"Girls, while I play the piano please recite the school song", said Miss Nancy, seated at the mahogany piano in the corner of the large assembly hall of Sacred Heart Convent, Galle. She has been teaching singing to girls of Grade 10 , who had assembled there.
Accordingly the girls started singing "Ring out oh bells ......."
Although Nancy was playing the piano she could not concentrate on what she was doing. Her body was in the Sacred Heart Convent hall, but her mind was far away. This won't do. Children would notice that I play wrong notes, especially those students who attend my piano classes, she thought, after trying several times without success.
"Sherine come here, please sit at the piano and play the school song", she said addressing one of her best students. "All the others sing, while she plays". Nancy walked in between the rows of children listening to each of them by standing close, and trying to concentrate on what she was doing.
It was her first month, at the Galle Convent as music teacher. This school where she had studied, has given her fresh hopes to restart her life. She knew it was worthless living in the past and think over and over again about her two children and her husband. Ajith would never forgive her and accept her as his wife again. She must be satisfied with what she has now, the job, the roof under which she could live and the kindness of everyone around her, specially the nuns.
She could remember the sad episode which ended her married life.
Her chain of thoughts ended when she heard the school bell ring. "Good afternoon Miss," said the children in one voice, when she came in front of the class before leaving.
"Good afternoon", Nancy replied.
It was 1.30pm, and time to close the school. Sherine came running behind Nancy while she was leaving the hall. "Miss, aren't we having the music class today?", she asked.
"No child, today I have some other work to do", Nancy replied.
Nancy climbed the steps to go to the hostel in the upper floor. When she entered the room her roommate Irangani was already there.
"You are early", said Nancy putting down her books on the table.
"Yes, last period was free for me, so I returned to my room after spending some time in the staff room," said Ira.
"So how was it today?" she asked from Nancy.
"In the morning I called my husband, before going down to have my breakfast. He was furious with me and asked me to mind my own business. He also said he would file a divorce case and I was unhappy the whole day and could not concentrate on what I was doing.
"Then what is Kapila saying, your ex-boyfriend?
"I did not call him and everything between us is over. I cannot blame him since one could not clap with one hand. While my husband was away as a sailor, I encouraged him to come to me in the night. We had a good time. I thought he loved me. That was why I eloped with him, leaving my son, daughter and the husband who was like a saint. Ajith, my husband, gave me whatever I asked, money for everything, even to go to beauty salons. I spent his hard earned money to lead a luxurious life. I had everything, specially because his promotions were regular, every year. He was a good sailor and a duty-conscious husband.
"He married me through a love affair, although his family did not accept me, as I was unemployed. He was the youngest in the family and inherited the ancestral home and also became the owner of many properties of the family. I could have lived like a queen with my two children.
"Ajith had come to know everything about my love affair with Kapila, from our neighbours. But he did not get angry, as he was a far sighted man. He did not quarrel with me or hit me, but only advised me.
"I was a proud woman and told him that I would leave the house and the family since I had many places to go. But at that time my parents were also angry with me as I did not listen to them too. They took Ajith's side. But I was adamant and ignored every advice. Finally, my parents also stopped visiting us.
"My husband told me over and over again that a young bachelor would not accept me, a mother of two children. But I was headstrong and was not in a state of listening to anybody.
"My boyfriend had a nice car as he was a businessman and owned several shops in Galle town. Living with him, to me was like living in a fairy tale. He vowed that he loved me and promised that he would look after me till I die. Although he was not that handsome he was better than my husband, taller than him and fairer.
"When my husband came home during his holidays, he tried to explain the situation and said over and over again that my lover would not accept me and look after me, until my death. He asked me to have a good family life with him and the two children.
"But on a Poya Day when my husband was away I eloped with my boyfriend. He brought his car near our house and with his assistance I climbed the parapet wall in front of our house and went to a previously arranged annex. In the first few months he was very loving, came to me in the afternoons after work, and spent the whole night with me.
"As the days flew he became a different person and found solace in liquor. He also started hitting me and breaking the furniture. I started comparing my husband with him. Being a calm person like a saint he had never hit me in our 10 years of marriage.
Kapila was unhappy since his parents were angry about our love affair and did not accept him as their son after he eloped with me.
He was the youngest of the family and he was loved by his parents and the other members of the family, as he was the "Badapissa". In turn he also loved his parents and his sisters and brothers and had a big family bond.
"After quarrelling with me he would sleep without a word and I had to clean the room since he used to vomit, because alcohol was not consumed by him before our marriage. I started hating him. I wanted to go back to Ajith, my husband, but he refused to accept me.
"Later Kapila started using drugs too. I wanted to help him because I loved him and wanted to put him to a rehabilitation centre. But he would not listen to me and despised me. I cried and tried to assure him to go there, but without success.
"At the end I contacted one of his friends Kaviska, whom I knew and asked to intervene. He was helpful and he said he would contact Kapila's parents and asked for my consent. As there was nothing else which I could do and since I loved Kapila, I agreed. I knew it would mean that I would lose him. Kaviska, contacted Kapila's parents and they came to our annex.
"You have made our son's life a hell and you would have to pay for it, if not in this life, at least in the next birth.", his parents, specially his mother said shouting and addressing me in filth. They took him home and put him in a rehabilitation centre and according to what I heard from Kaviska, Kapila is recovering and he is almost normal now.
"There was nobody to pay the house rent and the house owner after waiting for about two months who was sympathetic towards me said he could not give me shelter anymore. I had nothing to eat since the money given by Kapila was spent and I had to pawn my gold chain, bangles and the wedding ring given by Ajith to fulfill my daily needs. I cried and cried in the nights thinking what I should do. I had no place to go since Ajith and my parents were angry about what I did.
"Finally, as you know Ira, the nuns of Sacred Heart Convent, where I studied, came to my rescue and now I have a job, and a roof over me. I have to be satisfied with what I have".
by Chulika Nanayakkara