Wildcats of Sri Lanka – The Island


Part IV

As all cinema – goers in Sri Lanka know, the gallery is known as “The Gallows”. Long years ago, one Saturday night at a popular cinema, the gallery was full of undergrads who had gathered there after a cricket match.

They were in high spirits and the usual friendly insults were being flung hither and thither, good natured banter and all good fun.

Suddenly there was a diversion. All necks were craned back at the Dress Circle, as who should walk in but Pieter Keuneman, the idol of the young intellectuals of that period.

As he walked to his seat, an irreverent undergrad from the Gallery yelled? “Hey! Comrade Pieter, why don’t you come to the Gallows with the masses?”

With that charmed, smile on his face, Pieter, the falmour boy of local politics, waited for the laughter to subside. Then: “Comrade” he replied, in his impeccably beautiful Cambridge accent. “I shall go to the gallows FOR the masses, but not WITH the masses.”

***

“The late B. P. Pieris, former Secretary to the Cabinet, was driving to a party one evening, when he had to stop at the Kollupitiya traffic-lights. When the light turned green, B.P. accidentally put his car on its reverse gear, and rammed into the car behind him.

The driver of the second car came rushing out, yelling imprecations at B.P., and demanding that B.P. accompany him to the Kollupitiya police station.

“Look, my dear chap”, said B.P. soothingly, “all that will take a lot of time. Can’t we settle this right here and now?”

But the other would not hear of it, insisting that B.P. go along with him to the cop-shop.

At last B.P. began to get a little angry.

“Look here, my man, remember it will be your word against mine. And suppose I were to say that you rammed me from behind, won’t the police accept that as the more plausible story?”

The other driver now began to look a little doubtful, and pressed his advantage B.P. identified himself, gave the man his card, and said, “Get your car repaired and send me the bill.”

***

A member of the club and his flat-mate, also a Sri Lankan, has stepped out of a suburban London train into the biting cold. The member had commented to his friend in Sinhala “Machan Adiyak Athanm Maru” (“Fine time for a drink)”. And to their astonishment a passing porter had said “Arakku nam thavath maru!” (“Still better if it’s arrack)”. Apparently, the man had served here.

***

This member also said that he was staying at a hotel in Madras with another Sri Lankan, and one night at their rice and curry dinner, he had commented to his friend very sarcastically,” Machan! Gull vala bath”.)

(“There is rice in the stones! Mahattaya, buth vala gull!”. (“There are stones in the rice)”.

A drunk got up one morning and found 42 mosquitoes around his bed, all dead of alcoholic poisoning”.

A truly henpecked husband is a man who needs his wife’s permission, even to commit suicide.

The festive season was at its height and every hotel in this town was full. And, these two men, total strangers to each other, were compelled to share the same room. That evening, one of them, having to attend a formal dinner, was getting dressed.

Holding up his necktie, he said apologetically to his roommate, “my wife always knotted my tie for me, so I wonder if you could oblige….?”

“Certainly,” replied the other cordially.” Just lie flat on your back on the bed”.

Rather puzzled, he did so as he was bid, and learning over him, the tie was knotted. “My wife couldn’t have done it better. But why did you ask me to lie down to do it?”

“You see, that’s the only way I’m used to doing it for others. I am an undertaker.”

***

William (that is not real name) was the barkeeper at a popular club, and lavish tips plus little tricks of the trade, had flattened his bank account in a considerable manner, making him greedy, vain and ambitious.

So, when he heard that his charming daughter Ruvani was having a clandestine love affair with the newly appointed Grama Sevaka of the area, he nearly blew his top. His daughter married an insignificant Grama Sevaka? He’d see her dead first?

One day, during a slack hour, a palm-reader dropped in at the club, and offered to give William a free reading.

(He had been sent by William’s daughter and was well briefed). Naturally he said some astounding things about William’s daughter and was well briefed). Naturally he said some astounding things about William’s past, and having won the unquestioning confidence of his “client”, the palmist went on to say “Almost a month ago, your life entered its best period and fame and riches are in store for you. She is going to marry a man of his choice, and the couple will go from strength to strength. You are a vain and ambitious man, and you will be making the biggest mistake of your life, if you stand in their way. For, this marriage is going to bring YOU, the girl’s father, a lot of luck!”

