Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Lady vs the vagabond

At my hospital quarters, where four rooms are inhabited by me and three interns, there is a kind of a small common place in between the rooms. While at Peradeniya, we had a spacious common room equipped with a comfortable sofa and an ancient but still functioning television, the space here only is large enough to hold a dustbin and a mattress discarded by one of the interns. The dustbin itself was merely a cardboard box and thus was an easy prey for a lot of wondering cats who wanted a snack. So almost every morning we would open our doors to walk on tip toes over a mess of leftover food scattered all over the place. Being the volunteer caretaker of the place since I have more free time than the interns I decided to put an end to the mess by bringing in a huge plastic dustbin to replace its previous representative. The cleaning lady further added a cord tying the dustbin to a wall, so that it was pretty difficult for the cats to turn it upside down. Problem solved, I thought ,sighing with relief.

Well, most of the cats abandoned their efforts to spill the bin, except one, a pregnant female.
 May be like most of the pregnant ladies , she wanted an exception to the rule. Anyway, there she was meowing pathetically whenever we opened our doors, now that she could not spill the bin by herself. And all four of us being sympathetic creatures, me with the added guilt in my heart for being the cause for obstructing her source of food, started leaving out meals for her beside the dustbin. After all how can we turn a blind eye to a pregnant lady who is hungry (which she constantly was)?
Time passed on, and eventually she had  given birth somewhere, we had no idea to how many. Months have passed with her having no intention of letting her offspring meet her food sponsors. But there she would be every time we open our doors, singing her melodies, purring and tangling between our legs as we dash to and fro trying desperately not to fall down after tripping over her. It is obvious that it is time to send her away now and sometimes when you are in a real hurry she becomes a real nuisance, but still we keep on feeding her, pretending it is just for the day.  

Two nights back, I opened my door half asleep on my way to one of my frequent nocturnal visits to the bathroom, an extremely unwanted side effect of my pregnancy. Lo and behold, there in front of me was the ugliest looking tom cat I had ever seen, polishing off the remainder of our lady visitor’s dinner.
 He looked so big, ugly and wild that he almost frightened the hell out of me. I did not hesitate at all to throw a handful of water at him which sent him off, growling his displeasure at me. Since then, I have seen him several times, sneaking up our stairs whenever he thinks I am not here, to gobble down what we leave for “the lady who was pregnant ages ago”. Every time I see him I chase him way, even if our lady friend had finished her meals way before. I have never encountered our unwanted prowler chasing the lady friend away, or trying to harm her. He has also not dirtied the place in anyway even once. Yet even though I keep on feeding the tabby that is obviously using all her cat wiles to extract food from me, I tent to chase off the tom that does no harm to me, but feeds on whatever leftover the other has refused to eat. Really funny how my mind works.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Old Lady with the covers

When I first came to work at Karawanella, I think there was no separate canteen for the doctors. Eventually one was started and it didn't run smoothly with the first few owners. But then the current people who are a middle aged couple took over and it has been a really wonderful place.Well, I can talk days about those two I guess,may be another day.

Although the canteen was initially meant for doctors, the lady who was running the canteen has a generous nature so t she was always offering some free food for the people from the cleaning staff, the attendants or sometimes a patient who came to the OPD. She considered it a waste to throw away the food at the end of each day, and she did not have the habit of taking it back home as well. So she always gave away food which was left behind from the lunch and  thus always had one or two of these people eating and chatting with her around two or three pm.This is where I first met the old lady selling covers.

I never saw her coming in to the canteen, but was hanging around the front door, always smiling loyally when I went there. My initial guess was she was a patient from the OPD which was next door, who has been brought by our canteen lady for a free meal. But this assumption seemed to be not accurate as I happened to see her at the OPD on a daily basis. Now it was a well known fact that there were some old people who always had to pay a visit to the OPD as a habit on a frequent basis. But seeking medical attention on a daily basis was a bit absurd.So may be due to the inborn gossip loving feminine nature of mine I made some inquiries about her, when I got to know that she is not a patient, but comes to the OPD daily to earn her living.

She was selling small paper covers for the OPD patients to get their medicine for one rupee each,from which she earns a profit of around 20 cents per cover. Now, not all the patients who come to the  OPD end up needing oral pills and not all of them but the covers from her. I heard that some even trick her by promising to give money but leaving without paying.I heard she had two daughters , and later on got to meet one as well when she was brought as a patient to the hospital.I had really no idea how much she earned per day but I am sure it is not much. Probably in her seventies or eighties it it a time when ideally she should be spending her life leisurely at home, going to the temple in the evening and enjoying time with her grand kids.I do not know what exactly is her story but here she is daily, trying her best to earn something.I felt sorry for her, that every time I met her I used to smile and speak a few words with her, and to personally see her when she needed some medicine.
Things were fine until, one morning she came to the canteen door as usual and wanted me to come out. When I went out she handed me some plantains from her bag.I did not know what to say, and clumsily stammered a thanks and told her not to get in to trouble bringing things for me.Somehow it changed thing between us.Whereas before I loved talking to her, now I was feeling a bit awkward.

