Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 13 February 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Sunburnt Home - an Australian-Sri Lankan novel

Chapter 12: We have a home now!

"There is a good house for sale in Mountjoy Road. I drove pass it yesterday. It's not a brand new house, but really a good buy if we could negotiate a reasonable price for it!" Malini said in her usual clinical tone.

"How much?" Jayadeva asked.

"Oh, the asking price is 260,000 dollars!"

Jayadeva thought for a moment and converted the Aussie dollars to Sri Lankan rupees in his mind.

"It's a big amount in Sri Lankan rupees! He said sadly and continued, 'If we have that much money, we can buy a few houses for our children in Sri Lanka," Jayadeva gave an opinion.

"We are not going back to Sri Lanka, are we?" Malini, questioned and continued, "I think it is right time for you to give up converting Aussie dollars to Sri Lankan rupees. We have been here for two years now and it's the right time to start living without sitting on the fence anymore!"

"I don't know!" I'm not happy here. Sunitha doesn't speak Sinhala any more. She avoids me when I speak to her in Sinhala. She calls me Dad now! I told her not to call me Dad. We never called our parents Mum or Dad!" Jayadeva complained.

Although Malini knew Jayadeva's concerns about the way Sunitha had begun to address him, she changed the tack by avoiding Jayadeva's complaints.

"Anyway, I was told that we could make an offer; an amount less than 260,000. It would be a good bargain if we could have it!"

"How can we find a deposit for the house? We have got a deposit of ten percent! Otherwise, we have to pay an up front, mortgage insurance," Jayadeva displayed his knowledge of Australian property purchasing rules.

"I think we have only fifteen thousand or less in our savings account and that's not enough," he said in an assertive voice.

"No, I went and checked our bank balance yesterday. We have around 17,500 dollars in our savings account! Malini said reassuring Jayadeva who was worried, and she continued:

"Money is not an issue. I can ask Thaththa to send money or ask Nangi to send me some American dollars. Anyway, let's go and see this place. You'll see what a bargain it is!"

"Oh, you can ask your Dad to give us a loan and ask your American sister to send money via an American express card!" Jayadeva said, making a point about not addressing parents in Sinhala in Australia as Malini was encouraging children to address him as 'Dad'.

Malini got up as a deaf person and grabbed the car keys and walked away .Then, she called Jayadeva from outside.

Once Jayadeva came out, she entered the house again to make sure that children are aware that they would be away for half an hour. She told Sunitha not to open the door to anyone and they are going to see a house, a couple of streets away.

"Is it okay to leave Sunitha and Putha alone?"

"No we'll be back in less than ten minutes," Malini said as she was fanatical to buy their first home in Australia.

They quickly drove passed the house. The house was located at a higher elevation than the street, and there were two large blue gum trees in the front yard. He liked the house and the way the trees provided shade to the house like two large garden umbrellas. Malini realised from his facial expression that Jayadeva would agree to buy the house.

The following day, Jayadeva came home an hour early as Malini had made arrangements with the real estate agent to open the house for them.

Jayadeva walked outside the house carrying sleepy Asela on his shoulder, and Malini walked inside the house with Sunitha. When he went inside, he heard Malini talking with the salesman about the kitchen, shabby carpets and old electric cooker.

"Look, Tom", she addressed the salesman: "We have to replace the carpets, install a new gas cooker, and paint the house. So could we give you an offer considering all these additional expenses?"

"I can't ask you not to give me an offer! It's up to the owner to accept your offer. I'm obliged by the law to present any reasonable offers to the owner."

"Okay, I'll go to the bank and give you a call, and if you can come over tomorrow, we will give you this paper," said Malini referring to the 'agreement to purchase form'.

"That evening after kids went to bed, Malini said: "We must have a good place to live Jaye, and I'm going to give an offer, for 250,000. That's the going price for houses in Nedlands these days!"

"I don't know, it's a big commitment, how much we have to pay, may be around 1,200 dollars per month. It's almost half of my salary, no?" Jayadeva didn't want to make a commitment.

"Oh no, you earn over three thousand dollars per month. You got your last salary increments two months ago! I'll give Nangi a call and ask her to wire transfer me 15,000 dollars. I'll ask Thaththa to sell my Kalutara land and home and give Nangi the money I owe," Malini said as if she had pre-planned everything to purchase the house.

"What's this urgency? We can wait and see. The house prices may go down again!" Jayadeva said angrily.

"We can't go on living in this small rented house. We need space and we need our own house. This is the right time. Can't you remember what your boss Peter Ferguson told us? He said, 'buy a house soon as possible!'. Jay, this is the right time to buy a house!' "

Jayadeva, signed the 'offer to purchase form' without arguments and left the room to have a shower.

* * * * *

When Jayadeva came home Friday, the same week, and Malini told him that the owner had accepted their offer, and the bank's approval of the loan. Malini had received the money sent by her sister in New Jersey and that was sufficient to cover stamp duties and land transfer costs.

