Upul Kumarapperuma (Read in Sinhala >>)
Then I was either in grade three or four. Our sports master was Mr. Dhanapala. He was a very strict teacher. We were so afraid of him that we even did not beg permission to go to toilet.
By that time, my father worked in a school in Wadayanthalawa, Ampara. I still don’t know where this remote village is. Dad used to say that it took more than 12 hours to travel to school from home.
He came home usually once a month and occasionally after one and half or two months. In such visits, he stayed about a week at home. Otherwise, he left for the school after a couple of days.
On that day, we were practicing sports in the school playground. The road adjacent to the ground led to the side of our house. It was the day Thaththa was leaving home for reporting back to school. He left home after we went to school. The bus left from Matara bus stand at 9.30 p.m.
Mr. Dhanapala was closely monitoring us. He had even marked the boundaries for us and we were not allowed to move beyond them. The school wall or the gate were banned to us to prevent us eating junk food from the Petti Kade boutique on the other side.
While playing, I suddenly saw my father was walking along the road to go to Ampara. I still remember the shirt he was wearing. It was a light blue colour one and he held the leather bag that was used by most of the public servants by that time.
I wanted to talk to him. In such moments, father behaved entirely differently and openly showed the affection. I looked at him. He was about to move away from the vista. I got near to Mr. Dhanapala. I pointed my finger towards my father and tried to speak but the fear held my voice back in my throat.
I felt so forlorn when my father moved away from the perspective. I cried. I am still so sad when I remember that incident. I have told it many a time to my friends.
Father told that he had not wanted a tomb after his death. He wanted his ashes washed to the waters of River Nilwala. It was his only wish. A day after my father’s corpse was cremated, I, together with my two younger brothers, went to Matara cemetery to collect the ashes. Chandana Weeraman was also with us.
We went to Bandaththara up the river bank keeping my father’s casket of ashes on my lap. We got down to the river from an easy bank. Chandana made a hole at the bottom of the clay pot that contained the ashes. It was a ritual. We kept the pot on the water. It floated few feet before us and suddenly sank. The only physical memoir of my father thus disappeared before our eyes. We cried a lot on that day.
The experience in my childhood at school and the incident related to the ashes shocked me deeply. I am still sad when I recall that I could not talk to him. A painful feeling that my father’s last memoir is hiding in the bottom of River Nilwala embraces my heart when I remind the scene of his ashes sinking in the river.