“You were named after one of our Lord Buddha’s most pious female disciples. If she could live to a hundred and twenty, so can you, madam. So can you.” At this she would always laugh at the old maid’s sweet stupidity.  
“By the way, how many have you invited?”
“I don’t like making a show of things, Ran Ethana. Just five, not fifty. I’m doing it…for him. It’s what he wanted; it’s what I promised him before he left for the war,” she answered softly with a sigh, fighting a few tears that tried to escape the grasp of her eyes. Vishaka bit her lip immediately. The other servants had heard it, and she flounced out of the kitchen.
“First that damned Rudran, and now this…”
Vishaka could not cry.
 Instead she sat silently in her bedroom. She gazed at the glassy-eyed stare of the little Buddha image that sat on a small shelf nailed to the wall. It was the smallest of altars, but here he had prayed so much for luck, for hope that he would survive the war. The statue itself was made of bronze, but had not been polished in years; thus its luster had been ripped away by the wind. Those eyes, however, pierced into her soul.
Eyes that saw, but yet were not meant to see.
Eyes that had witnessed the purest of truths, the one he had shown her, and which she had begun to believe for a while. Yet like the once-radiant patina, it had gently slipped away from the reaches of her heart. His aura was still warm in their room, and she felt him breathing against her skin, pulses rushing across her neck like amber against straw. The soft down of black stubbly on his cheeks and the thin mustache that he, somehow, always kept so well groomed, felt as perfect to her senses as the softness of his lips. Her youngest son’s own beauty, the boy’s lotus-soft lips and wonderful mass of curls, were drawn from his blood alone.
 He had never said a word when he left her that day. He had merely left, and had been away ever since. Her body ached and trembled when the dreams of his death-the gods forbid-flashed through her mind.
“You damned fool,” she muttered under her breath as his voice haunted her being, “why did you have to be away for so long? You shouldn’t have gone! Just because it’s your…family heirloom, well who cares? You took three of our children with you, and I know that Jayampati will follow you! Are all you bloody men so cruel? My dear Anuruddha, I love you, but you, you are such a fool!” Her hands flew to the mirror, and her whole body became clearer.
Visions of a beautiful girl, her lean body slick and aglow with fragrant oil, floated past its shiny surface. The girl who invited him into her being with her soft thighs and high, large breasts…her pain as he first broke into her, clashing with the gentleness of his lips against hers, exploring the innocent young body before him. Visions of children appeared, yet died away just as quickly, sinking back into the mirror’s glassy depths…
“May I come in?”
The rough voice of Rudran shook Vishaka out of her dream. Her kasisalu ventured slowly to her eyes to conceal her tears from this strange man.
He had no smile on his face as he looked at her. Yet the light streaking into the bedroom made his unshaven, perfectly kempt visage seem so wonderfully godlike, as did the taught muscles of his back and chest. “I wanted to apologize for this morning. It’s not so easy, living out here for two weeks, knowing that, well”-he cleared his throat, but always stayed at the doorway-“my comrades are away, fighting…and I’m in enemy territory. And in a noble household, no less. They would hate me for this.” She gave him a small smile, from which he turned with slight embarrassment.
“And look,” he continued, “none of us common soldiers even wanted this war. Our leaders just want the world for themselves these days, I guess. So many new mandalams in foreign lands, Choladesha growing fat at the expense of everyone else. And we have to pay for it.”
“So is that why you’re in pain?” Vishaka’s eyes looked deep into his; they were two dark globes clouded by a strong fog to her. Hers were clear and beautiful, black as polished onyx, tearing through the obscuring mist. “There has to be more, Rudran, I know there is”-she placed a slender hand on his arm-“so tell me.”
He shied away for an instant, a look of uncertainty on his face.
Vishaka smiled, “It’s alright. You’ve been here for two weeks now, and I don’t exactly have many friends. I mean, certainly not like you”-she turned her face away, but still bearing the same smile-“and I, I mean, we…no, sorry, but you’re not at all what I expected, I have to say.”
“Excuse me?”
“So polite, well-bred, and just plain chivalrous, that’s what I mean. Anuruddha is certainly not the best source when it comes to…the enemy. I’m sorry, but he, he’s just strange. A little…prejudiced, I think. You could sit down if you like. Don’t be shy.”
Rudran cleared his throat loudly, and continued, “Madam, would you ask me to sit on your bed if your husband Anuruddha were still here? And there’s your son.” His tone grew slightly bitter. “He’s, he’s a good boy. Looks out for his mother. That is, at the expense of getting to know me. Not that I need his acquaintance. But anyway Vishaka, I’m sorry. Maybe some other time? I”-his tone quickened as he turned to leave-“I’m sorry, so sorry.”



