Not only Silibiris, Chandare wished the same, to be the love interest of Kusumalatha, but he was disappointed and angry that she showed no interest in him.
He would hide in the bushes by the dirt track leading from her home to the shop. He would wait for her to go by on her own to jump out and accost her. He had no idea her heart was elsewhere, not yet anyway. For now, he was satisfied playing the cat and mouse game with Kusumalatha while getting real action from number of other lasses who happily welcomed his advances.
Chandare had dropped out of school after Grade Eight. His father was in prison. The mother was rumoured to be entertaining other men. He became a law unto himself. Chandare was gaining a reputation as a rowdy rogue in Ambarawa. His band of merry men included some of his childhood friends sans Silibiris. Previously, they had smoked beedi and drank toddy hiding in the bushes but by now, they had graduated to smoking ganja and drinking arrack. The gang funded their habits by hunting wild boar, deer, rabbits in the jungle and selling to town people who came on bicycles to take away the game. When they had no game to sell, they would raid the villages beyond Ambarawa to steal cattle or even resort to killing water buffalos.
Danda’s father was the village headman. He was happy that his son had nothing to do with these louts. Danda had entered the school in town to study for GCE A/L. The headman informed the police about Chandare’s activities in vain. He did not know that the town’s illegal meat sellers had been providing the policemen free game and other favours. Chandare’s band of merry men enjoyed their protection.
Meanwhile, Silibiris was still waiting for a government job to fall in his lap as he had passed O/Ls. Siriyalatha thanked the gods that Silibiris had drifted away from Chandare’s gang. He was now more involved in local social activities travelling around on his Roadmaster conveying messages from one local officer to another, organizing shramadana for temple or school or playing Elle with the Ambarawa Cowboys. Well, some of the players did actually look after their cattle.
Ambarawa cowboys played challenge matches against teams from other teams like Bulankulam Tigers, Kebithigollawa Gold Stars, Rajanganya Kings or even Madawachchiya Mariners. These games were serious encounters held either at Ambarawa school grounds or in the dry paddy fields after the harvest. These games attracted enthusiastic crowds including the local lasses who were more interested in taking a peek at the bare bodied boys in their Elle shorts. Their official function was to serve tea for the visiting teams and spectators.
More important games were played amidst a carnival atmosphere. The ball by ball commentary and the latest hit songs could be heard even in adjoining villages via loud speakers tied to coconut trees. The local MP graced such occasions to give away prizes and cups.
Chandare acted as the bookie taking 50 cent bets on the game. Ambarawa Cowboys won or lost, according to his instructions passed on at various stages of the game. Cowboys deliberately missed high catches, miss-hit the ball when batting and got out at crucial stages, missed the runner with wayward throws, all according to Chandare’s betting activities on the side line. The players got a share of the betting loot or some favours from village lasses organised by Chandare as even a greater reward. It was like spread betting during IPL decades later. Chandare might have been the pioneer of match fixing.