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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 153 suspicious of him becuase he was a priest. But their suspicion died away slow­ ly. One day he decided to give up his robes and he joined the league. It was a decision that caused great pain to his family, who were very proud of his being a priest. His mother, who followed him in every decision in his life, who had always told him to work for the poor, could not understand why he had to give up being a priest to fight for the poor. His mother had achieved her life's ambition the day he was ordained. And now he was to disappoint her in a very deep way. But like many people of his generation he was willing to make big sacrifices. Lives of many young people ended up in ways very painful to their parents those days. For example, many died in the insurrection and many went to jail without committing crimes. Of course, these people were also tor­ tured in jail as a result of which some had permanent disabilities. Hoping against hope that the pain of his mother would be lessened he informed the Vicar General of his decision. The response was not what he had expected. He thought that the Vicar General would tell him not to go away. Instead he took a bottle of arrack and shared it with Litus and wished him well. The old man too, it was obvious, was very tired and unhappy. All these details were known to Joseph. And almost every detail of what had happened each day for the next five years up to this moment when Litus has come in search of him to his priest friend's house, trying to depart from a situation in which he felt trapped. Each day of the five years had been a busy one from early morning to late night. Paper printing, paper sales, organizing of locals, collection of funds, discussions everywhere, area committee and central committee meetings. He was busier than he was as a priest. In between these jobs they would find time for meals and now and then a drink. There was not much money at any time but there was enough to live

154 KEIEI TO KEIZAI day by day. But deep inside Litus there was an unresolved question. A question arising from the limbo of poverty he saw in his childhood and has seen ever since. The same question which sent him to the seminary and later made him decide to leave the priesthood. When will his people be free? In the league there were people obsessed with the same problems. And deep inside them they had deep doubts, doubts as deep as those that were there among his priest friends. Not that there was any hesitation to sacrifice. But are sacrifices ends in themselves? He must think this out for himself again. Yes, in his mind he had reached a dead end. Joseph was an understanding friend, he knew. He had the same pro­ blem. He was even more committed than himself, Linus always thought, but he wanted to fight out things to the bitter end. Whatever be the outcome he would will his way, Litus was sure. This was parting, no doubt. Break with someone who has shared your deepest thoughts and you bring in a loneliness which is hard to describe in words. You can live far away and for a long time and still be very deeply close. That is not so when an ideological bond breaks. You don't become angry. You feel sad and lonely, knowing that you will never meet the same way again. "I have got to go," Joseph said rising. They could read each other's mind. But there was a sadness in Joseph's eyes which was unusual. He had forgotten to hide it the way he usually did. Litus watched Joseph going toward the junction. His walk lacked the usual manner, the usual confidence. But he was carrying himself with dignity

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