on beliefs

Religion.

Such a simple world.
Such a simple answer.

Religion.

The cause of hate.
The cause of war.

Sri Lanka has just woken up to a time of no war. Sure, the war and conflict ended in 2009, more than three years ago. Does this mean Sri Lanka has been a peaceful country since 2009? Ah, that’s the one question that makes us stutter, look around for words, change the subject.

So the racial issue which was originally a fight for power was brought to an end. The Tamils and Sinhalese hugged and kissed and stopped killing each other. Now we have a new issue, a new fight for power. And that’s where religion comes in.

Because any unwise comment will only put me behind bars, I will not go into the details of this conflict. I’ll simply say that it has become a religious issue. A religion that is known for its hate-free nature using words as a weapon and not a shield and a religion that is often [wrongly] blamed for violence around the world that only wanted a prayer said for the animal that was about to be slaughtered.

Why do Buddhists claim the Buddha’s doctrine isn’t a religion? Because, it isn’t. What makes Buddhism a religion are the traditions and rituals that surround it.

What is expected from a religion? Relief. Some way to unburden your self of various things. This is why, I think religions with a God, especially a forgiving one, has so many followers. The idea of a God gives the faithful a friend, a listening ear, someone to lean on.

Creation? Religion shouldn’t be about proving things of a scientific nature. Leave creation, the end of the world and what not for science.

Putting down a religion or belief just because it hasn’t proved anything isn’t needed. We read fantasy books, watch various movies and play unrealistic games without burning down buildings or hating people. Religion is in a way a fantasy. A soft pillow that will comfort you and will offer some thing to live for.

So no matter what your religion is, no matter what you believe in or rather, don’t believe in. Be tolerant and patient. Accept and love.

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Koluwa’s Story; Part 2

Rust reminded her of blood. And blood reminded her of rust. She always needed to throw up after getting rust on her skin. That smell never went away, and the dirty powder made her skin itch. In the great house she now worked for, there was very little rust. At her home though, the one she never went to, everything was covered in rust. Whatever could, that is. They lived near the sea, and nothing could shine for long before the rust settled in. When ever she had touched the gate to either leave home or return, Latha had to wash her hands. The last time she left, the day Biso Hamu had come for her, the rust had been hard to get off. She had been in the bus for five hours or so, and had thrown up at least a dozen times. The fear of an unknown future, the sorrow of leaving behind what she knew best was mixed with that smell of rust.
Once she started her new job, her new life, the bleeding had begun. It had started with a few minor cuts, while peeling fruits or vegetables. Then she had fallen from low branches, trying to pluck mangoes and many other fruits. The tiny scars had only grown in number and soon the blood scared her no more. It still reminded her of rust though, and home. That was what blood meant to her, home.
So when Koluwa cut his leg while going the garden, her heart sank. The sight made her weak at the knees and all thoughts left her mind.
“You crazy woman! Don’t just stand there! Aiyo! What happened to my dear little, Koluwa?” Manike rushed to his side.
Latha was asked, not very nicely though, to bring some clean cloth and ‘that purple colored stuff!’
When the wound was cleaned, Koluwa was taken to a clinic by the Master. While they were gone, Latha couldn’t get back to the washing she was doing before the accident. Distracted, she sat near the well, eyes full of tears.
“For what goddamn reason are you crying?” Manike had little sympathy for Latha and didn’t hide it from her.
Latha couldn’t talk, and turned away.
“You aren’t running around with that Koluwa, now are you?”
Latha shook her head, “Aiyo no! He’s a brother to me. I’m just worried about him.”
“Ya ya, it all starts with ‘he’s like a brother to me.’ Before the Missy can even breathe you’ll be carrying that boy’s child.” Manike spat the words out at her.
“Here you! You listen to me Latha. This Missy is good, the best you can find, but if you start fooling around, you’ll have no more a home here. Get it?”
Manike walked back into the kitchen. As she shut the back door, Latha heard the words, “at least if he was a Sinhalese.”
Now what had Manike meant by that? Latha knew her chances of love and marriage was very slim. Unless her mother suddenly remembered her, which was quite unlikely. The First Lady wouldn’t busy her self finding suitors for her, and Latha couldn’t very well find them on her own. Some of the tele dramas she had watched showed servant-master affairs. Not possible, because the master was old, and the Egghead was simply too young. Then there were the servant-gardener affairs, but Koluwa didn’t seem like someone she would want to get married to.
Still, what had Manike meant when she said those last words? Latha wondered about it all, and Koluwa’s injury only came back to her mind when she heard the gate opening.