The house had been pretty much a hellhole for a while. Sweaty, half-nude workmen rushed around the place as they labored daily, their sinewy strong hands flying as they hammered at the nails of the mandapa. The sound of saws eating away at wood had never pleased her either, and her head was filled with it when she passed the house’s alms-hall. Looking in their direction would surely throw them off and distract the poor, simple bastards.
Perhaps these men had mastered concentration in a way that she never would.
For a minute, Vishaka stood still, feeling the softness of her supple arms and the silk kasisalushe’d decided to wear as part of her day’s attire. Her nostrils were confused by the stink of sweat and the sweet aroma of her own perfume, neither scent being particularly inviting to her when mixed together.
One laborer smiled broadly at her as she passed him on the corridor facing the courtyard.
That dark-skinned man’s gnarled hands and skinny stomach would never belong in a noblewoman’s home, but here they were! Men like him had built her house, but here he was, hands together in salute to her.
This simple man hadn’t the time to look at his cowlick in the mirror, to oil and comb out his hair! He hadn’t the time to see to his fingernails, but they still met.
“Oh, what am I thinking about?” She shook herself out of her reverie in a split second after he had passed. “He just wants to live and he wants to be reborn as someone with privileged. Maybe the next time we meet, good sir,” she told herself with a smile, leaning against a pillar. Its capital needed a thorough brushing. Already cobwebs were trapping bits of dust, and she could swear that she saw a tiny brown gecko; the little reptile had been scrounging about, ambushing flies like some miniature cat pouncing on rats.
How monstrous she seemed to this tiny beast. Its shining ebony eyes reflected a titanic monster, tan-skinned, with a black patch of something on its head, from another world as it ran-almost slithered-across the shiny surface of the pillar. The new sunlight was just filtering through, into the courtyard, and invisible waves of heat drew themselves up from the soil. Strange shadows flung themselves onto the floor around her as she passed.
His Lordship Surya was always the best artist. She smiled in acknowledgement of the solar king as she let her fingertips graze through the ethereal rays. A little shower of dust was raised into the air with every light footstep, and they rained down to the tiles once more after their short second of levitation. Vishaka’s smile lasted for about as long too, but she locked her lips afterwards. Her expression wavered between shades of uncertainty and certainty as she leaned heavily against another pillar.
The end of her long plait hung down like the head of a giant artist’s brush. Her fingers toyed absently with the individual hairs for a while, after which she let go with a sigh.
Pity her celestial artist wouldn’t be able to color a pleasanter shade over this scene.
Her expression darkened slightly.
She always told herself that she was unshakeable, but the conversation with her guest had been enough to drive Vishaka straight to the kitchen. She still had no clue as to what made her take shelter. It was small, and always slightly smoky. Today, it was bathed in what seemed to be a moderate grey fog. Quickly, her hands rushed up to her face to guard her nose and mouth from the fumes. Yet the fumes rose from the great pots of mixed vegetables on the stoves.
One of the maids constantly restocked the firewood at the heart of each hearth. When one of them opened another pot, the delicious aroma of ghee filled the room, inviting Vishaka to take a whiff. Yet her hands did nothing that allowed her to commit the olfactory sin. She did, however, find the courage to reach for the window just above the stove.
“You know I like to air the place a bit, don’t you now? Do you want to suffocate in here?” she demanded, feigning crossness.
One or two of the servants nodded at her and rushed about the kitchen.
“Pardon me, my lady.”
It was old Ran Ethana. “Oh, dear,” Vishaka attempted a smile at the maid, “I think you might be overdoing it a bit in here! We can’t have the priests eating burned or overcooked food. Also,”
“If I may say so, my lady, it’ll be a worse sin if we serve it to them under-cooked.” She had to laugh at the small, pinched sixty-year old face that grinned rather strangely at her. Ran Ethana’s eyes always sparkled so mischievously and yet were washed over with a slight tint of innocence and energy, all in one. Vishaka always sighed softly to herself in secret, “I wish I had half the ability to live as long as you.” Yet that dastardly old thing always happened to hobble over with that infectious smile and reply, as always, unabashedly:
“You were named after one of our Lord Buddha’s most pious female disciples. If she could live to a hundred and twenty, so can you, madam. So can you.” At this she would always laugh at the old maid’s sweet stupidity.  
“By the way, how many have you invited?”

