It was an April vacation, year 1991, I was waiting for my father to arrive home, wait .. wait is perhaps the wrong word, I was dying to see my father coming home. He was a government surveyor, working in Nochiyagama, a small village in Anuradhapuram. The rest of the family was living in Jaffna, by then it was under LTTE control, three of my sisters were schooling and my brother was going through an intern-ship program for English teachers. Father used to send his salary through whoever crosses the border at Vavunia, usually about 4000 Sri Lankan Rupees, the amount which wasn't enough for our monthly expenses. My mother's jewels were safely going into pawn broker's lockers one after the other. Hangon, last week we sold our only goat too. I was the carer of it. Every evening after schools, I would be going around and collecting jack tree ripening leaves in the neighbourhood. My school fees were due last week, so my mother decided to sell it. I screamed and cried on the day the butcher came and took it away but after few days I was happy playing cricket after school, not having to collect tree leaves any more, a boring work I tell you!
Oh yeah, sorry, let's get back to where were we. Two weeks back, father sent us a telegram saying he would be coming to Jaffna in the next ship. He is coming to Jaffna after about an year. I sent a long letter last week listing down all the things I wanted. A cricket bat, draught board, carom board, batteries for our Tape Recorder and a melodica. The melodica was the one I was eagerly expecting. My sister's friend recently got a melodica from her visiting uncle from Canada. It sounded nice, she showed us how to play "Oh Nenge Nee Thaan" song. She didn't let me touch it, I was too small to operate it. That's the very moment I thought, I will ask my father to buy a melodica when he comes next time.
Its been ten in the morning already. Lanka Muditha, the cargo ship which was arranged for passenger service is arriving today, I bought the news paper early in the morning to check it out. The ship doesn't usually come on time. The Sri Lankan military used to take the passenger service as a cover to transport their resources. There were times LTTE went and attacked the patrols and ships had to return back to Trincomalee without boarding in Jaffna. So even the newspaper confirmed its arrival, I wasn't still sure about it. Fingers crossed.
Its eleven in the morning, the news already spreading out that the ship has arrived with tons of wheat flour and sugar. The neighbour house aunt just came and told us the news. They are running a grocery shop and the price of the wheat flour suddenly gone down from 300 rupees to 100 rupees just after the news. All of us will get at-least 3 loaves of bread tomorrow under that "Ration" system. Ever smelled that just baked bread from Manatara bakery? Its divine when you get it after five hours of queueing, an accomplishment of its own.
"Mummy, is he going to take the Auto?" I asked my mother. Its strange why my parents wanted us to call them dada and mummy. I think it gives them a superior feeling. It sets out the authority to others in the suburbs that we are something special. City of Jaffna has a unique intellectual caste system which at times very hard for an outsider to understand. My mother's family used to have this habit. My aunt's children call dady and mummy. My cousin sister's children call dad and mummy. Funnily enough, our neighbourhood and even the labourers call my parents dada and mummy instead of usual uncle and aunt or Ayya and Amma. For some reason, I now realise, even I was proud of letting others know that I call my parents mummy and dada. My story of identity crisis started even before I was born!
"Hero" suddenly started to bark. I need to mention about Hero also. Its our dog, a funny dog, was born during a heavy jack fruit season and it was tied down in our backyard with tens of ripening jack fruits. And yes, it started to eat those jack fruits and ever since, it has this habit of dragging jack fruits from our neighbourhood and eat at our garden, leaving our garden a total mess. Why did we call it with the name "hero"? it is the horse's name of the comics character "Phantom", a very famous comics series during the time of early 90s.
Yes here you go .. Dada is coming. He is riding a bicycle. An "Eastern" brand blue colour bike with dynamo headlight. The carrier is rope tied with a big suitcase, two heavy bags are hanging on both the sides of the handles. He is wearing a red colour cap, shirt half tucked in, pants and shoes are with full of muddy. He saw me, ringing the bike bell with a big smile in his face. I am sprinting to gate to open in, mummy and sisters are running behind.
Lot's of huddling across. Sisters are now laughing. Mummy didn't talk much, just asked how was the travel and went into the kitchen to make a tea. Brother took the bike from dada and started to untie the rope. Dada raised me, kissed me on my cheek, his breath was stinky so did was his cloths. He was happy, shaking my sisters' heads with his hands with lots of love. My brother finally managed to take the suitcase out of the bike. My eyes are on the suitcase still thinking ....!
"Is the melodica inside the suitcase?"