Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 29 May 2016





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Mission accomplished

Pot-bellied Pabilis Mudalali with the scanty hair on his rapidly balding head tied in a tiny knot and his hairy chest puffed forward rubbed his palms together in a self satisfied manner, as he looked around his well-stocked boutique and at the villagers pressed around the counter demanding this, that and the other.

You name it, be had it. His boys who worked for him had hardly a moment’s peace catering to the demands of the customers.

During this season of Vesak his boutique was well supplied with all the seasonal requirements. Buddhist flags of all sizes, bunting, kite paper tissue paper of various tantalising hues, twine, gum, paste, masks for the children, Vesak hats and bucket lanterns. In fact his boutique already wore the face of Vesak. Young and old were clamouring for the breathtaking array, of lanterns he had brought from the city during his last week’s rounds and the little ones crowding around pestering their parents to buy these for them, when some of them could hardly afford the tissue even for a single lantern.


Some villagers viewed the array and with a sigh turned away as they could ill-afford them. Thankful to the Mudalali for the small mercies of having even provided them with this fantastic view of what their children would otherwise never have seen or known about but others more belligerent vociferously blamed the mudalali for attempting to extort money from the poor villagers through such means as tempting the children by such displays.

“What right has he to bring these baubles from the city to tantalise our little ones. I have had no peace at home from the chuttas asking for the fabulous lanterns he so temptingly displays.”

“Yes what is there for him. Look at his well-filled stomach. He’s hardly able to support it; and here we are struggling to support our families” Some of them unjustly commented.


Pabilis mudalali harmed no one; he exploited no one. But with him business was business. Nothing on credit. One had to produce hard cash. After all he was working pretty hard to amass his wealth. One couldn’t give it away for nothing. There was a large board prominently displayed. “By lending, you lose both your customer and your cash.”

Well there was nothing wrong in that’ one would argue but he was a bit of a tight-fisted fellow. During this season another board came up in an even more prominent place. “No donations for lists will be entertained” much to the chagrin of the youth of the area who had planned to do something in the nature of a ‘Dansala’.

They need not go far to feed people in want of a meal; there were plenty of them here in the village itself. “The niggardly rascal” they muttered under their breath as their eyes caught the prominently displayed board and word went round about it.


It even reached the ears of the elderly monk at the temple leaving him pondering restlessly. He decided he should do something about it.

The mudalali was so taken up with his money making, he had hardly time for the temple.

But of course for Vesak a huge pandal would span the road right outside his boutique, displaying one or the other of the Jataka stories brightly illuminated.

He would get people from the city to put it up and as it was right outside his boutique sales would be brisk during the Vesak season as people from nearby villages too would flock every year to see the phenomena. That was not all; a huge till made out of a large wooden box would be placed for collections, to fund the lighting; and the collections greedily collected and counted at the end of each day. One of his assistants would even be placed there to solicit contributions.

The elderly monk sauntered along one evening to the mudalali’s boutique, for the mudalali could always be met only in the boutique. He would try to give the mercenary man a few delicate hints.

The mudalali spotted the monk approaching and giving instructions to his assistants to call it a day, hurried forward to welcome the priest and lead him to his house which was just behind the boutique.


From a distance he called out Haminey, Haminey! The Hamuduruwo is paying us a visit. What an honour! Spread a white cloth on that comfortable chair and place a foot stool like a good woman.”

As the Hamuduruwo entered the house both the mudalali and the Haminey prostrated themselves before him.

Having taken the seat proffered the monk looked about and cleared his throat several times to bring up the all important subject of the significance of Vesak. That it should focus on meritorious deeds and not on superfluous things such as pandals. But Pabilis mudalali seemed so over-joyed and honoured at his visit, rubbing his palms together and twisting his fingers that he found it difficult to get to the point.

“Mudalali the purpose of my visit is...” began the monk haltingly when he was quickly interrupted by the mudalali. “Hamuduruwane you know it is customary for me to put up a pandal every year at much expense. The villagers must have something worthwhile to see in the village isn’t it? These people can’t go to the towns to see these things. “Oh there goes the same tale” thought the venerable monk. “How am I going to take his mind off these mundane things?” Well, this needs much patience and he thought he would wait for the mudalali to have his say.


“But this time I have decided to alter my plans” continued the mudalali.
“Oh another gimmick” thought the monk as he wrinkled his forehead.

“You see Hamuduruwane the stories we hear from all over the island of various atrocities committed. I have given it much thought. How in a matter of seconds hundreds are wiped off the face of the earth. It has shown me how transient life is.


Today we are happy in our village; tomorrow who knows how many of us will live to tell the tale. Hamuduruwane I want to organise a daney for all those observing sil on Vesak day and also for those pulanno in our village who have hardly the means of existence and yet are ashamed to ask or beg.

I would like to hold it in the temple premises” said the mudalali sheepishly rubbing his hands together in a jester of humility. “In fact I wanted to come that way to ask your permission when you so kindly paid us a visit. Hamuduruwane can it be arranged?”

The good monk was speechless for a second. “May the blessings of the Triple Gem be yours.” He managed to say. “That indeed is a very meritorious act.” He rose to leave muttering under his breath Sadhu Sadhu. His mission was accomplished.


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