Wilderness of life
morning sun burst into our room when I opened the window. It was a very
beautiful dawn with everything immersed in golden sunshine. This
particular morning looked wonderfully enchanting because it was
experienced in a sun kissed, misty, mountainous area.
My wife was still asleep and I kept on looking at her a few minutes.
What a beautiful young woman she is! I thought.
I was very proud to be her husband but at that time, I did not know
that she would turn out to be a Pandora’s box for me. I married her
yesterday and this was my second marriage. My first wife died in a road
accident about one year ago. The youthful, pretty lady also married for
the second time with me. She had stayed with her former husband only for
a week and she returned to her parents leaving her better half in the
lurch. Consequently, her marriage ended in divorce.
One of my very close friends invited me to spend a few days after our
marriage with his family. At that time, they resided at Pathana, a small
town close to Nuwara-Eliya. The Devon Falls is situated a little
distance away from the house and I love to watch the falls again and
again as I think it is the most attractive waterfall in our country.
The constant sound of cascading water tempted me to get closer to the
falls and admire it to my heart’s content.
“Shall we go down and see the waterfall?” I suggested to my wife when
she woke up.
“Leeches must be there and they will cling on to the feet. Sometimes,
the disgusting creatures climb up the legs..... eeya!
She shrugged her shoulders and made faces to show her abhorrence.
“No leeches there. I have gone down to the foot of the falls several
you want, you can go alone. I won’t go”.
However, I also did not go down to see the stunning spectacle of the
After spending a week with my friend and his family we returned home.
I had fallen in love with her head over heels because of her beauty
and I was extremely happy as she had inherited a five acre coconut
estate and a big old fashioned house with it.
With many gables, the protruding portico whose roof was supported by
four pairs of fluted wooden posts, the house stood in the middle of the
land which sloped down to Attanagalu-Oya and the bank of the stream
fringed by yellow-stemmed-bamboo groves that arched down to the water.
I noticed that the roof of the house was leaking at several places
and some portions of the valens boards with intricate fret-work were
decayed and hanged loose.
The land looked like a nature-reserve with unwanted trees grown
between the rows of coconut palms. This reminded me of the description
in ‘Village in the Jungle’ that depicted a vivid picture of the
Silindu’s abandoned hut invaded by the surrounding forest.
With my wife’s consent, I renovated the dilapidated house retaining
the original appearance and the old structure. Moss-gathered local tiles
were completely removed and the roof was covered with new tiles. The
missing portions of the valens boards were replaced with new boards into
which patterns were cut very similar to the original fretwork.
The old world charm returned to the house when the renovation work
was over. Even my wife seemed to be pleased about the facelift given to
her ancestral home.
At the beginning of our married life, my wife emphatically said that
she did not want to have children; she proposed to adopt a child. I
thought that she would change her mind in time to come. To my
disappointment, she remained dictatorially adamant.
My wife was the only child of our village headman and all the
villagers respected him and were afraid of him. He was a very strong and
tall person. He grew his hair and tied it in a knot at the back of his
head just above the nape. He sported a bushy moustache with ends turned
up and it gave him a fearsome appearance.
My wife, Matilda was educated at a convent and she stayed in the
hostel until she finished her schooling. I attended the central college
close to our village. Most of the male students did not wear shoes and I
was one of them.
Matilda got the gravest shock in her life when she came to know that
she was pregnant. She behaved as if she were sentenced to death. For a
whole day, she refused to talk with me; she even did not look at my
“Almost all the women undergo this experience. Why do you take it as
“Stop your homily. I am fed up with all these things.”
She interrupted me impolitely and ran into the house, locked herself in
her room and she remained there for a long time.
Matilda always grumbled about the ordeal she was undergoing because of
her pregnancy which she never expected.
“I can’t sleep the way I want. I cannot even eat what I want. When I
stand before the mirror I see a funny creature; just like a ‘nilame’ in
However, Matilda gave birth to a baby girl even though she had
expected a boy. I am a very unlucky person,” she lamented.
I noticed that Matilda did not love her child as other mothers do.
She breastfed the baby only for a very short period and the infant was
bottle-fed with artificial milk. The mother did not like to see her
figure go out of shape.
From the very beginning of our marriage, Matilda started looking down
upon me and I ignored her ill treatment towards me as I was blindly in
love with her in whose eyes I was a simpleton!
I did not get separated from her as I wanted to see our innocent
daughter grow up under the care and protection of both parents. In my
childhood, I had not grown up with my parents and I had been an orphan.
My relations had brought me up. I did not want my daughter to go through
an unhappy childhood as I did when I was an innocent child.
Before concluding this narrative, I would like to describe two events
relating to our married life. At that time, our daughter was about six
One evening she was playing by herself in the living room. I was
reading a newspaper and Matilda was in her room doing something.
The girl lifted the big china flower vase that stood in a corner of
the room and tried to move it to another place. Unexpectedly, she
dropped the vase and it broke into pieces. Hearing the noise, Matilda
came out of her room and dashed towards the child to hit her.
“Don’t beat her - don’t. She didn’t do it purposely.”
She ignored my request and hit the girl. The moment I saw her hit the
child I pounced on her and slapped her hard across the face. She ran to
her room and started crying noisily. I was pleased and triumphant about
what I had done.
The frustration over my unsuccessful marriage, Matilda’s wayward
behaviour, her cruelty towards the innocent child triggered me to hit
“I get beaten by persons who do not deserve to be servants,” Matilda
One morning, I found a piece of paper on my table with a note by Matilda
and it said,
“After school, I have to attend a funeral. Sometimes, I might get late.”
That day she returned home around 8 o’ clock at night escorted by a
handsome young fellow.
“Who is that person?” I asked her when the young man left our place.
“Why?.... He is a teacher on the staff of our school.” she replied
“When other people see you with a stranger at this hour of the night
what will they think of you?”
“Let them think anything they want. What does it matter to you?”
“It does matter to me a lot. You are my wife. I must know why you got
“Don’t talk nonsense.”
She flounced into the house. I got mad with anger and dashed towards
her. Our daughter emerged from somewhere and grabbed my hand which was
“Don’t hit her - Don’t hit her thaththa.” Her pleading voice cooled
Our daughter excelled in her studies. She entered a university and
was awarded a government scholarship, and went abroad for further
Between Matilda and me there was no mutual respect for each other
although we lived under one roof. We have not been attached to each
other emotionally but the law kept us together just like a cage keeps
two different birds together.
Since the very beginning of our married life there has been a rift
between Matilda and me that could not be mended. We have not been a very
intimate couple but a male and a female leading an unhappy life
punctuated by conflicts, bickerings, squabbles, no-talk-periods and so
I am an old man now; Matilda looks older than me with grey hair and a
bulky body which she drags about with some difficulty. Our daughter will
never return to her motherland. I feel that ultimately life brought me
into the middle of desert where nothing can be expected, hoped for or
done .... This is wilderness of life where you can find only emptiness
and desolation. I suppose that the mental state of my life partner is no
better than mine!
(The characters in the story are fictitious.)