Kusumalatha had started teaching at the Temple Sunday School on the request of lokuhamuduruwo.
It wasn’t the thrill of teaching little kids she looked forward to every Sunday, but seeing Silibiris and the rest of the young men comings and goings, helping the monk doing community service. She would gather her flock around to sit under the shade of the Bo tree, get them to recite gathas by heart while keeping an eye on the young men.
Silibiris would race around the villages on his Roadmaster, carrying messages from the Lokuhamuduruwo. He felt important. He made sure to be near the temple around the time the Daham Pasela finished so that he can follow Kusumalatha walking home.
Kusumalatha was playing hard to get, but Silibiris knew it was just a game. Game or not, he would not go anywhere near her house. Kusumalatha’s mother Jaypin Nona was very hostile towards all new settlers. She was born and bred in Ambarawa original village. She inherited 10 acres of land and a couple of acres of paddy field which was a lot more than any of the settler families had. She had ambitions to see Kusumalatha, marrying a Government Servant with a pension.
Kusumalatha wished only to be with Silibiris
She kept reminding him many times to go to the post office and read the Government Gazette which had the details of government job vacancies. He was too busy with all the important social services to attend to such trivial matters. Kusumalatha took matters to her own hands. She, visited the post office in the pretext of sending a letter, checked out the gazette for job vacancies and copied details of one in particular. Peons were being recruited for the Department of Agriculture with GCE O/L as minimum qualification.
She hurried home and in search of Silibiris. He was nowhere to be found. When she eventually found him in the evening at the bathing spot under the kumbuk tree by the weva, he was chatting to Latha, Neela and Nayana clad in their wet diya redda.
Silibiris was oblivious to Kusumalatha’s presence as he secretly enjoyed the body curves stuck to the wet cheeththa reddas of the lasses with their backs to the setting sun, playfully dipping in and out of the warm water, laughing and shoving each other, very aware of the rowing eyes of Silibiris.
Kusumalatha stormed off
In a jealous rage, Kusumalatha threw the screwed up monitor exercise book page on to which she had carefully and lovingly copied the job vacancy. She resolved herself not to have anything to do with that ungrateful fellow who did not appreciate her. She cried silently all night.
Next morning, Kusumalatha got ready to go to the Temple to teach at Sunday School. She noticed the crumpled piece of paper in the front yard. She ironed out the creases before respectfully handing it to Lokuhamuduruwo saying he might think of someone suitable in the village to apply for the vacancy. Kusumalatha knew only too well that there is no one other than Silibiris.
As usual, Silibiris followed Kusumalatha home. Silibiris could not understand why she was in such a foul mood. He just wanted to tell her the good news about the job Lokuhamuduruwo discussed with him, but she didn’t want to hear. She quickened her step instead. Silibiris wondered what devil had got into her. He wasn’t to know at the time but this was going to be his fate for most of his life.
Kusumalatha saw Chandare sitting on a log by the weva, smoking a beedi waiting impatiently to reel in a fish. Silibiris was still blabbering going round and round her on his Roadmaster trying to get her to listen in vain. She stopped. She stood on the bund looking directly at Chandare with an inviting smile. Chandare turned and saw Kusumalatha grinning at him from top of the bund while his erstwhile friend was going round and round her on his bicycle blabbering something. Kusumalatha waved at Chandare just as a fish tugged at the bait. Chandare was mesmerised. She had not even looked at him let alone smile at him before. Will he reel in his catch or will he be reeled in by Kusumalatha?