“I don’t like making a show of things, Ran Ethana. Just five, not fifty. I’m doing it…for him. It’s what he wanted; it’s what I promised him before he left for the war,” she answered softly with a sigh, fighting a few tears that tried to escape the grasp of her eyes. Vishaka bit her lip immediately. The other servants had heard it, and she flounced out of the kitchen. 


A red moon raised a tide of blood against the rocky shore. It tore away at the edges of the cliffs and beaches from the great ports of Musuri and Arikamedu, all the way to the eastern reaches of the great kingdom of Kamboja. His mind raced through its paces as his lungs screamed for air. This crimson storm had engulfed his dear Madurai! Hopes and dreams swelled towards his arms, but he could not grasp them to defend them against the swirling current. Bubbles floated towards the surface as he struggled to breathe; grasping at his throat, he fought to get to the surface. He was no longer clad in armor, but his sword was still with him.
But it was not metal that made his body so heavy.
Something else was dragging him down.
But not to Madurai.
The mighty spires of a great city rose out of the swelling sea of red. The heavily carved and brightly painted stone towers of a mighty kovil were slowly pulling themselves out of the muck of the abyss. The recognizable form of the Rajendra Chola Madil, the titanic outer walls of the great capital of Gangaikonda, was fast approaching. They powered through like a battle cruiser slicing efficiently through the waves of the ocean, ready to disgorge its bloodthirsty warriors onto a new land.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram!
He had been there so many times! Now, in this accursed aquatic hell, it towered over Madurai as the demonic goliath Kumbhakaran had over Lord Shri Ram during the long- lost glory of the Treta Yuga, thousands of years ago when the gods still walked on Earth. His dear hometown shrunk away under the shadow of the all-consuming behemoth. He slashed at the figures adorning the huge kovil, but the steel could not cut through the stone monster.
Tears rose in Rudran’s eyes, and a thunder called Heartache rumbled in his chest.
His eyes turned into floodgates that spewed forth their contents as his head spun. He was dizzy to the point of vomiting as the images of blood and death spun around him. The arms of Madurai struggled to hold her citizens and he could hear her screaming in agony as she disappeared down the throat of the advancing giant.
From her tanks and wells, blood shot forth instead of water, polluting her streets as she blindly rushed into the gaping maw of the predator.
No words came to his throat and his grip on his sword was almost loosened.
“My lord Vishnu…I beg you…stop this nightmare! Release me from this suffering, please!” Even his prayer felt like the trembling stammer of an old beggar, dying finally of the plague that poisoned his blood.
The only other voice he heard, was one that hovered above him. It was deep, but did not sound cruel. It was merely a knowledgeable one, one that sounded truthful and powerful.
“My friend,” it told him, “you are more at home with us than in your own house. Don’t deceive yourself, my dear man. Please don’t. Come back with me, take my hand. We can become conquering heroes one day once this is finished.”
“We can go to the far east. To Sri Vijaya, where the greatest sailors and fighters once existed. We can be free to travel the world, my dear friend…”
“Why else did you join?”
Rudran struggled  and fought fiercely as he attempted to rise from the bed. He cast about wildly, clad in nothing more than his loincloth as he gasped out, bathed in a shower of cold sweat.
“Rudran! Sir, are you alright?”
“Show yourself!” he yelled, suddenly leaping off the bed.
“I heard you scream, Rudran. Are you alright?”
Rudran groaned as he saw the person at the door.  “Vishaka…”
He cussed under his breath on forgetting to lock the door. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I just got a bit startled, that’s all.”
“No, tell me.” She pushed him to speak, at which he groaned in anger. “Are you alright? Because this is the fourth night in a row. What’s going on?” He tried his best not to glance up at the kind, motherly face of Lankan beauty who tried to talk to him. But the light from her candle alighted in his eyes, as gently as a compassionate kiss. He could sense the air heating up as he tried to cover his near-nakedness with his sheet, the same heat pulsing through his own body as he attempted to avert his gaze.
He stared at the tiled floor.
A small crack had appeared on the ceramic surface of one of them, but all he could still see was her beautiful reflection within them. His heart wept silently. Yet her angelic warmth enveloped the room, as his ears strained to hear her gentle voice.
“Forget it Vishaka, please…and, look, I’m sorry if I sound rude. But my past is none of your business. If the gods want me to suffer”-he shot her a rather stern, but still haggard look-“let them! I’ve given up, and so should you.”
Another shout came from inside the house.
“Mother! Mother, what’s going on?”
She turned suddenly to see him at the door too.  He looked strangely exhausted, sweating just as Rudran had been. “What are you doing out of bed? Please go back to sleep, Jayampati. I can handle things here.”
“Oh, right,” the boy snorted, “the great soldier with night terrors. Look, why don’t you wake up already? It’s already the crack of dawn, plus you’ve just been leeching off us for the past week. If this was my own house, I’d”-

