Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 3 October 2010





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Agni Chakra

(Chapter 22)

(Circles of Fire)

Translated by Ranga Chandrarathne and Edited

A cobra is rambling around moving its head. Soon it would encircle me. I am confused and look around. Once again, the image of cobra appears before me. This time, it is a man holding a Punkalasa and wearing a hat with cobra heads. How can this cobra appear? Once Ratnaweera said that it was stated in the Thripitakaya that cobras were born by four means namely Andaja, Jalabuja , Sansejaka and Opapatica.

Again the cobra appears before me. It meanders through a cluster of roots of a tree and peels its hide, going through a tiny gap of the tree with vigour, speedily breathing out, expanding its hood, coiling its tail. I too breathe out fast. Within a second, a 'Poonava' appeared before me. The eyes in the leopard's head in the middle of seven cobra heads, staring at me. Though my mouth opens up, it makes no sound. Suddenly the Nagaoddison or the devil Suniyam stands up before me. Thousands of cobras around the head and in the body of the devil Suniyam make noises 'hissing …hissing…' A familiar poem accompanied by the Thalampata, is heard.

" Salmal Vanayata Na-raju vadala

Sal Dummala pena goba mavala

Dummala malavak pudakarala

……………………………….. "

(King of the cobras has come to the forest of Sal flowers…)


I look at Shantha with confused eyes. My body soaked in perspiration. I feel even her hand around me like a cobra coiled.

"Why? What happened?"

"No, nothing happened "

I tried to be normal. Though I wanted to ask what I had done, I was prevented by fear and shame.

"Have you seen a dream?"

"No...It seems that I am going to have fever"

I did not know how constructive my answer was. However, I was overwhelmed with great fear, sadness and repentance. I did not know what really happened to me. I could not figure out what was going to happen.

"Let us sleep."

I crawled under the bed-sheet and sank deep in the comfortable bed. Comfortable bed..? ..Comfort..? What type of comfort I experience now? If this is comfort, then can there be something called pressure? What is the name that pressure can be given?

"It seems to me that you have been ill for a couple of days"

I was put to sleep by the momentary comfort of the warmth of Shantha's hand which was applying eau de cologne on my head. The fragrance of eau de cologne which pierced through the nostrils into the head was a proof of my illness. I haplessly lie on the back for refuge.

Dramatic situations of Bali and other rituals came to my mind. I was reminded of how father sculptured Bali to dispel the ill-effects of the nine planets and nine cobra heads marked to represent nine planets. I saw these in the dream. Who has taken me sixty years back by dream? Are men being automatically taken back into the history whenever they fall sick?

I was prompted to seek Gastroenterologist's service as the stomachache and problems in the digestive system remained for sometime. But I am afraid of and reluctant to face medical examinations. Does my unhappiness at finding out my disease stem from my reluctance to identify myself?

I know for a long time, that deficiency in immunity is caused in those who have been infected with HIV. I thought my long-drawn stomachache would have been the result of HIV. But I was never tempted to search indiscriminately the unknown ill-famed place for beastly taste. I always enter into an affaire not without care. But I could not get rid of fear. For the past couple of months, I tried to find out the origin of AIDS. It was during this investigation that I came to know that AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and that the acronym AIDS has been used. I later came to know that for the first time, AIDS was found in a twenty nine year old youth who showed symptoms of swellings, cough and fever. I also found out at that time AIDS was common among homosexuals and drug addicts.

A medical officer who is a friend of mine, revealed to me these blood curdling information. I did not reveal him my symptoms. I obtained the information on the excuse that they were for a fiction. Though I already knew AIDS was common among homosexuals, as soon as I heard it again, I was shocked. The image of uncle Jamis of Kalavitigodella flashed in my memory. It was he who provided me with not only Bulto and popcorn but also exercise books. But how am I disgusted his company? How disgusting was that stench of crunched trees? I was certain that paternal uncle who took me into his custody following mother's death, knew everything. Even today, I still could not think of whether it was because of his love or disregard for me that he had maintained silence over the matter. I was a bit relieved after realising the fact that AIDS would emerge within a maximum period of ten year of HIV infection.

During the past months and even today, what gives immense pain of mind is the idea that I am aging and senile. But I myself engaged in intellectual exercises with no difficulty. The taste associated with intellectual tasks has been developing with the passage of time. If so, am I apathetic due to deficiency in satisfying fleshly desires? Ratnaweera said indiscriminate and rushed satisfaction of fleshly desires at youth was dangerous and that it was senility that freed us from the risk. He asks why we can't celebrate old age which allows us to free ourselves from the noose of passion.

