Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 10 May 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

A girl with three men

One evening, Nimal arrived at the Fort railway station earlier than usual. He walked to the familiar platform from force of habit though there was ample time for his train. He sat on a vacant bench. There was a very young couple seated on the next one; they laughed for no apparent reason, talked and munched peanut from a paper cormucopia the girl held in her hand. At one stage of their courting, the youthful lovers remained motionless like statues, looking into the eyes of the other as if each of them was entranced with the other in a hypnotic spell.

Having seen the crumbs of peanuts strewn on the floor around the feet of the pair, a pigeon fluttered down and waited on the floor a little distance away, scared to reach for the morsels of food. Another bird too sailed down to join the other; they waddled gracefully moving their pink legs swiftly and jerking the tiny heads in a curious way. One bird grew bolder in the presence of a rival to get closer to the lovers and began to pick the crumbs hurriedly and cautiously, ready to take wings at the slightest sign of danger. The young Romeo and Juliet huddled together and watched the lovely birds pick up the fragments of seeds one by one.


Nimal watched the adolescent lovers with a tinge of envy. He had been aching to fall in love with a beautiful girl; many a time, he got interested in young girls who unfortunately did not reciprocate his romantic overtures.

Unexpectedly, his two friends whom he had been waiting for, emerged from the crowd that had gathered there gradually for the same train. Some commuters who had become impatient of waiting for a long time craned their necks to see whether the train was coming. All at once, the whole throng of people got agitated as though they had sensed an imminent danger. Those who were seated on the benches stood up; everybody was braced up and looking at the train coming on to the platform. The entire crowd ran pell-mell along the platform competing with the moving train scrambling frantically to get into it. Even women joined the foray! Most of the crowd entrained before it stopped. The scrimmage grew more violent inside the train; everybody was pushing the other and thrusting oneself into the mob shouting and yelling, like dogs fighting over a piece of bone! Everyone fought to snatch a seat.


Nimal and his two friends procured seats and they were together on a long seat. The train started moving with a series of abrupt jerks causing the standees jostling into one another. The trio noticed that a girl was seated on the opposite row of seats sandwiched between two elderly gentlemen. Here was an unfamiliar face to the young men. Clad in a saree and a jacket with a naïve appearance, she kept on looking at the swiftly changing view through the window.

One of the friends of Nimal was a newly married person; the other was a bachelor like him. As regular train travellers, they had become friends and always travelled in the same compartment. Nimal travelled upto Veyangoda, the other two went farther.

This particular day, none of them had brought a newspaper as usual. As a habit, for the first thirty minutes of the journey, they would read a newspaper brought by one of them.

This day, the other two smoked cigarettes while Nimal being a non-smoker, kept on looking out of the window as he had nothing to do. Still, the train had not reached Veyangoda, a distance of 23 miles from Colombo.

Nimal’s bachelor friend was a witty person who cracked jokes always and made his friends laugh. He tried to attract the attention of the new girl by his jests. Several times, the girl smiled shyly without looking at them and kept looking away.

The train stopped at Veyangoda. The girl got down and her identity blurred and vanished in the crowd that poured out of the train into the station.

“She is not a regular traveller,” Newton remarked.
“I saw her for the first time,” Perera responded. The train resumed its journey.


The following day, the girl got into the same railway carriage just before the train left the Fort. She ploughed her way along the aisle in the carriage jammed with people. The young men were already seated at their familiar place. At once they recognised her; she smiled faintly with them.

“You should have come a little early, my dear,” Newton told her with a mocking smile. In response to his words, she smiled faintly and stood close to them, holding the back of their seat.

“Can’t you come a little early?” Perera converted his friend’s suggestion into a question.

“Our boss doesn’t allow us to leave office early,” she said in a soft, clear voice and turned her pretty head down.

“Alright, we’ll try to reserve a place for you tomorrow,” Newton promised jokingly. Once again she smiled and lowered her head.

Meanwhile, without their knowledge, the train started and travelled more than ten miles. Perera stood up and offered his seat to the girl. She accepted it.

“He is very generous to attractive girls,” Newton joked. “Be careful, he is married.” Having said that, he laughed caustically. The innocent girl twisted herself with shyness and embarrasment.

“Yes, I am married. I don’t deny that. Unfortunately, my friend got the boot from his girlfriend very recently. If I were you, I would commit suicide.”

Perera and Nimal went into fits of laughter.


A place was reserved for the girl on the ensuing day by her new friends. From that day, regularly she came to the same compartment and they travelled together. She made friends with the young men. Gradually, the lass shook off her shyness as one casts off a garment which is no longer in fashion and mixed with them freely. She trusted them, in return, the young men grew fond of her and her company.

One day, Mallika did not turn up. They expected her to appear even at the last moment, but she was not to be seen. The train started moving. They thrust their heads out of the windows to see whether she was on the platform unable to board the moving train. Instead, they saw a young man arrive at the last moment and running along the platform after the train that gathered speed each second. They forgot about the girl and continued to look out to see whether the young man would succeed in his attempt or not. At last, he managed to cling onto the last carriage, performing an acrobatic feat at the risk of his life. Nimal and Newton began to read; one read a novel and the other an old newspaper. Perera rested his head against the back of his seat and dozed off.


For a whole week the girl was absent. Perera suggested that they should pay a visit to her place to find out what had happened to her. All agreed unanimously. To their great dismay, it struck them that they did not know her whereabouts. Willy-nilly, the idea was dropped by them.

“Don’t worry, she will come next Monday,” Newton said in his customary jovial way.

The following Monday, Nimal arrived at the Fort railway station early and waited for his friends. The platform was almost empty as the there was plenty of time for the train. Mallika appeared at the far end of the station and was in a striking batik frock. Nimal watched her walk towards him on the platform with graceful movements of her wide hips. Her face illumined with a pleasant smile when she saw Nimal.

The batik gown the girl was wearing had a coffee-brown background over which bright yellow splotches or varied sizes were sprinkled and the scalloped hemline fell just below her knees exposing the well shaped calves that tapered to the ankles. Her breast struck out under her apparel with suggestions of their protuberant shape. She smelt of sweet perfume, like a fresh flower.

Like two detectives, Newton and Perera appeared just behind the young couple.

“Hello darling, how are you, after a long time? What happened to you my lovely?”
Newton butted in, in his usual, comical way.

“I was sick”
“Sick of us?”

The words came pat from Newton. All burst into loud laughter.

“I was down with fever,” recovering from her parcxym of laughter, she said.
“We wanted to go to your place to see you; unfortunately, we didn’t know your address.”

“All lies, nobody talked about you in your absence. I was the only person worried over your absence. You know, I could not eat because I was over-anxious!”

Newton did not allow the talk to turn serious.

As the train was already late, there was a large crowd braced for an invasion to grab seats. When the train came onto the platform, the patiently waited mass of commuters went berserk suddenly and the familiar melee broke out. A violent shove from the wriggling mob pushed the clique into the train. They failed to secure seats for all of them. After offering his place to Mallika, Newton opted to travel standing and he stood close to her.


In a jiffy, they forgot the ordeal of getting into the train and engaged in an animated conversation. Most of the talk was done by Perera while the girl and Nimal listened attentively. Newton interrupted them to crack jokes and make them laugh. Mallika was always the butt of the harsh jokes and ridicules of Newton, who made himself a clown.

After some time, in his measured voice, Perera began to narrate a very interesting anecdote. Mallika and Nimal listened to what was being narrated with rapt attention.

Though Newton pretended that he was also listening, he was actually planning his next foolery.

Continued next week


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