I met Priyanga in Pahe Ela, somewhere near Anuradhapura. She is still a beauty, in her thirties…She was widowed in the early nineties, a year after her marriage…she told me the exact name of the battle he lost his life in, which evades my memory now…it was somewhere in the eastern frontiers…now she lives with her family. The pension of Priyanaga’s husband is quite something. It’s almost as if that money and the prestige of a war hero could replace the loss of Priyanga’s man.
But somehow, the loss of this man dominates the whole house. The moment you enter the place, you confront with his life size image garlanded. He makes a visitor slightly nostalgic and sad. I stood there trying to find a way to relate to him and the loss of him and this attempt to replace the loss of him.
After lunch, in the dry-zone drowsiness, Priyanga asks me to use her room; take a nap if i want to. I walk into her little room.In some places the paint was coming off the wall, and you could see a thin sun beam seep through a tiny crack in the ceiling…but apart from that it was a room of a woman who was meticulous about tidiness. Somehow, these things you would notice only much later…after you get over the initial shock of having to face with so many photographs of a her husband – in uniform, in civil clothes, carrying an AK-46, sitting on a armed car, arm in arm with his platoon buddies….her room was like little museum dedicated to his memory. A photograph of Priyanga and him together was on the dressing table, with a little paper red rose Priyanga had made.
In the throbbing intimacy of that room I couldn’t breathe for sometime…naturally I couldn’t nap…I had stumbled upon someone else’s privacy…
and it has taken me all this time to write about it, to acknowledge…and still, months later, I do. I found the time. I found the courage. I found the emotion.
I add to this post a poem written sometime back…this is for Priyanga and the man she lost. It’s something personal, as always…
A Soldier Mourned
Gunshots in the distant night
Surge with news of death
Inklings of my turn brew
In livid silence between the shelling
News of death that comes, as foretold
In the guise of white papers to be signed
Neatly typed, touchy words from someone unfamiliar
Someone without a shadow or a face
Fever-pitched battle to game and mate
A minor crisis on the half-done ceiling
Their frenetic scuffling
Trailing into my dreams
I turn to your side of the mat
To residues of your last embrace
The memory of you tapping
On the valley between my breasts
Asking, as if you knew
It is what I almost cannot give
The ghost of your ardour
Sealing my womb
As days slip too easily