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Basil Fernando:Six Short Stories of Sri Lanka

Basil Fernando:Six Short Stories of Sri Lanka

Basil

Basil Fernando: Six Short Stories of Sri Lanka 149 ***** When Will They Be Free? "Have we reached the dead end?" Litus remained silent. It was too troublesome a question to answer in words. On the other hand, the answer was obvious. Above all he was very tired, very tired. Just outside there were orchids. That was the pastime of his friend. Friendships between Catholic priests were usually very deep. Maybe something like friendships you built up when you lived in a residential university. Or when you work together for a common cause you feel very much - say, for example, for a revolutionary party, so long as you feel that you are doing the correct thing. After suffering a heart attack in his late forties, Father Amarasinhe grew orchids because he wanted a quiet way of life. He had been given a small church to look after. The orchids were tended by village girls who were thereby taught a domestic trade and were able to make some pocket money. The church was in a place far away from Colombo; it was essentially rural but situated near a junction at the Kandy Road. Litus had chosen for his retreat this place because above all he wanted to escape from his comrades of recent times. He could visualize the whole episode that would take place if they came. What they would say. What he could not say. The art of bringing back a runaway comrade had a very simple pro­ cedure. He himself had done it with regard to others many times. But when a person wanted to run away finally he would make sure that he could not be easily approached or traced. More intelligent ones would even find some job abroad.

150 KEIEI TO KEIZAI On the one hand, there is a reality you cannot run away from. You do not want to run away from it. On the other hand there was the absurdity of the proposed solution which you have come to realize. But you are not to talk about the solution. If you do you become a refor­ mist all at once. Anyway they will say you are really making an excuse to run away from reality. But he had not wanted to run away from reality, the reality of his coun­ try. If he did he could have remained where he was - in the priesthood. He was quite comfortable as a priest, and he had good prospects. It was a matter of learning the tricks of the trade if he wanted to go higher. And even now, five years after leaving, he could go back. "Once a priest always a priest". Why should he run away anyway? This reality was nothing but his own reality too. Sometimes he was confused by what he heard about the in­ tellectuals as people who are "outsiders". Maybe in the West, he thought. Every nerve of his brain was involved with the situation of the poor. That was not some conscious choice. Everybody who came from his background was like that - though most did not want to make it obvious, and some did not directly think about it at all. They merely acted and reacted instinctively. His reality and other people's reality were not basically dif­ ferent. His confusion was their confusion too. Their confusion was his confu­ sion too. What one is confused about generally shows where one is. And will not the reality of poverty that exists in any village in Sri Lanka fail to confuse anyone with a brain? Poverty is no abstraction. It is something which eats into you, into your nerves, eyes, ears, anything that may be called the soul and body. Poverty determines everything. The way you get angry. The way you feel ashamed. What makes you afraid. What makes it impossible for you to relax. How you act / react to everything. Poverty makes the cynic and the brave man alike, if there is anything

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