Posted in Daily post, Sri Lanka, True Story, Inspirational, Word prompt

Shiver me timbers, “it’s cold in Sri Lanka?”

 

PIC_0024

It was nearly sixteen years since we migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka.  A lot had changed since then, we’ve aged, we were now parents, I think that was the biggest change. We were not the same carefree young one’s roaming around, on a bike.  Mortgage, kids, kids getting sick, nearly losing a kid, other one losing his hearing, trials and tribulations, life was passing us with a fierce force.

So going back to the mother land was pushed back and back, until we could see a reprieve. Then, finally we make that trip back home.  After months of shopping (gifts) and packing we arrive in Colombo around midday, June 2006.  The strong waft of humidity and hot air came piercing through the corridors, with a rush and urgency.   Leaving a country in the middle of winter to arrive for this was pretty hard.

It was pretty brutal weather for the next couple of weeks. Boys were really struggling with the weather and food (too spicy for their tender tongues). The mosquitoes were ruthless, it didn’t matter if we were sitting or walking they still got us, who knew that they can get you in transit. But the boys were still enjoying different aspects of the trip.  This was the first time they were meeting their paternal grandfather. This was the first time they were eating pawkies (bite size Sri Lankan sausages), this was first time they saw a squirrel running up the mango tree.  Well, this was first time they saw a mango tree.   And that I think is the best thing about travel.  Something so mundane for the local is an attraction to the visitor.

The next week or so was going to be in the hill country.  Which is where I grew up.  The fauna, flora and the weather in the hill country, is absolute contrast to that of Colombo or other parts of the coast.  As you go further up from the coast, sea and coconut trees changes to paddy fields and slightly cooler weather.  And as you go even further up, Pine trees, water falls, light drizzle and sometimes a cold fog becomes the norm.

I was packing a smaller bag for this trip.  My husband had a glance at what I was packing. There were a couple of jumpers, a jacket each, some jeans and long pants, a beenie …  “Are you kidding me?” he holds up the beenie, “are you mad? when has it ever been that cold?” After the treatment of Colombo, the boys of course were on dad’s side. “yeh mum”

I started to doubt myself too. It was a long time ago since I lived in Talawakelle.  I still packed a few things.  But for the journey itself, there was no way the boys were going to rug up.  So the two of them were in a singlet, a pair of shorts, and a pair of thongs (okay for non aussies, they were not wearing what you are thinking of and going oh my, it is just a pair of flip flops, slippers, a footwear with just strap or what ever else you want to call them).  Okay you can have another laugh, we call them thongs.

They were enjoying the scenery.  After our lunch stop we didn’t need the A/C.  It was starting to drizzle.  It was starting to get cold as well.  We stopped for tea and cake.  And there was a giant tea pot right outside the cafe.  A great tourist attraction.  Hubby the photographer wanted a photo of this with the boys.  The boys were now shivering.  You could hear their teeth rattle and hands shivering. They were finding it hard to keep their eyes opened, with the falling rain. Dad still wanted the photo for his Pulitzer collection. Grr… It was obvious that their miniature mother’s anger and annoyance was now growing to a level of that’s enough now.

The boys were so relieved to find that one pair of pants and jumper that their mother had packed for them.  Both of them uttered “who would have thought we could have a place like this in Sri Lanka”.  Well, the moral of the story is listen to your mother, listen to the woman (okay that’s a bit sexist, well… too bad), listen to the expert.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fierce/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/shiver/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/obvious/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/miniature/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/expert/

 

 

Posted in True Story, Inspirational

If Only, I Could Turn Back The Clock … (part 9)

dad lab

Jana came running back as soon as she heard what unfolded that morning.  Mum and cuz Sulo got back from the hospital.  An uncomfortable silence kept the room still.  We each avoided eye contact.  Thangamma served the food for us and served her plate too and sat down with a heave.  I am not sure where the food came from either.  I cant remember anyone cooking. Maybe it was left overs.  We all ate in silence.  Even Jana was quiet.  She is never quiet. But tonight she was.