POVERTY

Here we have another form of art, and that is art literally. We all must lend a helping hand, for even the smallest sacrifice can go a million miles. By Cristina Rodrigo:

“This piece was created after I encountered these girls, left alone by her mother to sympathize people who were passing by and bring something home. They are just two of children around every corner of the world, boxed inside their poverty unable to reach out. Hundreds of voices that echo around their destiny will never be heard by the outside world. We won’t be able to help them by throwing bits and pieces into the pit. We have to go down the rope or hold the rope for those who go down, either way your hands will be bruised.” 

As a viewer, it feels like one is looking into the eyes of these children, looking into the core of their souls, and their innocence. Yes, Poverty and war go hand in hand, as is a well-known fact. 

(Picture copyrights go to Cristina Rodrigo)

Views by a friend

(NOTE: This is regarding a particular incident, but it can be generalized to include all regions, faiths and beliefs. All things will face criticism, you can either accept it all and make no fuss or try to put p a counter argument, which will only prove how tolerant you are :)….n offense, but this is not an anti-religious piece, please note that we respect all faiths)

Race, religion, everything. In our world, strife is created on so many unpleasant levels, and yes, criticism of religion is one. We take Islam as our example.



This isn’t about race, or cutting down all Muslims, or trying to say that people shouldn’t be allowed to practice the religion of their choice.
It is about evening out the playing field. That is to say that, yes, you can follow a religion of your choice. What you cannot, or should not do, is expect that religion to be beyond any sort of criticism in any context. And when it comes to Islam, that’s exactly what has happened. It is fine for moderate Islam to turn the other cheek in the face of extremism. It is fine for Muslims to make death threats because some people drew cartoons lampooning their prophet (which were based on reality, for the record), you blame the cartoonists of course. They were entitled to their feelings, but they were not entitled to acting out in violence, anymore than they were for the murder of Theo Van Gogh or anyone else who dares to disagree. And no one should have to bow to such ridiculous behavior.
Well, no, of course it isn’t fine. And while I am sure many people will use this day as an excuse to spread hate and bigotry, that is not what I am trying to do here. Like the Dutch cartoonists, I am making a statement about the condition of religion.
(Credit to: Nicole Graffam) 

Written by a friend

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE
(Verbal bullying is a real issue, and needs to be stamped down)
Do you remember how you ran to your mother/teacher with tears streaming down your eyes just because someone called you by an insulting name? It hurt all the more when the insult was due to something that you couldn’t help. Maybe it was being too tall/fat/smart or even having to wear spectacles.
Maybe you have heard the saying that when you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you. Yes, pejoratives are disconcerting on both ends. And that is why, calling people belonging to different races with derogatory names, is just so wrong.
A blog post I read recently confirmed my view. According to it, “Most pejoratives have origins in completely acceptable descriptive words. ‘Negro’ comes from the Latin ‘Niger‘ which means black, ‘Paki’ is shortened from ‘Pakistani’… They get their pejorative connotations after being repeatedly used in an insulting manner. Other names originate directly from a desire to put down and insult, but the word ‘Hambaya’ belongs to the former category.”
The author goes on to describe how the word ‘Hambaya’ originated from the word “sampan”, a flat bottomed boat used by early Muslim traders. What is more interesting is the occurrence of this pejorative in a major city in Sri Lanka… If you haven’t guessed it already, it is Hambantota, described by the author as “what will probably soon be Sri Lanka’s on-paper capital”
A slight reminder for all of us to “mind our language”.

