An English translation of the short story
titled ‘Guruvaraya’ by Gunadasa Amarasekara. Translated by Vivette
The quote, “You have destroyed the children’s lives. That’s all what
you have done” reverberated in his mind. He realised that dawn will
usher soon as he wiped his eyes and looked through the window. Through
the window opened out to the verandah, a major part of the rain-laden
sky could be seen. He is quite adept at reading the time by looking at
Therefore, he always looked at the sky before he looked at the clock.
The rain-laden sky which caught his glimpse through the trees increased
his despondency. Previous night was a sleepless night for him, spent in
a confused state of mind.
He thought of Carolis as he came to the verandah and looked at the
road. He felt that Carolis who comes quite early to see him is late
today than usual. He wondered whether it was because he woke up earlier
than usual or due to the intensity of his need.
He started pacing to and fro in the verandah. Under a camp bed a dog
slept curving its body. Camp bed cloth is torn and scarred. A black
beetle circles by the wall making its usual sound, “Ru:n/Ru:n”. He felt
that it would have crept into the house the night before.
He uttered to himself, as he stretched on the reclining chair that he
cannot look back on the past life with nostalgia. A life full of hopes
has come to an end. His attitude towards all the changes that took place
in the past few years was one of endurance and lethargy. It made his
life and body worn out like a house that had been battered by rain and
shine. Why didn’t he perceive the grievances and changes that came his
way? Was it due to the monotonous life he led? Both body and mind may
have been engulfed in that monotonous process. Such a person does not
see the outside world and tends to be indolent. He cannot say that the
world around him has changed even in a trivial manner. He spends
sleepless nights. Lamp on the table is lit. Chimney is covered with
soot. He thinks of substances which are not woven into one single
pattern. Spontaneously, he thinks of the lessons scheduled for the day.
He remembers well the previous lesson stopped and the lesson to be
“River Nile starts in the Central part of Africa, broadens its way
and falls into the Red Sea. World’s first civilisation was started by
the River Nile. People took water from it and cultivated. Longest river
in the world is Nile”.
In an instant these ideas re-echoed in his mind. Years of teaching
had made these facts come quite lively to him. Engrossed in such
thoughts he thinks of his death. He thinks of the school being closed on
that day and children in white attending his funeral. He thinks of the
appreciation the students would write to the newspapers. Such irksome,
weary thoughts flash across his mind.
As he sets forth to go to school, his eyes are drawn to the same
objects such as the gravel road and the same people who spoke to him
A certain person asks, “Why is Master earlier than usual today?”.
‘No, this is the usual time”, it is a reply he had been giving years
on end. At times he spoke to them about his students.
“Piyasena is weak in Arithmetic. He must study the tables. Arithmetic
will be a compulsory subject”. A villager would respond with a look of
gratitude to such words of his.
An old pupil of his took the handkerchief to his hand and smiled
“Master looks old”.
“I am burdened with work. Too many things to be taught. Jothipala’s
attendance is bad”.
Back in school his thoughts and utterances were the same. Whatever
they may be he adopted a lethargic attitude. Using his husky voice he
repeated the same things.
‘Fruit trees grow around the Mediterranean Sea. People live by
cultivating fruits. Climate suits the fruit cultivation. I believe you
have seen the fruits imported from such countries.”
Accordingly, half of his day is spent in school. He comes home to
spend the same prosaic life until dusk dawns. He sits on the reclining
chair and reads the papers without sparing a single letter. Some days
darkness overwhelms the sky even before dusk. Suddenly, the sun
withdraws its rays. In an instant, a heavy downpour begins. Raindrops
fall emanating a sound of “ki:s”,”Ki:S”. They fall on the surroundings.
He draws the chair elsewhere and again stretches himself. ‘That’s the
way. Unseasonal rains come by.” He considered everything with
As he got up from the chair and started pacing to and fro in the
verandah, he though that the routine life was never a hindrance to him
because it gave him fascination. He was deeply hurt in mind.