What now, another surgery I guess. After dinner Jana and I went to see our cousin Sulo to get some medical know how.  I don’t even know who suggested and came up with idea.  Cuz Sulo’s house felt heavy too.  She never stops singing or humming.  But tonight she was all done.  We asked her what now? another surgery?  She shook her head, “I don’t really know, It may be too close for another surgery”.  I think she knew, just that she didn’t really want to know.

I don’t know how long we were there for, and what we spoke about.  I think we all just sat in three different chairs and pondered to our selves. We both got back home and went to bed straight away. Jana slept on the next bed.  Mum and Thangamma were in the next room.  My memory is rather foggy, I can’t even be sure if Thangamma was there that night or for that matter in the morning or had she returned to TRI a couple of days ago.  But I know for sure that Jana was right next to me.

I had issues with the clock and sheep the whole night.  Sheep kept multiplying and the clock refused to move.  I think mum had the same problem in the next room.  By five o’clock we both gave up on sleep and sheep, and got to the kitchen the same time.  We made our coffees and sat down to discuss what to take for dad.  Usually mum would pack fresh clothes and some home cooked food for dad.  Velu stayed the night with him.  But on this day, we didn’t know what to pack.

We hear Parames Mami’s voice.  I think she was relieved to see lights switched on in our house indicating we were up.  She never visits us this early.

It’s Dad’s birthday tomorrow.  I so, don’t want to continue any further.  But I think I ought to.  Just because I suppress the memory, it doesn’t mean, that it doesn’t exist or it didn’t occur.  I turned fifty this year. I guess I am big girl now.  But in my heart I am still daddy’s little girl.

Parames Mami didn’t have to say anything, she just held her arms wide to hug mum, and mum and I started to weep.  It’s all a blur after that.

Dad never got to see my funny birthday card. Dad didn’t get a chance to approve (or disapprove) Ganesh.   Although I have a feeling he knew something.  He did mention to me once, quite randomly, “Ganesh is a nice boy isn’t he?”.  I really like to think he did and he was happy for me. More than anything, Dad never got to meet his two amazing grand kids and vice versa.  I have in time learnt to accept it as, “it’s fate”, “it was not meant to be”.In actual fact, it is just chants copied from others as a coping mechanism.

All this from start to finish, was just sixteen days.  The clock was ticking and turning a day at a time.  Each day with a twist, turn and at times with another nail for the box. We had no idea, that the clock was still ticking. Even when we thought that it had stopped and time had stood still, it was really still ticking.

This story has no happy ending. But, I guess that is life, it doesn’t always give you the results you demand or deserve.  We just have to remember the ticking clock stops for no one, make the most of life while it’s still ticking.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clock/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fifty/

Posted in Daily post, True Story, Inspirational, Word prompt

If Only, I Could Turn Back The Clock … (part 8)

dad lab

After mum and Cuz Sulo left for the hospital, Velu, Thangamma and self started on the cleaning. For the rest of the world they were just two hired aides, but for mum and dad they were like family, for V and T as well, mum and dad were like surrogate parents, they cared for dad not just for the pitiful salary they earned, but because they were treated like equal humans, they knew this was a couple who genuinely cared for their well being.

In most houses, they were not allowed to sit on your normal sofas, the aide/help would either have a small stool or they would sit on the floor, they would have separate plates and drinking glasses, slightly inferior in quality, may even have a chip on them. Never in par with the owners of the house. It was never the case in our house.    Dad felt a terrible sadness and guilt at the plight of the poor.  Time to time Dad would talk about it and say to me, “I know I can’t save them all, in the scheme of things, maybe what I or us as a family, what we do, may not make a difference, but for that one person that we helped, it would make the world of difference”. I know he was just repeating what he had heard or read somewhere.  But within him, he wished he could change the world, or at least this society, change the way people treated each other. He would say “it costs the same to smile at a rich man and a poor man”.