Part of my novella/novel thing

(the last part I’m putting of my first-ever attempt at a historical novella/novel. My second one is pretty much on the drawing board, and will be done in some time)

Chandrasegaran knew that it was well past his normal sleeping hour, but still kept up. He, after all, had company tonight.
Two friends.
His second cousins, who’d been on a visit to Thanjavur.
He was using his father’s huge, cozy bed with its beautifully patterned drapery and sheets, and in fact, that entitled him to Brahmarajan’s whole room. He knew that his mother wouldn’t turn up all of a sudden, so thanked his lucky stars. She spent a very long time in the bath, after all. And this room…made her…feel strange…..
 “Tell me how we will plan this, whole wedding that they will be having.” He was, of ocurse, always eager to start his conversations with the issues that his companions faced. “Really, I must say that having such a big sacrificial fire for such a small ceremony will be unnecessary. What is he going to spend, I wonder? I mean, with all the money that the man makes and the amount his family dump on him, he must be having enough to throw around and waste in general on such a massive thing.”
The two young men on the bed both laughed as well.
“Tell me Chandrasegaran, what sort of wedding would you have? When will you have yours anyway?” This was Nilakanth, the older of the two, who didn’t look like the person to pass up an invitation to any woman’s house for a good night. This question put Chandrasegaran on guard in an instant. He inspected the faces of both Nilakanth and his other relation, Devam, searching their eyes for an answer of some sort.
“Well,” he began after a moment’s pause, “I’ll be turning sixteen tomorrow, so maybe”-he wrung his hands a bit-“I expect to have my wedding soon. Maybe to some girl I’ve never even met before, don’t get me wrong. It was how my father had got married, after all. Strange thing is, it’s not just a wedding I want, with hundreds of guests, a big ceremony and a jeweled bride. I want a marriage one day. One that lasts for life, one that’s true.”
His eyes darted as he sighed and stretched out on the bed, cradling the pillow.
“That’s what I want. But really now, how is your uncle going to pay for something like that? What has the bride’s family offered to give him?”
“The bride,” answered Nilakanth, “owns many acres of paddy lands in the Kaveri as I’ve heard, and is of a good age too. Lucky.” He and Devam both shook their heads in acknowledgement.
“But wait, what does your mother say about this?” he asked Chandra. The boy’s head cocked up suddenly. “I…I don’t know. Ever since my brother went abroad to fight alongside my father, and in fact, ever since Father came back home, I haven’t talked to her that much. Well, it was nice talking to the two of you. Goodnight then.” Clearly, it seemed to the young men that talking about Minakshi had put their relation at ease. Poor Chandrasegaran was after all, just a boy. How else could he feel anyway?
 Minakshi strummed her long fingers across the strings of the old Saraswati veena as she gazed out of the window of her room. All around, her old family finery hung around, and the haunting moonlight lit them up, casting faint glimmers that danced on the walls and on her skin. She kept looking at the Temple, its central tower, its sky-kissing vimana standing erect and proud against the cold night. It was always beautiful at night. How so many intricate and delicate carvings had been incised into such hard granite, she would, and could, never know. Worshippers from everywhere seemed to flock here at the Big Temple, simply to awe at its majesty and splendor at times. Very few of them really did have something to say to the gods.
Sure, she’d been there.
For an instant, she strummed her veena once more. She moved over to the tuning pegs, turning them to adjust her pitch.
A  low, hollow note carried through the room, rising on the cool air and then dying away before her. Where it ended its journey was something that Minakshi had always kept around, for a very long time. The white sari. She looked at it curiously. “When you marry a Hindu man,” her aunt had told her one day, many years ago, “and he passes away, you have the option of living the life of a nun, forever austere, forever in white, forever in mourning.” Somehow, Minakshi felt a cold shiver down her spine, and the white sari seemed to call her.
Unblinkingly, she arose.
Quickly closing the window and the curtain, and locking the heavy door, Minakshi stripped off her bodice and her soft, warm red sari with its gold and green floral borders. The soft light from the lamps around her highlighted the right side of her perfect figure, thus lighting up the walls as well as they reflected off her. She inspected her shadow for a minute.
This was what Brahmarajan had seen when he’d married her. What Kassapa had wanted during their brief fling. Minakshi ran her hands all over herself, caressing her neck and torso, lying on the bed and letting her hair flow across the covers once more. Like she was young, Like when Brahmarajan had taken her to their nuptial bed, and loved her more passionately than she could ever have been loved…Absently, she played with her hair as she looked into the mostly darkened out room.