A few weeks passed on and there she was again at the canteen door with another parcel. This time it was yams, many different types of them, cooked and with sambol.I am not a person who is really comfortable at eating things cooked by others.Though I accepted it and pretended to be happy so as not to hurt her feelings I was so uncomfortable.I felt liking getting favours from her, which I did not like at all.When she came to seek medicine from me the pleasure that I previously had looking after was now replaced by a mixture of burden and guilt.I gradually started avoiding her, pretending not to see her, and even when i met her face to face to limit my chats with her. I do not know whether she sensed my change or not, but she was just the same. She kept on telling me that she will cook me a tasty meal whenever I met her and I kept lying to her, that I was not on duty each day she asked, postponing the meal.Today as I was hurrying to the canteen I heard her calling for me. I pretended not to hear and briskly walked pass her and got in to the canteen sure that she want follow me in.Of course she did not.

 What she did was come to the back door, with the parcel of food prepared for me. I could not avoid her any longer so I said I would eat it later as I had already opened a packet of rice for the morning.Around two pm I wanted to have lunch and suddenly realized I had forgotten to order it before. There was nothing to eat except her packet of rice,which really made me lose my appetite. Any way I opened the packet to discover the most delicious friend rice, with fried chicken, brinjal and cashew curry.It was home made and must have cost her a fortune to  prepare.I still feel uncomfortable receiving her offerings and wish I knew how to make her stop without hurting her feelings.Theses offering should bring us more closer, but instead there a creating a huge wall between us. I want that old relationship back where i could just take care of her because she is a really courageous old lady, and not because she is doing favours for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

අඬන අහස

ජනෙල් පියන් වලට එහා අහස බෑඟිරි ගගහා අඬනවා.මම ලැප් ටොප් එක දිග ඇරගෙන ඔහේ මූණු පොතේ උඩට පහළට සක්මන් භාවනා කරනවා.පේරාදෙනියෙ ඉන්න කාලේ හැමදාම හවසට මල් වට්ටියක් පිරෙන්න මල් කඩලා බුදුන් වැන්ද හැටි මතක් වෙන්නෙ වැස්ස පිටින් දාලා කම්මැලි කමට බුදුන් වඳින්නෙ නැතුව ඉන්න බව හිත හොඳටම දන්න නිසා.

ඉස්කෝලෙ යන කාලෙ මම වැස්සට පුදුම ආදරෙයි.වහිනකොට ගෙදර හිටියොත් අම්මගෙ සායක් ඇඳන් එලියට බැහැල වැස්සෙ නටන එක තරම් දෙයක් ඉතින් තවත් නෑ.පේරාදෙනියෙ ආවට පස්සෙත් වැස්සට ප්‍රේම කිරිල්ල එහෙම්මම තිබුනා මගෙ හිතේ.අනිත් අය වැස්සට කුඩ ඉහලුවට මම කුඩේ එලියට ගන්නෙ බැරිම වුනොත් විතරයි.ඒත් ගෙදරදි වගේ වැස්සෙ නටන්න නම් බැරි වුනේ හොඳටම පිස්සු තද වෙලා කියන ලෝකාපවදයට උඩින් යන්න හිතේ හයියක් නොතිබ්බ හින්දා.ඒ වුනාට හොස්ටල් එකේදි දරා ගන්න බැරි විදිහේ අසරණ කමක් හිතට ආව සමහර වෙලාවට උඩ තට්ටුවෙ බැල්කනියට වෙලා මම අනන්තවත් වැස්සෙ කඳුලු දිය කරලා තියෙනව.කියන්න කවුරුත් නැති, කරගන්න කිසිදෙයක් නැති වෙලාවට මාත් එක්ක අහස අඬන එක හිතට පොඩි හරි සහනයක් වෙන්න ඇති කියලා දැන් හිතෙනව.

කරවනැල්ලට ආවට පස්සෙ වැස්සෙයි මගෙයි අහින්සක ප්‍රේමයට තිත තියන්න වෙලා.පේරාදෙනියෙ වැස්ස වගේ නෙවේ කරවනැල්ලෙ වැස්ස අඬනව නෙවේ තරහ ගිහින් ගොරවනවා.අඩි පොලවේ හප්පනවා.සමහරවිට මම වෙනස් වෙච්ච හින්ද වැස්සට දුක හිතුනා වෙන්න ඇති.ඒත් මම මොනව කරන්නද? දැන් ඉස්සර වගේ වැස්සෙ නටන්න බැරි වගකීම්- ඒ ගැන බලාගන්නත් එපායැ.මම හිත තද කරන් එලියෙ  යුද්ද කරන වැස්ස ගැන නොහිතා ඉන්න හිතා ගන්නව."වැස්ස නැති වුනට දැන් ඉතින් මම ඉන්නවනෙ" කියන්න වගෙ බට්ටිත් නින්දෙන් ඇහැරිලා තට්ටුවක් දානවා.බට්ටිව තුරුලු කරන් මම කොට්ටෙකින් ඔලුවත් වහගෙන නිදා ගන්න යනවා.