I think the above paragraph is my procrastination or hesitation to write what happened next. Where I was going with all that was, V and T were as excited as me of the arrival of dad. I was holding the ladder for Velu who was now attacking the cobwebs on the ceiling.  Thangamma decided to leave us with the cleaning, she wanted to make some cutlets (a Sri Lankan delicacy – fish balls), it was dad’s favourite.  And it would be a great thing to serve to guests who would visit.

The phone rang.  It sounded the same as when dad rang to say that he was coming for my birthday, then again it sounded the same when he rang to say that he was not coming, he was unwell.  The ringtone never changed, just the tone of the messages kept changing.  It wasn’t me who answered the phone, my cuz’s mother-in-law did.  So, I don’t know the exact words that were parted by my cousin.

It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.  I don’t think I heard all the words.  Parames Mami (cus sulo’s mother-in-law) came up the stairs.  She called my name out as she came up the stairs.  She was out of breath.  But she, does pay us random visits like this all the time.  So, I didn’t think much of that.  I answered “Om mami” (meaning yes aunty), She told Velu to come down the ladder, not sure what happened after that.  I am not sure if I was sitting or standing, what words were used.  No, I can’t remember the chain of events.

Dad had another aneurysm the night before.  He had gone into a coma.  Cuz Sulo unaware of all this had skipped to his bedside joyfully with Hi mama (uncle).  She was surprised that there was no response .  There was no smile on Dad’s face.  Just a fixed gaze to the distance.  She knew there was something wrong.  She looked at his bed notes.  It was really wrong.  She had a chat to the nurses, and her worst fears were confirmed.

Parames Mami asked all the cooking and cleaning to be stopped for now.  Well, no one was in the right frame of mind to continue anyway.  She told me to get ready and we were going to the temple.  I obeyed.  No tears as yet.  I was dumbfounded.  Wish Jana was with me at that moment. She had just left that morning to see her dad and brother.  Not sure what Velu and Thangamma did after that.  I left for the temple.

We did some pooja’s in dad’s name.  It was all rather mechanical.  I just repeated the rituals as others performed.  After all the poojas, touching the idols, kneeling on the ground, flowers, pottu ( red powder and yellow paste in separate containers, you use your middle finger to dip in to these containers and wear it on your forehead), we sat down to meditate on our own.  I could feel the tears escaping my eyes and now rolling down my cheeks.  I dipped my head, so no one could see me crying. I can’t remember the conversation between god and me.  I didn’t bother asking him “Why me? What did I do wrong ?” I just wanted him to fix it.  I was asking him very humbly.  I was scared of getting him on the wrong side, didn’t want to jeopardize my chances.  I will do anything, I will give up anything.  I was trying to bribe god.  I understand the stupidity of it now.  But I didn’t then.

Cont….

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clock/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/eyes/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/jeopardize/

 

Posted in Australian Politics, True Story, Inspirational, Word prompt

If Only, I Could Turn Back The Clock … (part 7)

dad lab

Even in the hospital Dad couldn’t help himself. He was still the same old man, who hated the societies preferential treatment to the have’s and the have not’s.  As he had “Dr” in front of his name all the attendants and nurses treated him well.  Unfortunately,  his neighbour was not privy to the same, sometimes even the basic requests were ignored. The guy next to him related to us that couple of nights ago, he had no water and the nurses had just ignored his several requests, Dad almost had a tumble trying to give him water from his jug.  Dad had even shared some of the food that mum had taken him. That guy was so grateful. But dad was annoyed and a tad bit ashamed that he was treated well and the other not so. If Dad was alive and living in Australia now, he would have been so happy.  So, happy to note that there was a society where you are an equal in a Public Hospital.  In fact you are an equal in most places.

