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.
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3 thoughts on “Koluwa’s Story”

  1. The story that popped into your head is really simple and a fun read at that, nothing too deep or dense at all, and so I enjoyed it. However, since it was 'Koluwa's story', I thought that the titular character could use a little more time on the page if in case you're editing this, but otherwise, it was charming. It just shows you how people, from whatever background, and always find happiness in whatever way they can. It really teaches us that no matter how tragic one's circumstances, they really can change. And, given Latha's youth and innocence, this is made even more possible, and Koluwa seems to feel the same way as her.

  2. Hi Vasika, thank you for the comments 🙂 It was when thinking of a title for the post that I came up with Koluwa's Story but I don't want it to be exactly about Koluwa. It will focus on Latha and how Koluwa becomes her friend, and how they move on in life. But as I said, I'm still working on the rest of the story. Koluwa will be given more time then 🙂

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