“He’s our guest!” chided his mother. “Rudran,” she continued, changing her tone. “I’ll be having some priests over tomorrow. Why don’t you talk to them about your nightmares? I’m sure they can help you. Anyway, I think it’d be good for you to talk to someone, and there’s nobody better than the bhikkus at the Mahiyangana Temple. You know, you could even talk to me if you want. I know what a soldier’s mind is like, I mean, I’m…married to one…” Her smile waned slowly as she blew out her candle. “Never mind. If you want to sleep in, it’s fine with me. Son, don’t make a fuss. You brought him here, so it’s our responsibility to see to him.” 


Jayampati stood at the head of the bed while the doctor and his assistants worked away at a herbal mix. Plants and leaves were massacred under the weight of a granite grindstone in the corner. The keen, skeletal hands of the doctor unwound the bandage that Rudran had slapped onto his head to stop the bleeding.
The boy tried his best to hold the contents of his stomach within him as the bloodied cloth was flung to the ground. The massive gash carved into the soldier’s head was deep enough to have killed almost any other man. He must have his gods on his sides, but still, blood and pus ran down his face in torrents, mixing with the stale sweat that ran down his as he groaned.

“He is in pain, but all we need to do is clean this wound and re-bandage it to stop the blood flow. He’ll have to stay here, son,” the doctor told Jayampati knowingly. “Under no circumstances must he be aroused before that.”
Rudran cut in. “No miracle cures, eh?” he grunted with a mix of sarcasm and derision. The doctor looked at him with a wry smile. “If you want to pray a little for your health, you’d better go to a temple. Those have hospitals too, just more high profile since the bhikkus run those. We’re just independent practitioners. But anyway, I don’t think even Shiva himself could extend his healing touch over something like that”-the doctor gestured to one of his apprentices to bring the mix-“so that’s why we’re here. I’m not a mere village doctor, you see. I don’t go about believing in demons and holding exorcisms and the like. Guess it’s just the skeptic in me.”
He folded up a clean cloth, slightly coated in a green mash of plants, and started to reach into the depths of the wound. Blood and grit came away, but Rudran still winced slightly. The doctor looked questioningly at him.
Seeing his concern, the soldier replied, “It’s alright, venerable sir. I have experience with the army doctors. Of course”-he gasped slightly-“one never really gets used to this. Surgery, now that, well…we fear the surgeon’s knife more than our enemy’s sword to be honest!”

“Which brings me into this conversation. Tell me, how exactly can we trust you, sir?” Jayampati leaned heavily against the wall facing the bed. “Because something’s been gnawing at me. You claim to be from Pandyadesha, in Tamilakkam. Of course, last I checked, you Pandyans were under the Chola yoke for a while now. Who are you, really? Because your story doesn’t convince me. Actually”-he scratched his head momentarily-“I never know whom to believe any more. the Angampadi Brigade itself is under the invader. This is enemy territory I’m living in. There are plenty of Chola offices and forts in the Mahiyangana region and its hinterland. Sinhalese and Tamils alike are under them. So far, you are Tamil, and that means-“
“My dear boy, may I kindly remind you not to stress the patient out? It doesn’t matter who he is. To me every man can become infirm, so that in itself, is an equalizer. Now please, join your companions, and leave my patient to me.”
Jayampati pursed his lips at the doctor’s words, but with a slight nod, he walked out. He distinctly heard the old man muttering something distinctly related to the Buddha-or some other sage-but decided to ignore it.
His friends sat outside on an old stone medicine trough. It was truly a wonderful piece of work, or had been, until it had been broken. This was probably something that dated back to Lanka’s golden age, but time had not been kind to it. The distinctly canoe-like granite object was weathered through centuries of heavy rain.