Not many days after this “reading” the young Grama Sevaka shifted his office to William’s house!

***

During the Sinhala New Year, a club member visited a friend of his.

After a little conversation he called out to his wife, Darlo! Bring my friend a cool drink”, adding after a pause, “one to four”.

While they were chatting with the member sipping his cool drink, a sarong clad person arrived, and after a very respectful “salaam” the man sat on the step. He spoke quite kindly to the man, and once again called out to his wife.

“Darlo! Bring another cool drink. One to six”.

The club member was quite intrigued with all this, and after the sarong–clad man had gone, the member asked his friend whether he was placing bets with his wife or something.

“No, no” laughed his friend, who had a reputation as a miser. “You see, your drink was one part cordial to four parts of water – quite rich and tasty, while the man’s drink was a little more diluted. That fellow is just one of my labourers.”

***

This happened at a time (like today), when there was a serious shortage of kerosene oil in the country. There was a rumour that a certain government store-keeper was exploiting the situation by siphoning his stocks of kerosene oil into the black market, and some jealous colleagues of his tipped off their bosses about it.

There was a surprise check, but no shortage in the stocks was found.

What the ingenious store-keeper had done was quite simple. He had attached a length of rubber bicycle tube sealed at one end to the aperture in each of the barrels from inside, filling the tubes with kerosene oil, and when the calibrator (a foot ruler like thing) with a series of markings indicating the quantity of oil in each barrel was inserted into the kerosene filled bicycle tubes, the readings tallied with the store-keeper’s stock books, while actually the barrels were empty.

***

“Love is blind” said a lunatic to his cell-mate.

“Who said so?” asked the other.

“God did”.

“Rubbish” said a voice from the adjoining cell.

“I never did.”

***

A devotee who visited a temple, found that his new pair of shoes had been pinched. S, he bought a new pair and on his next visit to the temple, left a note in one shoe.

“I am a Karate Black Belt” it said.

On his return he found his shoes missing and a note from the thief.” Not to worry, I am a champion runner.”

***

One day a club member related these gaffes of a teacher. During the Hartal violence of August 1953, a Central School was completely gutted. The following day there was a headline in a newspaper: “Central School burnt down! Arson suspected.”

The above teacher exclaimed “Arson must be a bloody Communist”.

***

One day he went to see a cricket match, where the incompetent wicket-keeper conceded many extras.

Looking at the scoreboard he had said “I say” that fellow Extras seems to be batting very well!”

***

This teacher lived in a house behind the Galkissa Cemetery. When a colleague of his asked where he lived, he had said “I live behind the funeral”.

***

One day, he went Christmas shopping with his pretty daughter. She was heavily laden with many parcels and as she followed in her father’s wake, she stumbled and narrowly avoided a fall.

“Father! I lost my balance”.

“I told you to be careful” he told her irately.

“There are pick-pockets all over the town these days”.

“How much did you lose?”

***

It was a society wedding at the Galle Face Hotel and this teacher too attended it in his usual national dress.

The following day he told the class, “All the people were well dressed and only I was in the national dress. Aiya! Boys, I felt like a bloody cat out of the bag”.

One day a tourist asked him “How far is that place?” pointing to the distant lights of Colombo.

“It is about seven miles by road. But only three miles as the cock crows!”

***

In 1954 when there was a total solar eclipse, some students went to Hingurakgoda, which was supposed to be a good place to view it.

The following day when he went to his class, he had said, “I hear that some of you went to see the cyclops!”

***

One day he told the class, “You know boys, I come from a good family. My eldest brother is a top doctor and very rich. My second brother is a leading Lawyer also very rich. And, I am only a poor teacher and the black dog in the family!”

***

One day he wnt to see a friend who had a ferocious-looking Alsatian dog. So, he asked his friend “I say! Is the dog eatable?”.



Thank you

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