I wrote letters to my uncles who were living far away, telling them that Dad has pulled through, that Dad was coming home tomorrow.  What a whirlwind of events.  But, we knew, it was a long way from us returning back to TRI (Tea Research Institute) or to a normal life.  There was suggestion that he could do light duties in Colombo with the Tea Board.  We knew he was still fragile, but he has pulled through the biggest hurdle. We will make sure that he doesn’t set back in his old workaholic habits.  We will take care of him. Dad’s 53rd birthday was coming up at the end of the month.  We will celebrate it, as we never have.  I saw a funny birthday card in the shops, something about old age, so I bought it then and there.  Life was good again.

I was thinking this was going to be our last evening visit to the hospital.  Dad was coming home tomorrow evening.  How sweet does that sound.  Dad had worked out what needs to be done.  He wanted mum and Cuz Sulo to come in the morning with several cakes from “Green Cabin” a popular cake shop and some good tea(leaves)from Tea Research Institute.  He had a list of doctors, nurses and attendants to whom he wanted to give gifts.

He asked Velu (a man assistant given to us by TRI), Thangamma (our long time maid) and myself to stay back and clean the house,  as he expected many visitors.  He told us the number of people he had invited to our house in TRI.  Not just for a meal, these invitations were for them to come and stay with us and have a holiday. He was in an elated mood.  So were we.  Much better than him confused and disoriented.  I shake that memory off, just celebrate girl, that was just a bad dream, I said to myself.

*Note: for the benefit of those who have not read the first 6 parts of this story, at present we were living in Colombo in one of my cousin’s house, our usual place of residence is Talwakelle (upcountry 4.5 hr drive) where TRI is situated).

The driver was a touch late to pick mum and cuz Sulo.  My cuz wanted to be in the Hospital before the surgeons finished their rounds, so she could speak to them.  So she asked to be first dropped off in the hospital, before the cake purchases.  Mum, decided to follow my cousin to the wards, so she could pack dad’s clothes, toiletries etc and take it with her before going for the cakes.  Her thinking was so when taking dad, their hands would be free to concentrate on taking dad to the car safely.

The clock had turned back again.  The blaring horns of the traffic outside my window sounded the same that night. It was humid, hot and uncomfortable as always.  There was no signs to say that the clock had wound back sixteen days.  There were no signs at all to say that the roller coaster was now on free fall.

Cont…

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clock/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/confused/

Posted in Daily post, True Story, Inspirational, Word prompt

If Only, I Could Turn Back The Clock … (part 6)

dad lab

It was such a relief to see dad being wheeled back.  We were informed that the surgery went well.  He was back in the ICU.  A part of his hair was shaved and had a cone shaped bandage around the head.  He was not conscious as yet. We were only allowed to peak through the window.  Maybe tomorrow said the nurse.  Maybe tomorrow he will walk and talk again as normal. Maybe tomorrow he will hold me and say everything’s going to be alright.  Tomorrow looked so promising.  Today was turning out to be better than I feared.

Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow were getting better.  We were able to see dad, two people at a time with special head nets and socks.  Dad would take mum and my hand and kiss it.  His eyes looks welled. It was saying I love you and thank you.  It may have also been to say sorry for putting you’ll through this. He looked weak, and spoke very softly.  But that smile was still pretty strong.  Very infectious too.  It brought a smile back on my face.

I was ever so grateful to God.  Cuz Sulo’s mother-in-law Paremes Mami (mami is aunty in tamil) started to take me to the temple quite regularly.  I shunted between a Hindu temple, the popular St. Anthony’s Church and a Buddhist temple.  I am not sure if my belief was, if I pray to god he will give my dad back or just a place and time for me to just meditate in silence.  In each place the I performed the rituals without much thought, mostly followed what others were doing. But the rituals helped. I think it took me to a calmer place. Lighting a candle in the church gave me hope, touching the stone idols in the temple gave me assurance that I’ve been heard.  Laying a lotus flower in front of The Buddha statue gave me peace.  Now, I don’t believe that it is God’s job to look after the individual needs of each person.  “why save my dad or my child just because I ask him”, I don’t think he/she would be that petty minded or vain to think that our prayers and wishes are what he answers to.  But back then I wanted to believe that my prayer was going to be answered.