The sari was all that seemed bright and inviting…
And Minakshi’s mind went fuzzy as she wrapped the white sari around herself. She felt its fabric cradling her form, wrapping tightly around her hips as she pinned the tight, white bodice at last. It was like she was forever born to wear it, to live with it.
It clung to her like her sons had when they were little, like when her husband had when he had needed her on their nights together. Minakshi, for a minute, found it difficult to breathe, but finally got the hang of it. Well, she had got this when she was much, much smaller, and now her large bosom felt suffocated with this bodice embracing it, holding on like it never wanted to leave…
No….
No….
She had married a Hindu, she was not one!
Minakshi was not like those women who would follow their men like dogs…who would follow them to the pyre just because their religion told them to….or be lonely old widows who spent an eternity weeping…
She was proud…
She was proud…
“I will not!!!”
A sudden burst of energy and she ripped through the white fabric. The sari and all of its threads seemed to be like tears getting shed into the night as she flung its remains onto the floor, quickly reaching for her old one, and rejoicing in its red warmth as she felt it cradle her body and finally, it was done.
“Goodbye, memories, goodbye cruel fate.” She said it with a hint of sarcasm as she looked at the white sari, lying in a wretched heap on the carpeted floor.
“Looks like I’ve never needed you, and guess what? I never will.”
She let herself breathe once more. Minakshi then unlocked the great door quickly, striding out of her room and stepping lightly down the staircase as she wandered the rooms of the house. She was looking for one room and one room only though. This was in the centre of the house itself, always kept locked up, with absolutely no furniture whatsoever. It was a flat, great expanse of polished marble floor and a few mats kept rolled up in a corner. There used to be a carpet here, but no more, for it had attracted rats, and the house had become a breeding ground for them. So, this slippery but beautiful surface was all that remained.
Minakshi locked the door firmly behind her.
And then she closed her eyes for an instant, hands clapped in prayer as her mind was filled with a million sounds. Drums of various kinds, brought from the farthest corners of India, Lanka and Ramanya in the east. The rhythm was unending, the tunes were so heavenly, played rather randomly but they were like an orchestra of the gods. Everything made perfect sense to Minakshi, as she pricked up her ears further. The drummers kept on going, going, going forever, as she got into her favorite pose, legs apart, raised arms, hands in their mudra, ready for the time to come out….
Then came the haunting, silent tunes of the lyre, or as it was called in Tamil, the yal.
This lute, her favorite instrument, sent its melodies shooting through her head, and filled her up. Minakshi put one foot forward and nature took over. A light wind blew past the paper-thin curtain that covered the window, and it shook slightly, as did a wind chimer that joined in the orchestra. As she swirled, her hair was lit up by a stray moonbeam, so soft, so wild, so free and heavenly, with its jasmine-scented oils to give it a bit more appeal. And Minakshi herself felt lit up as she moved with the music within her, her whole body now doing what it had been doing for years.
“Still got it, still got it,” she laughed over the music, “no widow’s saris for me! I danced once, I kept dancing, I will dance till I die.” She suddenly felt herself in the middle of a pooja in the Temple, with her whole troupe, swaying wonderfully to the beat of the instruments that flowed in her blood and penetrated her. The youngest of the group too. It was all a religious ceremony, true, but that was when she’d been drawing out the attentions of many men with her unusual northern fairness, slender waist, full bosom and perfectly shaped hips. And her expressions. Minakshi sweated, and her sari was soon soaked as she went through the final moves of her dance. Now she spun, and fell down in a heap on the floor, panting and breathing, stomach heaving with every gasp, her sari feeling loose around her.
“Still got it.” That was all she could say as she sat there in respite.
She felt alive.
She truly, truly felt proud.
“Mother? Mother, are…are you there?”
It was Chandrasegaran.
“What?” Minakshi’s voice still held little quivers and the signs of exertion as she panted, her body glowing with sweat. “Wait, let me…let me get the door.”
That was the reply he’d expected, right? She sensed tenseness on the other side of the door. There was a pause in which she seemed to be ill at ease. It was like Minakshi wanted to be able to embrace the inviting white fabric of her other sari, but she still managed to put on her usually spirited voice, “Yes, son, what is it? What is it, Chandrasegaran?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