Saliya was first to intercept him.

“So what’s our next move?”

“Next move? What are you jabbering about?” grumbled Jayampati, kicking a small stone as he approached them.
“I mean, about our guest. What are you thinking Jayampati?”
“Well, my suspicion is that he could be almost anyone, but…what if his story checks out? What if he really is on our side?”
“Whoever he is,” cut in Devaka, “taking him to Mahiyangana would be our best move. We’re just a bunch of boys. What do you expect us to do? We hand him over to the governors, and we’ll be done. Maybe he can be sent off to Rohana to meet the king. Or to Rajarata. Either way, it isn’t our business.”
“We found him, so we are responsible for him. Nobody needs to know, alright? I don’t want us to be caught up in some political conspiracy,especially not at a time like this. Plus, think about his fate. If he’s our ally, the Cholas will just torture and kill the man. Same thing will happen if Rohana gets to hear about him. If not, well, then they get their man back.”

The other boys looked at him questioningly.

“Look, see, if he is indeed an enemy spy, we don’t know how much information he has. He’s too valuable to be lost, especially if he has something that’ll help the Chola forces take down Rohana! So we keep him close and keep our eyes on him. He’ll be at my house. He’s obviously too well built to pass off as a poor Tamil villager who got caught in the crossfire, and besides, since my father’s away, his whole no Tamils attitude won’t be a problem. Let him be who he claims to be. That way he’ll be more comfortable.”

“So we babysit this fool,” snorted Saliya. “Great.”

Jayampati nodded solemnly. Then he stiffened, and a vicious flame burned in his eyes.

“But the minute he tries something suspicious…we kill him. Or die trying.”


“Dashrath, Devaka, Saliya,” said Jayamptai as he immersed himself in again, “I know what you want to ask me, and the answer is no. There’s no way you’re joining the army just to be next to me. I don’t need personal bodyguards.”
A murmur passed among the boys. His three friends looked intently at him as his piercing eyes. He tried to turn away but theirs was an inescapable gaze. He looked at them as well; these boys were so different from one another. Saliya, tall, thin and dark-skinned, his slender neck topped with a longish face and well-formed cheekbones but always bearing a sad although beautiful smile. This was not a fighter who’d last that long against a powerful opponent. Then again, he was an expert when it came to horses.
Devaka, though shorter, was broad-shouldered and looked heavier. He was much more muscular; no doubt his own father’s lessons with yoga had toned him well. Being a noble, his father being a retired purohita no less, had plenty of advantages.
There was always plenty of money coming into their accounts and the money was put to good use by Devaka.

Tutors and gurus flocked his house.

There was no shortage of women either.

One could also see in Devaka’s sharp eyes and almost hawk-like gaze, the look of a predator, hungry for his enemy’s blood.  Not a proper fighter of any sort, but he would probably be the first to race onto the battlefield given the chance.

Jayampati had to admit, he saw himself in Dashrath’s eyes, quite broad and strong as opposed to being so well chiseled.
Yet the latter was taller, somewhere close to six feet in height, with predominantly short black hair. A short mustache framed his upper lip, and he had puffy eyelids, thus making him look older than his nineteen years. Perhaps it was due to being married off so young and hating his young wife. All Dahsrath did was smile at the flirtatious young thing, nothing more. He often wished that his accountants could keep his money well hidden from her claws. “I’ll probably end up wasting away in the army I guess,” he grunted, a small smile on his face. “I guess I’m a realist. But why do you need to go to war?”
“It’s…my way of knowing the suffering of my father and brothers, Dashrath.”
“Or is it because all you Buddharaja men became commanders at some point? At least some of you?” It struck a cord in Jayampati.
Dashrath continued, “You do want some sort of glory to be bestowed on you, don’t you Jayampati? I can see it in your eyes. Do what you will to deny it, but I’ve known you for ten years. Nothing”-he folded his arms across his big chest-“escapes me anymore.”
It was perfectly true that his family had served the royal House of Lambakanna for as long as he could remember. They were always soldiers after all, senapatis and adhikaras of the highest caliber. He had heard of how his great-grandfather had tried to incite rebellion after rebellion against the corrupt monarchs of his time. Anuradhapura had long since fallen, but Vikramabahu, ruler of Rohana, was the last of the great dynasty, a line over nine centuries old.