He could not think that he would be so hurt in the days ahead. A cold
wind blows making the atmosphere around cooler than never before. The
beetle that circled by the wall still continues. The dog that slept,
moaned as if the cold was unbearable.
He, who paced to and fro in the verandah started thinking again. He
was immensely attached to the things around him. He regretted having
punished a child. He even consoled such a child. It was this attachment
that made him not realise the futility of such a dull life.
His attachment extended to his house and surroundings. He gazed at
the house worn out and battered with time. He sympathised the
dilapidated house and the deteriorated parapet wall around. He embraced
all that in his mind. On certain sleepless nights he dreamt of such
things as scarred walls and gates of the school.
There is silence in the atmosphere. A child seated on a bench cries
due to difficulties in Arithmetic. It cannot be said at what moment he
would stop crying. The cracked walls and the roof crumble down. At such
instances he wakes up, agonized. He thought that they too lead a
dejected life as much as he does.
Once again he looked at the road with his two hands on the
windowsill. Carolis or no other soul is to be seen on the road.
The mild cold that prevails just before rain, pervades the air.
Windowsill is wet with the previous night’s rain. A broken bottle in the
garden is filled with rain water.
“How did that bottle get there?” As he looked at it he realised that
it would have been kept there long time back. The garden looked eroded
with rain water.
He saw someone coming in the distance and gazed with interest. It was
Carolis. His anxiety grew as he saw Carolis as usual, covering the upper
part of his body with a towel.
“Why are you late than usual. I was anxiously awaiting your arrival
any moment”, he said even before Carolis could get on to the verandah.
It was some years back that he started associating Carolis who lived
with him throughout. Carolis stood by him in joy and sorrow and was like
a relative to him. He always thought that Carolis too led the same
languid and indolent life that he led. It may be the reason that made
them live like friends.
“Because of the cloudy sky, I didn’t feel that it was late. Aren’t
you going to school today?
“Why, is today a Saturday”
“No”, he answered with effort. His voice slightly shivered.
“I will send a letter. It seems my teaching is bad. School Inspector
yesterday said that I don’t know to teach according to the new methods
“Did the School Inspector come yesterday.”
Carolis who looked at his face asked. It was no secret to Carolis
that he was attempting to control his feelings as he spoke. His lips and
eye brows quiver as if stricken with emotion. His shrunken face and eyes
showed a look of agitation.
“He came and said that I could teach only in the old fashioned way.
It seems it is useless byhearting History and Geography lessons. I have
destroyed the lives of children all these years.”
It amazed Carolis to see his deranged face. Carolis had never seen
him in that mood before. He spoke as if to outpour gradually, an immense
confusion that arose in his mind.
Both remained silent. Although Carolis wanted to say something, the
silence that prevailed did not allow him to do so. The beetle that
circled by the wall flies up and down. The dog moaned several times.
“But my pupils have turned out to be great people. Why Carolis, you
also know it. Isn’t it?
“Yes” Carolis answered in a low voice.
“That Veliaddada Mahattaya was under my tutelage. It seems he is a
clerk in the Kachcheri.”
“Why Wijethunga Mahattaya’s elder son is also a pupil of mine. Today
he is an author.”
“So, how come my teaching is bad.”
“Yes, people who were your pupils have become great people,” Carolis
said as he felt that it was not proper to remain silent.
“No, it seems I have destroyed the lives of children. Last evening I
wrote a letter. I can’t destroy their lives any longer.”
He paced to and fro for a while without speaking and went towards the
room. His face had turned remarkably red. Nobody would expect such a
look to be on his face.
He came out of the room and kept the letter in Carolis’ hand.
“Go and give this letter to the Head Master. I will not go
He paced to and fro in the verandah as Carolis, carrying the letter
went out of his sight.
The beetle that was noisy all this while, silently lies on the wall.
Grey sky is perturbed with the wind. A few rain drops fall on the
verandah emanating a sound of “(ki:s)”, “(ki:s)”. The rain drops break
the silence in the surroundings. The dog moaned again as if it was
difficult to bear the cold.