He too felt the weight in the air as he pushed his body to the wooden door, feeling the hardness of the carvings under his naked torso and slightly rough hands. However, the click of the lock being opened, sounded so welcoming that he, with a sudden, “Mother,” got in too quickly. Chandrasegaran almost slipped, and Minakshi quickly steadied her son, arms around his waist.
She smiled at him, or at least tried to.
“I heard you talking to yourself here. And what are you doing up?” he further pressed. Minakshi just didn’t say anything, but stroked the side of his face with her hand. This was not the boy she had known all this while, was he? He was tall and slim, slimmer overall than the now slightly bulky Sivapalan, but with features that were more finely chiseled, and lean, solid muscle from his constant martial arts sessions with various warriors and masters. For one thing, this boy’s hair was always at shoulder-length, not something the her son Sivapalan would ever agree to.
But those eyes, thought Minakshi.
Such solemn eyes.
It was like Chandrasegaran was pondering some high-off truth, or that he was really, truly sad now. Yet, was he? She couldn’t read his expression, for his lips were together, his face was taught.
“Chandra…I’m alright, Chandrasegaran, I’m quite alright. Look,” she laughed, “I’m fine! Perfectly fine.”
“Really? Well I don’t but it. I know you’re sad about Sivapalan leaving, Mother. You have aright to feel that way, but I just”-he took a deep breath to cleanse his mind-“I just want to talk to you now.” His mother had turned her back on him, and she was now beside the window. He was clearly aware of her perfect figure, caught in the wandering moonbeams, how well she looked, silhouetted against the soft drapes. Wasn’t she interested? Didn’t she want to talk to him anymore?
“All I want to know is, why all the avoidance? Because of what I said long ago, is it? Well, look, I may be growing up now, but I still need you a lot, so…can’t we just talk?”
Suddenly, she turned and strode over to him.
“Chandra, Chandrasegaran, really, I just don’t get you anymore! I mean, one moment I’m smothering you, the next you want my love so badly, what is it now? And yes, I forgave you years ago, alright?”
She stopped awhile, just short of him while he stared into her eyes, although still looking down at her feet and arms, scared of what her reaction might turn out to be.
“When’s your brother coming back?”
“Still about Sivapalan? Look, I miss him, but”-
“Ah, there it is again! See, why do you put me through this strange situation my boy? First it’s your brother who finds that Lankan child and becomes his best friend, and then it’s his father who comes back after a century, and I…I need to worry, you silly little boy! He is on the front lines in some damned island, and I’m not supposed to worry? Is that what you’re saying? I mean, Chandrasegaran, this house has become a real hellhole for me, I feel so…”
She hesitated, biting her lip and fumbling for the right word…
“Trapped.”
They both said it.
The eyes of the pair met, and Minakshi took his head, placing it against hers.
But he drew away.
“I’m, I’m so sorry,” he cursed, biting his lip in anger at his thoughts. “Mother, please, look, I feel alone in this house too. I can understand how Kassapa got to you, but I won’t do the same thing! I only need a friend, and you’re all I’ve got.” Was that a tear in his eye? She gently took his hands and put them around her waist once more as she cradled him gently, like she’d done all those years ago. “It’s alright, it’s alright,” she sighed to him, as he felt his hands grow tense and sweaty, “we all feel that way once in our lives.”
“And I thought I was the controlled one of the family. Clearly my father’s rubbed off on me too much! But look, anyway,” said Chandrasegaran, trying to swallow down some of his disgust, “I’m also worried about Sivapalan, about my brother. And the Lankan boy, his good friend Kush. I have heard tell, and I don’t know if it’s true. Kush likes both men and women, but women more. I hope he doesn’t change and something happens to Sivapalan. That Kush! He’s really, really strange, that child. I’m worried, Mother, I’m worried for my brother.”
He drew away from her again, looking her in the eyes.
“And Father too.”
Minakshi saw him turn away, but called his name again. He faced her, and she smiled. A real smile, a smile worthy of a goddess. She slowly let the sensual rhythms flow again, music running through her ears as she lifted her arms and drew in a breath of refreshing air. Chandrasegaran felt her eyes piercing into him as she stepped to some unheard beats in her heart. The mudra was back, and it was all an invitation as she moved lightly across the slippery floor again with the elegance, poise and grace of a dancer half her age. After all, Minakshi had never really looked forty. She never tried anything to make her face more beautiful. She just was, and to Chandra, always would be as he attempted to follow her in her movements.
“You can’t catch me, my boy,” she smiled with a wink as she tossed her glossy mane with a whirl of her feet.
“I take that as a challenge,” came the reply. Minakshi smiled. 