Things were going really great now.  It is now nearly fourteen days since all the drama started.  Dad was coming home tomorrow.

Cont…

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clock/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/maybe/

Posted in Daily post, True Story, Inspirational, Word prompt

If Only, I Could Turn Back The Clock … (part 5)

dad lab

Jana was pretty much living at our place now.  She made us remember to have a cup of coffee, gave us a purpose to cook a meal.  Things had started to brew between her brother and I.  Pretty early stages and not the right time open up to mum or dad about this.  I couldn’t take the chance of stressing dad out even in the slightest way. Jans’s brother was a nice young lad, but didn’t carry the right resume for some.  He was neither an Engineer nor a Doctor.  He was in fact a Sailor.  He didn’t hide the fact that he liked a drink or two. Even though he didn’t show any signs of being an alcoholic, people were ready to pass judgement because of his pedigree.  In spite of the rumors and the cool exterior,  to my surprise I found him to be soft, sensitive and an interesting person.  His honesty was refreshing.  He wasn’t going to pretend to the world.  We had a lot in common. Especially our love for the comic books “Asterix” and “Tin Tin”.  Our mutual friendship and banter was now turning to something else.  Jana was the only one to know and to approve.

If Dad was not unwell, these were all great arguments to put forward, but circumstances were different.  I couldn’t upset dad, I didn’t even know if this would upset dad, but didn’t think this was the time to test it.  Most Sri Lankan Tamil marriages were still arranged marriages.  Not necessarily to complete strangers, mostly to some one from the same village, a distant relative etc.  But, still the main operators were your parents.  Dad was not entirely comfortable with this.  He has in the past said to me, the final decision has to be from me.  Whenever he sees young couples by the side of the road, or at the Botanical Gardens canoodling, he would say, “now, don’t do that, just bring him home and let me meet him”.  I would feel really embarrassed and would yell back “DAD”.  Thinking back most dads were not this liberal.  I think it was his complete trust in me, the complete confidence that his daughter was smart enough to know right from wrong and wasn’t going to do anything stupid.  Daddy’s little princess never wanted to break that trust.

Jana was my friend as well as a relative.  I am not going to explain lineage, as we joke about this, we feel it’s not a family tree rather a vine, a vine in a thick overgrown forest.  So their family, including Ganesh (Jana’s infamous brother) were all well known to mum and dad. By now Ganesh has become a regular visitor to our house, with the excuse of giving his sister a lift or what ever else.  Mum was rather fond of the two.  Which was a good thing, but I have seen in many cases things going pear shaped, when it came to who was good for your daughter.

So our love or affection at this stage had to be held back after an eye contact and locking of a mutual glance.  And each of us knowing to leave it there.  Although no words were exchanged his actions spoke volumes.  No, he didn’t buy me roses, instead he would buy my dad books.  Huh! says you.  Let me elaborate.  Ganesh visits my dad at hospital and asks dad if he wants anything.  Dad loved the fact that Ganesh was a great reader, knowing this dad asked Ganesh if he could bring his some books.  He meant Ganesh’s own books to borrow.  But someone wanting the brownie points bought new books and took it to my dad.  Yet another inside joke.

In a world of elaborate gestures and the most expensive and expansive proposals, our’s would look the most pathetic of romances.  But, my man didn’t have to build me the Taj Mahal to tell me how he feels, his small gestures and the awkward looks were enough and spoke volumes.

