Alexander the small
not so strange factor in this global village of ours is how names
percolate from one country to another. Whoever would believe that the
bare-torsoed man, all skin and bones, pushing about that contraption
called a wheel barrow answer to the name of the Macedonian conqueror of
centuries gone by?
Reggie's real name is Alexander. It was but natural that the
villagers found the original name Alexander "un-pronounceable" and for
some odd reason changed it to Reginald, another western name and then
shortened it to Reggie. It beats me as to how this village of Madiwela
in the backyards of the Great Parliament of the People, has come to be
infested with so many foreign names. Names not only as Reggie and
Alexander but as Costa, Sigera, Pigera and Boteju.
An acquaintance had a far fetched explanation for this. He said, this
area was just adjacent to Kotte or the resplendent Sri Jayawardenepura
area where the busybody Portuguese moved about in centuries gone by. But
I retorted, "Remember that they all made their exodus to Colombo in the
1550s to ward off the constant attacks by our warrior king, Tikiri
Kumaru of Rajasinghe.
Alexander the Great
Not to be belittled he went into a quotation from Queroz.
"So they had to leave the land of their birth. The women were
distraught and crying, their hair let loose, the men utterly confused.
They were like a set of pilgrims carrying pots and pans and all their
household items enroute to the distant and strange port city of
Colombo". Just a eight miles distance.
Now he said, "But there were a few who opted to stay behind braving
the wild beasts in the forest growing on the deserted kingdom. So those
who carry these foreign names could be descendants of them."
Very ingenious. But I must come back to my Reggie or Alexander. He is
certainly not great as the young warrior king all set to conquer the
whole universe but lost the battle of death at the mere age of 33 with
all his dreams vanquished. Poor frail Reggie of Sri Lanka has, however,
managed to ward off the demon Maraya so far and live up to 80 years
despite a turbulent life passage including hectic murderous politics,
ethnic strife of 30 years that made public transport a nightmare,
terrible tsunamis, murderously speeding vehicles, dengue, arsenic in
rice, environmental pollution, flying objects and threatening asteroids
that could come down at any moment and what not. In fact, should not all
of us congratulate ourselves that we have survived all that package
making Maraya or the Demon of Death simply mad at our resilience?
Back to Reggie who like most human beings has his plus and minus
points. Among the plus points are his determination to fend for himself.
Never will I hold out my palms to anybody till life lasts in me, he
pledges. So, despite sons and daughters who are well to do he could be
seen on the road trying to negotiate a bundle of Iriweriya or
Hathawariya that could make the best conghee. He would also be pushing
around a wheel barrow with his gnarled and feeble hands.
Among his minus points are his accident-proneness. Usually he would
come with a bandaged foot, a dog bite or a mash of red flesh or a gaping
bloody wound. Since he is stone deaf it is useless asking him what
caused the damage for he would go on.
"That is it, nona, this rain. It never stops. We are all in for the
end of the world at this rate. "And if you conversationally talk of the
bad weather with him he would say, "Yes. My wife also says that I am
getting very thin but I am very fit" and he flexes non-existing biceps.
Reggie or Reginald or Alexander is also unusually fair for a
Chinghala, with a tinge of gold in his hair, that it set my imagination
amok about his ancestry. Could he be of Portuguese ancestry? After all
there was no 100 percent exodus. May be his ancestor had fallen in love
with a local lassie and stayed behind hiding in the jungles of Baddegana
while the rest fled. My fantasies get confirmed by Reggie confiding in
me that in his childhood he was a devout Roman Catholic worshipping in
Kotte church and singing psalms but now he is as fervent a Buddhist as
his Hatara poyata sil ganna wife (one who observes Sil on all the four
Anyway this piece, I thought of writing as a tribute to Reggie for
just now he is bedridden, could be temporarily. I like to visit him
often but his wife despite Sil is said to be of suspicious nature. You
never can tell. That reminds me of a small episode in my life.
Those were the palmier days. The 1980s, when my family was complete
and we were living in the salubrious climes of Kandy. My husband and I
and the three children had gone to Dalada Maligawa. We had left the
flowers in the car and all five of us were trying to wrangle the issue
as to who left it behind when a human watching us intervened and offered
me a whole Wattiya of white Pichcha flowers.
I was about to say, Thank you in western style but changed my mind
and intoned with a smile, "Pin sidda vechchave "(May merit be yours)
that made him too give me a broad smile. After due homage we were
descending the steps when a friend overtook me quipping "I saw you in
high company". I asked her what she meant and she said, "That person who
offered you flowers is so and so and MP for ......". Not only was he
politically noted but was a famous figure in society.
Well. I could not go back and thank him again for the
"condescension". A few weeks later I had gone to visit a patient in
Class 1 Ward of the Kandy Hospital when I got the information that MP
for ...... (my flower friend). has been hospitalised, his hand
disjointed by a car accident and is now in this ward, of course in the
Well, I thought it saves the bother of a visit again now that I am
here. I will visit him and may be if he is okay thank him for the
flowers again. I walked into his room and he was resting. Not much of a
calamity had happened. The higher-ups are usually immune to
A female, apparently his wife stood by him and never having seen me
earlier just stared at me, in full suspicion.
And no wonder, I had been the first visitor since he had got
hospitalised just half an hour ago! This happened 40 years back. How
many tales I have lived to tell! Sorry for boring the readers!