Though there is a truth in it, I could not console myself with the idea. These days, I have been reading the Sinhalese translation of Marcus Tullius Cicero's 'De Senectute'. It was originally written in Latin. According to the Sinhalese translation, 'Viyapatveema', if there is a vestige of youth in an old man, he is not aged despite his body conditions. In the 'Republic' by Plato, it was stated that when asked Sophocles who was very old at the time, whether he was still enjoying sex' 'Oh God no; I happily freed myself from that beast '.

Though I want to sleep, I was afraid to shut the eyelids. In a semi-conscious state, I was afraid of seeing the latter part of the nightmare. Dirty spirits had surrounded me. Spirits…? The spirits that exorcists tied by a knot with a string by the power of spell …sealed in a cigarette tin and flowed in the sea …? Chickens that were scarified instead of a man to the devil..? ..Malbulath tatuva..? ..a jar of yellow disinfectant liquid..?..hatmaluva..? Dolapideni…? … the trance of the priest in the Devolmdu Yaga who dance on the roof?

I saw a tall man playing 'Eila'. That face of the Garayaka was frowning at me. In the dream, I was reminded that the six foot wooden structure made of Goraka wood was made for the Garayak Natuma. With a fright, I opened my eyes. With a feeble cry, I rested my head on Shantha's shoulders. What was Shantha murmuring while stroking my head? It was after awhile that I could make out the words of the Karaniya Metta Sutta that Shantha was spelling in secrecy? I lent my years to her as if listening to the mantra that she was spelling to get rid of my fear. Once again, my eyes shut. Now appeared before me were the famous seven gods of Paththini; Uramala Paththini, Lee Paththini, Mal Paththini, Veera Paththini and Siddha Paththini. But someone said that they were Kirimavvarun known as Mihikata, Sagaradevata, Sarasvati, Umayangani, Seeta, Vallimaata and Paththini. I could see Kiriammavaru with lit up lamps gathered at the fence near the court yard. I heard the singing of Kiriammavaru who came after disinfection for epidemics.

Sudu piruvata eda pe ven ne

Daneta Enavaga satdena danne

Paththini deviyan samaga vadinne

Kadulla gavata evith sitinnne

Quickly they all merged into one. Shivering in fear, I looked at it. I felt great relief. It was Shantha's face.

Opening the eyes, I glided my hand around the wife's hip. I felt her body warmth recalled motherly love. A drop of tear appeared on my eyes. I thought what had really happened to me. I, now, realised that my sudden change was caused by none other than the medical test and the report.

Doctor explained the problems in the digestive system as loose motion and constipation and that I was suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I should eat more fruits and leaves and drink a lot of water. I took the medicine in exact quantity but my condition didn't change. It was after the insertion of a tube-like instrument into rectum, that my condition was diagnosed as cancer.

When Dr. Jothiratne callously said, "Professor, this is a cancer", I saw him as an executor. The change in me at the moment, the downfall was devastating. I experienced on the spur of the moment the state of mind of a person who was sentenced to death. For a while I was glued onto the chair as I was faintish. I thought so far my worries and agonies caused by such flimsy reasons.

I strongly felt the feelings of one who cried over a pair of slippers until he saw a man without legs. I thought that it was the first and the last time I signed over the increasingly losing youth and potency.

I tightened the right knee on Shantha's wrist as she tried to stand up or turn the other way. I manifested the idea 'please don't go' with my knees.

"Wait a minute, we will sleep after taking two tablets of panadol ".

Shantha addressed me in the same manner she addressed Prabuddha in childhood.

I too embraced her like a child.


Punkalasa- a pot filled with water and flowers regarded as an object of prosperity

Thripitakaya- Buddhist canon

Andaja, Jalabuja , Sansejaka and Opapatica-. Four means of birth: from eggs, from the water, from conception and automatically

Poonava- An object used in exorcist ceremonies

Bulto- A kind of cheap toffee

Andaja, Jalabuja , Sansejaka and Opapatica-. Four means of birth: from eggs, from the wetground, from conception and automatically

Nagaoddison or the devil Suniyam - A kind of inauspicious god

Bali- clay iconography for rituals and incantations

Malbulath tatuva- Alta containing beetles and flowers ect in exorcist ceremonies

hatmaluva- A curry containing seven ingredients

Dolapideni- sacrificial offerings to inauspicious beings

Devolmdu Yaga- A ceremony performed to propitiate gods

Eila'- A stage like elevation for the exorcist to perform

Garayaka- A kind of devil

Garayak Natuma- Devil dance for Garayak

Kirimavvarun known as Mihikata, Sagaradevata, Sarasvati, Umayangani, Seeta, Vallimaata and Paththini.- a list of old ladies supposed to be of auspicious

Thalampata- a tempo measure


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