I am not sure how we got to the hospital, was it the TRI driver or Ganesh?  Not sure, but Ganesh was there and so was Jana.  We were pensively seated and at times pacing in the corridor.  I accompanied a corpse in the lift.  For the attendants this is just routine, they don’t feel the need to be sensitive, respectful or any other special way to treat the body nor the people around.  I shock that thought that popped in my head “no it’s not dad, don’t even go there”, while in the corridor, saw a few more bodies being wheeled while the attendants spoke about lunch break.

Again the clock was ticking, but the time was refusing to move.

cont…

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clock/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/joke/

Posted in Daily post, True Story, Inspirational, Word prompt

If Only, I Could Turn Back The Clock … (part 4)

dad lab

I was just starting understand the meaning of “that life was not meant to be easy”. In each turn, there was yet another hurdle. And you had this constant fear, that you were going to tumble over one of them any time soon.  Mum and I were mentally exhausted.  The surgeon, who was supposed to be the Island’s best for this particular surgery was not willing to take over dad’s case.  The reason being he was going away to the UK in two weeks time and he was concerned that he wouldn’t be there for the post op consultations. The norm was, the surgeon who performed the surgery continued the post op and there after.

So, my cousin Sulo went in search of the next best surgeon.  Cuz Sulo is another person in my life that earns a big salute.  A salute of admiration, respect and complete indebtedness. In spite of her disability (she was affected by childhood polio and one her limbs was affected), she was physically and mentally a force to be reckoned with.  Doctors, especially the surgeons of Sri Lanka are usually an Egoistical lot.  And to get anything done in that country, you need to have the right connections.  So having a doctor to lead the way to the surgeons room was a great thing.  Thinking back to how I was treated, how things were done in Sri Lanka, to how things are done here in Australia, I see such a vast difference.

Over here in Aus, the doctor will come out side to the waiting room, call your name, shake hands, take you inside, offer you a seat and close the door behind you.  Over in my old country, a guy would be at the door, who would bark your name, or the barking might come from the inside.  Then you go inside pensively.  By this time you might have done some home work on the doctor, to work out if by any chance you know some one, who knows the doctor, some connection to establish that I require some good attention as some one I know, knows you as well.  And you would open the conversation with “do you know so and so…”

Anyway, we didn’t know anyone of this 2nd best surgeon other than the fact that my cousin had done some work under him when she was doing her internship.  It was better than nothing anyway.  My cousin showed him the angiogram and other test results. The aneurysm was in a tricky spot.  This man didn’t like what he saw.  I was standing on the corner of the room and having a battle with my tear ducts.  He opened his mouth by asking why wasn’t Dr. Selvadurai (the top knotch surgeon) performing the surgery?  “He is the best at this…” almost saying “I can’t help you here”, both the surgeon and I could feel the disappointment and hopelessness in my cousin’s voice.  I don’t think I was feeling anything. Then from the corner of his eye he saw me, a young girl, struggling to hold her tears back, who was begging for her fathers life and humanity returned back in him.  He said “ask Selvadurai to do the surgery, he is the best at it, he should do it, I will do the post op”.  Cuz and I had to hold back so hard not to give him a big bear hug.  I was sobbing and smiling all at the same time.

The battle doesn’t end there.  We had to now convey the message to Dr. Selvadurai and convince him to go ahead with the surgery.  We were informed that he was fully booked until his departure to UK which was in a couple of days and he had ceased consulting.  The only way we could meet him was to catch him outside the surgical theatre.  So, that’s what we did.  Again, my cuz being a doctor and knowing a few people around helped.  We managed to send him a message from outside the theatre.  In between surgeries, he came to see us in one of surgical rooms.  He came out with blood and gore, and spoke to us while washing up.  He looked so casual, as if he had just cut up a fish.  Anyway we explained what happened between Dr. No.2 ( sorry I don’t remember his name) and his suggestions. He smiled and he mentioned that he was fully booked and then scratched his head, and said “no I think, we can do it”.  He was going to have a day off before his trip, but he decided to do my dad’s surgery on his planned day off.

Cont…

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clock/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/admire/