Maha Sri Buddharaja…Adhikari Buddharaja…Lankadhikara Buddharaja…titles.

But what of it?

They had all perished, prestigious though they were.

“Maybe I want to bring back our honor…” He bit his lip as he stared at Dashrath. “Adhikari Jivaka Buddharaja…”
“Your great-grandfather, yes…”
“…was he last to be a great commander. Granted, he didn’t live during the best of times but he was still something. The last great soldier left in the army. So you see, all of you, this is my job alone. I want to be with my family, so that I can do something about this war!” His smile turned into a terrifying grin as his eyes widened with a sudden thirst for blood. “I’ve cried enough! I’m done regretting. I will be the greatest commander this country has ever known! I”-his fist pounded the surface of the water-“will massacre a thousand men if I have to, if only I can grab hold of my rightful place at the top. Nobody will stand in my way. So no, I don’t require any of you by my side.”


Rudran groaned as he gazed out at the boys.

“You are indeed interesting, young man.”

He hoped that he was loud enough, but he had too much spit at the back of his throat. Loudly, his cleared it out as he edged towards them. He winced for a few minutes but did not look where he was going, and stubbed his toe against a submerged root. Finally, Rudran roared in pain, and this had the desired effect.
“Help me!” he shouted again, swishing his arms through the water. “Please, do a kindness to an injured man!” Rudran staggered out, and stood in the middle of the waterway. His shoulders sagged due to the effort, and he quivered slightly, sweat pouring down his body. Finally he was in the sights of the four boys. He had seen enough kshatriya men to know who they were. He panted hoarsely, “I thought I would get help, not dumb stares. Or do you not understand Tamil?”
The biggest boy, short-haired Dashrath, replied, “I do. There’s a hospital down the road to Mahiyangana. We can make it, but…Jayampati, come on! We’ll have to carry him. Hey”-he turned back to face his friend-“are you listening?” Rudran saw that the thoughtful young man was of medium height, fairer and shorter than the big Tamil fellow, but his eyes had a gleam of suspicion in them.

There was a fire in that Jayampati’s eyes, and it flickered with each glance at Rudran.

He had seen the fire in his own eyes sometimes.

Perhaps he had been right all along to keep his eyes on this one. His poise was calm despite his musculature. Not as dense as his own, but this wasn’t someone to be trifled with. Jayampati never seemed to take his eyes off Rudran, instead scanning the soldier’s body and face all the time.
Finally, he spoke.
“Alright. Devaka, go help out. I think…no…I need to talk to you, sir”-he pointed at Rudran-“once you’ve got your treatment.” He climbed out of the water, looking darkly at Rudran for an instant and then at his companions.

The two boys  Dashrath and Devaka supported their unlikely companion all the way to the roadside hospital.

It was, in reality, a spacious longhouse, just like the roadside inns, the ambalama as the locals called them. This hospital had enough room for about fifteen or sixteen people. Naturally, Rudran assumed, that the hospitals needed to be large enough to see to soldiers being treated for their injuries. He reclined on the bed and breathed deeply as the doctor flipped through a manuscript, names of herbs and treatments scrawled down hurriedly in the classic doctor’s handwriting.
A trio of sullen attendants brought out a tray of scalpels and surgical knives. Rudran shuddered slightly at the sight of the devices.

Being Peter Pan

I spoke on the topic “Lessons from my kids” for the preliminary and semi-final rounds of the Speech Olympiad at my university. Before the reader makes any wrong assumptions, my “kids” are simply the students I’ve come across during my teaching ventures. One “lesson” from them is apt to be shared on this blog- the lesson of “genuine outbursts of affection”.

My kids are experts at this. For example, one of my youngest kids said “I go mad with love when I see you teacher!”, and then there was another who declared “you are my angel.” They teach us that anytime is a good time to show that we care.

When you were a kid, remember how people asked you how much you love them? Then you would stretch out your hands as wide as you can and say, “I love you this much!” To kids, expressing affection is a natural occurrence. Once upon a time, you and I were kids too. We were quick to love and forgive. I believe that all of us have this spirit of childhood dwelling inside us. It maybe be hidden under layers of formality, but it’s certainly there.

