons; one is to
improve your knowledge and other is to fulfil your duty to society. Both
are interconnected," Comrade Uttamasinghe who was in a dusty and dark
room told Soome. She felt a heavy weight. But now, she should take the
responsibility entrusted upon her.
"Over seventy per cent of the population in this country belonged to
the oppressed class. Such a country should be ruled by a group of
persons who know about them. In order to take up that responsibility we
should be equipped with ideas. University is a good place for that,"
comrade Uttamasinghe told Soome who listened to him as a devotee
listening to a sermon.
"Comrade Daisy, especially you should know the task assigned to you.
Our leader has meticulously studied this country's history. He had
showed us the way"
"Comrade, you repeat what you have said. Then I feel as if you were
under the impression that I did not remember them," Soome who did not
tolerate repetition said in a subdued but resolute tone.
"We have to learn throughout the life. Sometimes, we have to learn
the same thing until we die. Sister, the issue is not when and where and
how many times we learn but do we attempt to learn correctly?" comrade
Uttamasinghe articulated with a higher pitch. Soome did not respond.
University is a place where our comrade can equip you with knowledge.
There is no room for anyone to have love affairs. The only objective is
to salvage this country from sycophants of colonists," Uttamasinghe said
with a deep voice. Daisy listened consoling her question and demanding
"Is it a good idea to impose restrictions on individuality as a
policy?" Daisy asked in a subdued tone at the end of Uttamasinghe's long
"Sister, politics is a great sacrifice for the good of all. One who
is committed to such things, has no individuality," Comrade Uttamasinghe
said in a decisive tone.