The Indelible | Sunday Observer

The Indelible

Making a sincere attempt to bring an unimagined and unexplored treasure trove of modern Sinhala literature to the English reading community, Montage is bringing Mahinda Prasad Masimbula’s award winning novel Senkottan translated by

Malinda Seneviratne, veteran journalist, writer and poet. Senkottan (The Indelible), a remarkable creation of literature by Mahinda Prasad Masimbula was his debut effort in his literary career for which he won the State Literary Award in 2013 and short-listed in Swarna Pusthaka Literary Awards and many other Literary Award Festivals in the same year. The book has been published by Santhawa Publishers and Senkottan has blazed the trail in the self-publishing industry as one of the best-selling books in Sinhala literature.

CHAPTER 9, PART 1

When there was no word at all of Podina after two days had passed Veerappuli Henaya and Malma Ridee began to look for her everywhere. They found from the tailor-house in Malwatte that she had indeed arrived two days before in the morning, given some cloth to stitch sari jackets and had then gone towards Godakawela.

On both days, Veerappuli Henaya and Baba Henaya went to the line of shops in Godakawela. They were there from morning till evening. They learned nothing.

Nambu Henaya would join them in the afternoon. He was devastated. It was as though the house had been abandoned. Malma Ridee had gone to Kaudava to consult an astrologer. Nambu Henaya spent his time on the verandah steps. He hears the sounds of pots being moved in the house. He hears Podina’s footsteps. He gets up and peers into the kitchen. There’s no one there. How good it would be if Podina was here, he thought. He even thought that there was a strange delight in days spent suffering Podina’s berating, hiding away from her onslaughts. However much she screamed Podina attended to all household matters with utmost responsibility. All he had to do was eat whatever was boiled and given him. All he had to do was play with Baba Henaya. However cruel she was, Podina never once forgot to give him his food on time. Even if she didn’t serve him she would say “there…the rice is ready… serve yourself and burst into two!”

He would immediately go to the kitchen and eat. When they began living under the same roof she would make gruel out of penela vines. The reason for this he learned from his older sister Garu Ridee. Otherwise he would have remained absolutely ignorant of it.

However, when the penela vine had no effect on him, Podina’s anger at him got worse. Helpless to the utmost, Nambu Henaya could do nothing but keep quiet and look at her with complete innocence. That angered her even more. Once she hit him with a ladle. Tears welled up in Nambu Henaya’s eyes. This he never told his sister.

Nambu Henaya walked towards the peththara deep in thought. After being there for a while he remembered the first day he had met Podina. It was here that she spoke to him and took him to the grove of talipot palms, he remembered. He also remembered that act which had benumbed his entire body. He wanted to go to that grove.

The area had been somewhat cleared on account of Veerappuli Henaya planting that bo sapling. He went there. This was where he first set eyes upon her fair and unblemished body. Recalling how he had happily caressed her and that unfamiliar act he walked towards the stream further down. This was also a place which Podina frequented.

There were clothes soaking in the place where the stream meandered over gravel. This was something that was done somewhat secretively. Since it was difficult for Malma Ridee to make her way through the boulders, the task had been assigned to Podina. The clothes were the undergarments worn by a girl when she attained age. They were soaked to release the dark stains and some heavy rocks were placed on them to stop them being swept down the stream. Since this was something Podina had done, Nambu Henaya stayed there for a while.

Everyone in the village said that Podina was extremely beautiful. However beautiful she was, unlike certain other women in the village Podina was never lazy. She always worked. She used long staffs with a crook at one end to pluck jakfruit. She plucked coconuts too. When Veerappuli Henaya and Malma Ridee went on the pilgrimage to Anuradhapura it was Podina who attended to all household matters. She was not a woman but a goddess, Nambu Henaya thought to himself.

‘My Podino…wherever you may be, the Gods themselves must protect you,’ he mumbled to himself.

As he stepped away from the stream and on to the flat land beyond the banks, he saw Garu Ridee approaching him, gathering some meeyana leaves. She had also picked a few arecanuts in a kolapotha. Although he had no wish to talk to her right now, the moment she saw him Garu Ridee engaged him in conversation.

‘Malliye…I have been meaning to meet you. She’s gone, hasn’t she?’

Although no one has made such allusions, Nambu Henaya knew that his sister would. All he wanted to do now was to flee. His face fell. He turned. Garu Ridee quickly overtook him and stood facing him directly.

‘I told you, sweetheart, that all she had was a fair skin. Who knows where she’s been and what she’s done with whom? Don’t trust beautiful women, brother. Anyway, although you might think she’s beautiful I do not. She’s like a wasted little monkey. You got fooled by the colour, my dear one. If you had been a little more patient I would have found a good lass for you from Galahitiya. These are people who have robbed us of kotahalu ceremonies from the time our mother was alive. And you, like a fool, accepted that cow. You come home, my brother. If you wish, bring the little one with you. I’ll take care of you both.’

‘Have you gone crazy, woman? She’s gone missing. We are wondering where on earth she’s gone. Her parents are not leaving one stone unturned.’

‘Let them do whatever they will. What I am saying is that there’s no reason for you to sweat. Just console yourself. This I’ve told you from the beginning, but you were possessed by the devil of lust and dragged her to the talipot grove. You just tickled the honeycomb, brother. It’s others who are enjoying the honey.

‘There’s something I’ve seen with my own eyes. I was walking along the niyara of the Manikka wela one day. She was harvesting diva beraliya at the end of the tract of paddy fields. Handy Ralahamy was coming from the other direction. So they passed each other. You should have seen how she was swiveling her hips. Why? She thought Handy Ralahamy would turn and look at her bottom. That’s how she tried to entice him. I will tell you as the gecko would say it; there are enough men in the houses where she goes to perform kotahalu ceremonies. She’s gone not, but she’ll be back in a day or two grinning widely. Then you can go welcome your little darling.

‘I should watch my mouth! When you wrinkle up your face like an ulama I just want to clench my fist and punch you!’

Nambu Henaya, unlike any other time, was livid. He raised his voice against his older sister for the very first time.

It’s my woman who has gone missing. She’s the woman who cooked rice for me for eight years. Yes, she berates me, but she doesn’t have a gutter mouth like you do.

If I don’t have an issue about her going off with some man, why should you be bothered? If you utter one more word about her I will disregard the fact that you are my older sister and will hit you with a club.’

Garu Ridee was not one to concede defeat easily. She ignored her brother’s anger and laughed.

‘Look at you, you little heap of …look at you being angry! Slime-ball, you are an insult to all men. Good for nothing who is terrified of his woman, tell me, have you even once raised a hand at her? No…you are scared of her! You are shit scared of her! And now you argue with me, the one who took care of you as would a mother. All because of some wench. That little girl…did she stay one week after she reached puberty? She ran away while the old couple were on a pilgrimage.

What a wretched and vulgar family! Now remember this Nambuwo….your woman will return after her wild antics. While Garu Ridee was ranting, he had noticed a dried kumbuk branch close by. He grabbed it and was about to hit her when Garu Ridee flung the meeyana bundles and the arecanut kolapotha at him, folded her cloth half way up and kicked Nambu Henaya.

Nambu Henaya took the blow, rolled in the grass and fell among the habarala and then into a deep pool in the stream with a splash. He was absolutely disappointed with his sister who continued to mouth raw filth at him as she walked away.

He was distraught by Podina’s disappearance as well as the quarrel with his sister. Sobs arose in his throat. His feet sank into the sediment at the bottom of the stream. He decided to weep for a while in that knee-pool surrounded by a thicket.

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