Koluwa’s Story

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 This is a story that popped into my head this morning. It has a long way to go, or so I hope
“Latha! How many times have I told you to wash the bloody plates? God! You never listen you wretch-“
Latha looked towards the kitchen, already feeling the burn of the slaps awaiting her. Those plates always got her in trouble. The Master and Missy took their cool time eating and just left the plates on the table. And that Baba, the chubby little egghead! He was even worse. He was responsible for so many broken plates. And guess who was punished? Yes, Latha was!
“Where are you, useless girl?”
Manike’s voice was shrill as it echoed from the kitchen. Latha called her the second lady. The Missy was the first. Latha giggled at the nicknames. The grin was erased from her face when she saw Manike standing at the kitchen doorway, glaring at her.
“Didn’t you hear me? I don’t know where the Missy found you but I’ll teach you well! I’ll teach you, just wait and see!” And then the smacking started. And the cursing. Manike had a foul mouth, and Latha, at sixteen knew just too many curse words. Of course she never said them aloud.
Unless she was talking to the garden boy, Koluwa, he was called. That wasn’t his real name; it was Raja or some such name. But he was the only boy working in the house, so he became the Kolla or Koluwa.
Latha had spent a lot of her time thinking about Koluwa. He was quiet, almost too quiet. Koluwa went about his work all day, never complaining about the sun. He slept in the little shed, with all the garden tools. They were his children, and he kept them clean. Once the Egghead had tried to dig a hole and broken one of the tools. Latha had seen tears in Koluwa’s eyes at the discovery of the broken tool, left by the abandoned hole.
He was from Jaffna, Manike had told her. Or somewhere close to the North. She had never been there, but she imagined a desert with golden sand and green cacti. She imagined the wind blowing away the sand, and camels roaming around. Of course these were the deserts she saw in the cartoons the Egghead watched. Every day, at four he would sit in front of the TV and laugh like an idiot at the silly cartoons. Lath would watch them too as she made tea and some snack for the family. The Egghead often demanded for patties, and the way he pronounced it, ‘patis’ made her want to stick some in his ears!
One day she had gone to Koluwa, with a glass of lime juice. It had been an exceptionally sunny day and the First Lady had asked Latha to give him a glass of juice. Having kept a glass for her self in the fridge to cool, Latha walked towards Koluwa.
“Ah mey,” she gave him the glass. He wiped his hands on his grubby shorts and took the glass. He smiled at her, shyly, and took a sip.
“Mey, where are you from?” she asked in Sinhalese.
“Jaffna.” His Sinhalese seemed rocky and his accent was heavy.
“What does it look like? Is it dry? Like a desert?”
Koluwa just smiled, and then choked on some lime juice.
As he was coughing, Latha watching helplessly, Manike had called out to her.
“You little brat! Leave that boy alone.”
That was the first time Latha had spoken to him. It had been an awkward beginning of a very secret friendship. Now Latha spoke to him nearly everyday. After lunch the Master, Missy and Egghead had a nap. Even Manike enjoyed these afternoon naps. Latha used to spend that time day dreaming, but now she spent time talking with Koluwa under the banana trees. Koluwa said very little, and Latha did most of the talking.
She had asked him about the war once. He had spoken a lot that day, in his terrible Sinhalese. Tamil words always slipped into the conversation and Latha gave her own meanings to them.
The day they had spoken about the war had been the day they became best friends. Kumar’s story still ran in her mind. Of course she had added her own bits, and her imagination had had fun with that memory. She closed her eyes and pictured it all. Koluwa’s dark face, so dark it was nearly black, covered in sweat. Then he started telling his story, a faraway look in his eyes.
“I was around nine or ten, when it all started. My Amma, Appa, Akka, Thambi, their throats were slit. Then they looked at me, I closed my eyes and pretended to be dead. There was a long, deep cut on my arm, but it didn’t kill me. The next day the Army Uncles came to help us. When I heard voices I looked around. My lips were dry and I couldn’t speak. No words came out of me. I raised my hand and then they saw me. I was given over to my Uncle from the next village and they sent me here.”
She had sneaked away a cutlet that evening, and given it to Koluwa. He had looked away, embarrassed. Later, she saw him take it out of his pocket and eat it. A slight smile on his face.