They visited the house with kids on the weekend, and walked in the garden. The "House for Sale" sign had a label pasted across it: 'SOLD'

After going around the house, he came to the large open verandah where Malini was sitting with two children and he said:

"I like these two trees in the front yard. They will give us enough shade against the Australian Sun. These trees remind me the two large 'kos' trees we had in our house in Dombagoda," Jayadeva said admiring the two large gum trees in front of their new house.

"These trees add a 'Seedevi ' look to the house. These are the sort of trees where ruk deiyo-tree-gods-come to live. It's really good." He told Malini, who listened to him attentively.

"I don't see any tree gods here Mr Gamage! The real estate guy told me that the roots may get into the foundations and we must chop them down soon!"

"Are you mad, even to suggest cutting these beautiful trees? These trees must be at least 50-60 years old. We can't grow trees like for a life time," Jayadeva said furiously.

"Let's have a lawn in the front and we can have a veggie patch in the back yard. I have also located a place for a sand pit for kids to play," said Malini avoiding Jayadeva's complaint.

A week later, Jayadeva left for a field trip on a Monday morning to inspect some new construction projects in the Gold Fields region. He had to stay over until Friday evening to finish work and travel back the journey of five hundred kilometres, on Saturday.

When Jayadeva came home around 3pm, on Saturday afternoon, there was a note pasted onto the front door at their rented house. The message was in Sinhala and it read:

"Jaye, we have moved over to our new 'home' yesterday. Come over and join us soon!" Malini

Jayadeva drove the five minutes' distant to their new home on Mountjoy Road like a mad driver. The afternoon sun chased him over his head like a police man chasing a robber.

As he entered the house, he saw a strange nakedness in the front yard. The two tall trees that he liked very much had disappeared.

There were yellow labels just round in shape, where the trees were and thin stumps of wood were visible, instead. The cut down stumps were covered with yellow coloured paint. He realised that it was poisonous chemical that would kill any living roots.

"Mokada kepuwe mey siriyawantha gas deka?"

"Why did you cut these two Seedevi trees?

He jumped at Malini who was inside their new kitchen with new carpets and a new gas cooker.

"Sunitha came running and said, "Oh Da...d..,.. Thathatha... you are back ! What did you bring me? Do you want to see my new room? We missed you Dad!"

Having seen Sunitha's happy face, his anger disappeared like rain fell on a desert.

--She is just like Podi Amma, not just carrying Podi Amma's name but Sunitha has also got her manners and kindness.

"Okay Duwa let's go and see your new room.

"D....d, Do you know that Mum was happy that she got the two trees down and our house will not be broken as branches would not fall on our house anymore!" Sunitha said like a parrot, repeating words that she had picked up from her mother.

Having seen Sunitha's new room, he went outside with her. It was warm and hot. The April sun fell on his body and he felt like someone pouring warm water on him.

"Let's go inside Duwa, it is too hot outside and we don't have any shade, anymore! Our house will be burnt one day soon!"

"Why do you say that, Dad? Aren't you happy that we have our own house, and I got a new bedroom with a bathroom!"

'Our trees are gone Duwa!"

"Yes, Thaththa, Amma got two people to cut the trees. They brought a machine. They cut both trees into pieces and chop them into chips! They took all the woodchips away and Amma gave them lot of money."

"Yes, Duwa, she has a lot of money to spend unlike us!"

After dinner, Jayadeva asked, "why didn't you wait for the move, until I came back from my field trip? We would have boiled some milk and asked Ajhan Buddawamso to come and chant some Pirith."

"What Pirith in Australia? You can't boil milk and spoil my new gas cooker, and it's a brand new one! Haven't you seen the new carpets in my kitchen?"

Jayadeva didn't utter any words.

"I have arranged a small house warming party next weekend with a few people, including the Kirklands, and our former neighbours. Its pity that Mrs and Professor Weerasuriya are not with us to celebrate. I sent them a letter to The Philippines. They would have been really happy to see us buying a house in Nedlands, close to their home! Can't you remember what Mrs Weerasuriya told us to consider when buying a house. She said: "It's the location and location!"

Jayadeva listened as if he was a deaf person.

"We must buy some champagne for the house warming party."

"These are not our traditions, and we are Sinhalese- Buddhist people! What champagne and house warming parties when you forgot to boil milk at least for the sake our culture," Jayadeva growled.

"Australians don't boil milk when they buy a new house! Now we live in Australia. When you are in Australia, do as what Australians do!"

Without getting into more arguments, Jayadeva went outside and sat on a chair in the verandah. The thick darkness outside had shielded the night. Jayadeva cursed the darkness and look at the yellow signage where two trees were standing in their front yard.

After contemplating for a long time, he went inside and got into the bed without making noise. He looked at the tall ceiling in their bed room with the aid of the night light. Malini was sleeping silently and comfortably.

After a little while, he fell asleep and dreamt that he was walking with Asela and Sunitha in their new front yard, and the tall trees were like large umbrellas providing them shade against the cruel Australian sun.

He also heard the tree-gods chanting Maha Pirith throughout the night.

(To be continued)

For feedback and readers' response: [email protected]

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.



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