William's son Ravindra was appointed to the Bandarawela district hospital as a doctor after passing out from the Medical Faculty of the Peradeniya University. Ravindra from Matara was highly impressed by the salubrious climate in Bandarawela and the natural surroundings in the verdant hill country. He was dedicated to his service, showing kindness and attention to the patients. His simplicity and decent behaviour made him popular in the hospital and the area.
Yvonne who hailed from a rich family in Bandarawela was interested in Ravindra. She visited the hospital constantly to see Ravindra. He too liked her because of her beauty, smartness and wealth. Yvonne took him for many rides in her car showing him the attractive tea estates and tea factories in Bandarawela. Ravindra was impressed by her fluency in English.
The result of their friendship was their marriage. Ravindra who visited her parents once a month did not go home at least once a year after the marriage. He did not write to them either, but informed her parents about the marriage by a letter.
Once William visited Ravindra in Bandarawela with great difficulty. The Bandarawela bound bus was moving fast along the southern coastal belt and through the hot plains in Lunugamwehera and Thanamalwila and through the mountains along the Ella-Wellawaya Road. He was exhausted with the five hour journey to Bandarawela. The following day he returned home disappointed.
"Why did you come back so soon......? I thought you would be in Bandarawela for three or four days", his wife Karuna said.
"My son is married to a posh girl. She is very stylish and always speaks in English. She is not a girl who can understand our lifestyle...... Had there been an afternoon bus, I would have come home yesterday itself," William told his wife.
"What can we do ....... that is the destiny of our son....... Today's girls are of that nature".
"He didn't step into this house after the marriage .... she doesn't permit him to come to Matara".
William, although not rich owns two acres of paddy and one acre of land with the house to live in. His garden was full of cultivations such as coconut, jak and fruit enabling him to earn a good income. Paddy cultivation too was always successful providing them enough paddy. His wife Karuna was very supportive to his daily work. Their daughter Kanthi was studying in the Central College in the town. William had to sell a coconut land to find money for Ravindra's higher education in the University.
"There is a letter for us, may be from the son......Can you read it louder so that I too can listen......."
Karuna was shouting when she received a letter from the postman.
"My son says they are coming home next week....Small kid is also coming .....See.....He is coming home after two and a half years. The kid is one year old now". William said to Karuna.
"We should treat them well. I'll find good fish, quality curd and honey..... son can take some 'embulthial' fish to Bandarawela......
"My brother is coming home... I am eager to see the small son", Kanthi said in a happy mood.
William who was enthusiastic about his son's arrival met his friends in the village and said, "My son.... doctor... is coming home next week. He is married to an attractive girl from a rich family in Bandarawela. They have a small son now."
William got up early in the morning. He was very contented and started the day's work courageously. He cleaned the whole house.
"I'll bring curd and honey. Make sure you prepare tasty meals", William told his wife.
They will reach here around 11 o' clock... "They will leave Bandarawela early morning", Kanthi said.
The whole family was impatient to see Ravindra, Yvonne and their small son. Karuna's brother Guneris who lives in the adjoining village too had come to see Ravindra and his family.
"Ah.... there.... sound of a car horn... they are close...." William said impatiently.
The car reached the house. William stood up from the arm-chair and went close to them.When they were getting off the car, mother ran to the car and took the baby.
"Come my Putha... You are very sweet".
"Come Akki... Come in", Kanthi was holding Yvonne's hand.
"You must be tired of travelling. Better to have a wash", William said.
"What's this climate Ravi... It's very hot here... Can't bear up.. we should leave here early".
Yvonne was complaining.
"Don't shout Yvonne... My sister can understand", Ravindra said.
Uncle Guneris quickly cut some Tambili and offered to Ravi and Yvonne. He was eager to talk to them but in hesitation how to start conversation.
"Thank you. Its nice. Its cooling" said Yvonne.
After having lunch, they were in conversation on family matters.
Ravindra asked about the paddy field.
"How is the paddy field now, Thaththa? Do you get a good harvest"?
"Yes Putha... It's quite good... We all depend on that..."
"Why not you give it to Ravi in writing", Yvonne suggested.
William was silent for sometime. He felt very sad about this suggestion. William thought they had come expecting some property. He remembered the coconut land that was sold for Ravindra's studies.
Ravindra who realised the change of William's mood said.
"No.... Thaththa.... She just asked about it... Don't worry..."
"No... Putha.... I want to give it to Kanthi".... words came out from William.Ravinda who wanted to change father's attention talked to Uncle Guneris."Guneris mama... How is aunty now? Are they keeping fine"?
"Yes, Putha... things are not bad... Daughter is at home waiting for O/L results".
"Better to leave now... said Yvonne.
"Then ..... Thaththa .... If we leave now we can reach Bandarawela by evening" said Ravindra.
"Why so .... hurry Putha. I thought you would stay here two or three days.. I have arranged the front room for you...
"We can't keep the son here .... He cannot bear up the climate here...."
"See you then," they started leaving them.
William packed a bag of rice, two pots of curd into the car. Karuna packed one pot of embulthial fish and two pineapples.
Uncle Guneris packed a bag of coconuts and some thambili into the car.They all hugged the small son saying "May the triple Gem bless you... My small son"
"See you then", Yvonne said to all louder.
William, Karuna and Kanthi were gazing at the departure of their loved ones. Karuna wiped her tears with her dress. William, went into the house without talking. He occupied his usual Arm Chair thinking of the past; how Ravindra studied in the village school and how he took him to the central college in the town for admission after passing the scholarship exam, how he played with sand and coconut shells in the compound.
He remembered how he came home exhausted after school, carrying his school bag.
He tried to bear up his anguish himself. William saw some birds flying in the sky through the window of his room.
By Hector S. Yapa - Sunday Observer