Of course, being Peter Pan in public could be risky. I do agree. However, think for a moment. When do you show affection to your family members? Do you wait for special events like a birthday or New Year to lavish gifts upon them? Leave gifts aside, a simple hug or a word of appreciation could mean so much to them. As Mother Theresa said, “Peace and war begin at home. If we truly want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families.”


Jayampati stood up, his hair battling the slight gust of wind which breathed a cooling breath over the waterway. He bit his lip hard, swallowing back his tears, when a familiar hand gave his a gentle push. He had to smile now.
“Saliya…” he breathed, “and what in heaven’s name do you think you’re doing? We were waiting for you. See?” The other boy pointed at the river.
“Devaka and Dashrath are already here, but Mahinda won’t be coming. His father took he and his brother out on a supply expedition. They went to Magama, if I’m not mistaken. For the soldiers, a convoy of carts with rice and meat and things. All the merchants are doing it. Are you feeling alright?” Saliya looked into Jayampati’s eyes. The latter’s lids seemed to the former like rocks made of flesh that tried desperately to dam the gap between eyes and cheeks.

“I can’t stop thinking of my family! What if one of them is next? What will my mother say? My brothers have families of their own too!”

Saliya tried to understand his friend’s pain. He slipped his hand into Jayampati’s own and tried to squeeze it, but no words could come out for a while. What could he tell the son of a soldier, a true kshatriya, born and bred for a mortal life of honor and glory? For, wasn’t it someone extremely wise who’d said, “Durlabham hi sadaa sukham” or something of that nature.
Prince Rama really was a wise man.
A legend, true, but a wise one.
Happiness was truly impermanent as he had said that day thousands of years ago. Plus, you live in a world where the two alternate. Sailya quietly attempted to digest the meaning behind the legendary kshatriya’s words. Perhaps this one, his friend, himself born to a warrior, would understand? But all Jayampati did was grunt, “I’m not a fool, not at all. I know what’s going on. It’s not like I’ve never seen sorrow wherever I went, so stop quoting dusty old myths to me. I had to deal with this war for so long, but still I mean, my father would never forgive himself if even one of my brothers died. And my mother wouldn’t forgive herself knowing that she had allowed them to enlist. Saliya, you can’t pretend to be something you’re not!”

“Pretend? What…”

“Pretend to live like a god!” cut in Jayampati. “I mean, isn’t that why all those old stories were written? They were moral stories, true, but you can’t always live by their words. Frankly I’m past caring, I”-he flung his arms up in exasperation, but then looked at his friend’s face-“I’m sorry I shouted. I think we all should be allowed to feel pain. Yes, you…you’re right, I guess…I…I’m confused.”

Dashrath, the large boy with short hair shouted, “Is anything wrong?”
His companion looked up at the two boys on the rock for a minute.
“Come on in, the water’s nice and cool. Besides, a good swim will take your mind off any troubles you have, won’t it?” he continued loudly, with Devaka doing his best to cut in.
“Alright.” The answer from the rock was curt, but not so rude that it was off-putting. There were, after all, far worse ways to spend an afternoon. His three friends had their eyes trained on him as he walked down the rock. His facial muscles twitched as he tried to form a ghost of a smile, but the wind chill was starting to bite their naked torsos. Especially the two who’d been in the river.
Jayampati himself was nervous.
The other three boys looked at him in admiration as he smiled shyly at them.
His face was that of a young god, with his full lips, soft as lotus petals and expressive eyes, brown irises looking around almost with uncertainty. In their eyes was the reflection of a broad-shouldered boy, just short of eighteen, with the big chest and powerful back of a warrior, perhaps a young practitioner of malla yuddha, fresh out of his first five years of training. Not that his muscles were greatly defined, but nonetheless he was fit and strong as an ox, the mounds of his chest clearly visible, rising above his flat stomach.
His forearms had long veins running across their surface. He always carried himself erect as a pillar, sandy skin glowing as he rose from the water. Long hair, silky and black as a dancer’s, framed his round, well-formed face.

All five feet eight inches of him were magnificent.

The much taller Saliya looked down at himself, hand running down his stomach, and then at Jayampati. His eyes stared hungrily at his friend’s powerful arms and then at his own as he pursed his lips.