Ten-year-old Silibiris sat on the bench under a tamarind tree in front of Ambarawa tea kade with his siblings, swinging their legs, sipping tea and listening to adults chit chat.
Very quickly, he gathered from the conversations amongst the villagers and the mudalali that the original villagers in the area did not like the colony people who had arrived a few months ago.
The villagers seem to be unhappy about the colony men’s behaviour.
Drinking, fighting, and stealing from original villagers and worst of all these men who had come without their wives had started to come behind the villagers’ wives and daughters.
Silibiris wondered why this conversation was going on within his mother’s hearing range. Perhaps it was intentionally so.
He also gathered there were Tamil villages in the surrounding areas.
The family trudged along a track through the jungle carrying their belongings.
Silibiris could hear an unfamiliar loud animal sound.
He heard his father telling the mother that hoards of elephants roamed in this area.
Silibiris felt frightened.
He walked silently close to his mother and sisters. Suddenly, they came across a bund. A dirt road circled the bund. He could not believe his eyes.
A vast lake full of shimmering water, birds diving in and out, clumps of trees sticking out, a lone boatman fishing using a net, a bunch of naked boys about his age shouting and jumping into the lake from a branch of a tree that created a natural diving platform.
Silibiris forgot his unhappiness for a moment. He thought of joining the village boys…but the mother shouted at him telling him to hurry up.
They finally arrived at their new home, behind a make-shift fence and a kadulla, with a huge Kohomba tree in the front, providing shade.
A hut made of clay walls reinforced with bamboo, thatched low roof over a veranda and single room was to be their home.
Young Silibiris was exhausted.
Haramanis had made mannokka, pol sambol and wavumaalu for dinner.
Silibiris wolfed the meal.
He soon fell asleep on a mat on the floor next to his mother and sisters.
Haramanis slept on the laali bed in the veranda outside.
Suddenly, Silibiris woke up in the middle of the night, frightened by the sounds of the Wanni night.
He thought he could hear elephants nearby.
Their home had no doors, instead only a rolled up goniya hung from the front door
Windows had just sticks for bars.
Who knows what could be crawling around them.
Snakes? Scorpions? Divimakuluwas? Those large centipedes?
What on earth are they doing in this hot dry place with no neighbours within a hoot
He snuggled up closer to his mother and eventually fell asleep again.