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Sunday, 12 June 2016

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A journey to visit the sister

"I would be completing ten years here in the nunnery this Wednesday, Poson Poya day," soliloquized Bhikkuni Khema.

Water draining through a broken tile fell into a clay pot, with a rhythmic sound, plop, plop, near the low stool on which she sat. She looked at it. A bubble or rather a watery structure like a small crown shot up with the sound.

"Life is like a bubble. The only difference is that bubbles have nothing inside while life is full of sorrow- birth, death - everything," her mind spoke.

Suddenly, visions of her only sister came to her mind. "Ten years after leaving home!"She was surprised. She decided to visit her sister.

Loku Mani gave her the address of a nunnery saying, "If you have no time to return the same day, you may put up the night at this place."

Bhikkuni Khema started her journey early next morning. On her way, she recalled how she came to the nunnery. She could still remember how she tiptoed out of her house through the back door and crept out through the fence. She was Shanthi then.

"Tomorrow is Poson. That's why the moon is so bright," Shanthi murmured, looking back to check whether anybody had seen her. "What nonsense! As if they cared. Good riddance, they'd say," she exclaimed to herself.

Mihintale

She got into the first bus that stopped at the main road. It took her to Anuradhapura.

There she joined the queue to Mihintale. She had visited Mihintale once. She was enjoying the scene as the bus sped along. She tried to recall what she knew about Poson. She knew the importance of the day; the story of Arhath Mahinda and King Tissa. The pleasant environment made her feel as if she was reborn. She forgot why she was running away.

"How fortunate I am to be here today," she thought. Devotees were carrying white lotuses. She too joined them and cried, "Sadu! sadu!"

"What am I to do if I couldn't find anybody to help me?"

She was aware of her problem only then, after worshipping the dagaba. She started walking around. Suddenly, her eyes fell on some Bhikkunis resting under the shade of a tree. She approached them slowly and knelt down at the feet of a fair, pleasant looking Bhikkuni, who seemed to be the 'Loku Mani' (Head Bhikkuni).

"Suvapath veva!" She had a kind voice too!

As Shanthi got up Loku Mani looked around and asked softly, "Are you alone?"

"Yes Mani. I have no place to call home, and no one to care for me. This is the only possession I have," she replied pointing at the small bag she was carrying.

"I ran away from home this morning because I couldn't bear the life I was leading, any more. I don't know what made me come here. I was just looking around when I saw the Bhikkunis. I approached you feeling I would find some solace here."

"What's your name?" asked the Bhikkuni looking keenly at her.

"Shanthi."

"What's happened to your arm?"

Shanthi was taken aback by the question. She did not want to tell the truth, nor did she want to lie. Instead, she started crying.

Loku Mani examined her hand. "It's only a bruise. I'll anoint some oil."

While she was being treated, Shanthi related her story in a nutshell and asked permission to join them.

"Well, you may for the present. As time goes on we'll see. If this life suits you, you would be ordained accordingly."

Thus, Shanthi became Bhikkuni Khema.

Shanthi was two years when Mayuri, her sister was born. She loved her sister and always wanted to make her happy.

But unlike Shanthi, Mayuri was arrogant, cruel and selfish. Even as a child she knew how to own whatever she fancied. She never thought twice when she wanted to grab anything she wanted. How many times did she push Shanthi from the swing when she wanted it for herself?

Mayuri knew that she was beautiful. As she grew up she became prettier. So did her arrogance and pride grow. One day, Shanthi angrily retorted, "Mother has given you the appropriate name. You are a real peacock."

Marriage

Shanthi was in her early teens when her father died of a serpent bite. She had to say good-bye to her schooling and join mother to earn their living. Mayuri studied up to Grade Ten. She found Saman, a man who was ready to do anything she asked, and married him.

Soon she became a mother of two girls, twins. Shanthi loved the babies. But unfortunately, Mayuri started harassing her. She was asked not to look after the twins.

"When you stay at home who will give you money for your living?" she shouted.Mother too died of a sudden heart attack. Shanthi was all alone with no one to love her.

"You should get married soon," Mayuri often used to say. "But remember you should marry somebody who owns a house. This house is mine. I am not going to share it with anybody."

One day, an elderly woman came home with Mayuri. "Akka, this is your future mother-in-law," she said.

"What?"

"Yes. We went to the astrologer to get a good date for your wedding. You know Akka, tomorrow is the best date for both of you.

Why should we postpone it? We decided to have it as advised by the astrologer. I spent every cent I had to buy the necessary things."

Bhikkuni Khema could still remember how she described this to Loku Mani.

"I knew it was no use opposing her, Loku Mani," she explained. "I knew I was a burden to my sister. So the best remedy was to accept this marriage. Next day, they took me away. There was no registration, and when I asked them why, they said, 'We will go next week to register your marriage'. Too late I realized the truth, he was already married."

She paused for a moment before continuing. "That man was a drunkard, a brute. He comes home drunk every night and starts fighting with his mother. His first wife's parents had taken away their daughter because of this situation.

All these facts were revealed when the two of them started abusing each other. Soon he was calling me barren and started beating me too.

Deserted

One day, I found a Niyangala creeper with a bunch of flowers in full bloom. How attractive the bunch was! But how deadly its yams! It reminded me of my sister who put me through this hell. She is like that creeper, a woman with a black heart and a beautiful face. I uprooted its yam to end my life, but was scared since I knew committing suicide was a sin."Bhikkuni Khema started on her journey to visit her sister early in the morning, the next day, and in a few hours reached her destination. She came up to the small lane where her house had stood. The place was deserted. The whole area was covered with long grass and bushes.

Seeing no one around, she decided to visit the small boutique where they used to buy their necessities. Malathi, the owner looked at her. "Are you Sha.....Sha..?"

"Yes. I am Muyuri's sister, Bhikkuni Khema now."

She knelt down and worshipped me.

"I came to see my sister."

"You aren't aware of what happened?" she inquired softly.

"No."

"About two years ago a landslide destroyed the whole area."

"What?"

"Four houses including Mayuri's were completely damaged. All the residents were asked to evacuate. They were given land a few metres away."

"Where?"

"But your sister is not there."

"Why?"

"Saman went back to his village with his daughters."

"My sister didn't go with them?"

She was silent.

"Is my sister alive? Tell me."

"No one can change fate. Even her body was not found."

"If you ever meet Saman or his children please give them this address," she said handing her a piece of paper. With a deep sigh Bhikkuni Khema turned away. On her way back she visited the site again.

There wasn't a single landmark to identify the spot where her house had stood.

"You were always selfish, Nangi," she soliloquized. "You wanted everything for yourself. You wanted to be the sole owner of this small house and for that you made my life hell. But I always loved you.

What happened finally? You lost your one and only sister and you were buried alive in your own house. That is the outcome of your craving."

Thanhaya jayati soko - thanhaya jayati bhayam

Tanhaya vippamuttassa - natthi soko kuto bhayam."

"From greed arises grief, from greed arises fear,

For him who is free of greed, there is no grief and no fear."

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