JAIL BIRD | Daily News

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Mahesh came home in a hurry, put on his rain coat, took a small bag and went away. He kick- started his motor bike and soon was out of the village. His accomplice was on the ready at the Horagampita junction and jumped onto the pillion. Very soon, the duo was out of sight and Wimala, his beloved wife was waiting impatiently for her husband and their children Suba, Maya, Rita and the three sons Vibhutha, Vidhusha and Kalingu were fast asleep.

The time was sharp one at night; Wimala fell asleep on the rickety couch in the small living room. It was dead at night. Wimala was in slumber when she heard some men or animals encircling their house. Their house was at the edge of the jungle and so she ignored the sounds for a while. She woke up with trembling limbs.

A knock on the door; she took the knife to her hand and slowly approached the rear door. It was quite palpable to her that police had surrounded their house. Mahesh had strictly told her not to open the door to any one in his absence. She kept silent. She kept vigil for some time and the frightful sounds stopped. She went back to sleep and on her waking up she found a huge sack full of chicken meat. It was hidden in the back yard by Mahesh and their children were herded to their schools on two rides on his bicycle.

Mahesh was waiting for about half an hour and a white van came. He put on his immaculately white long sleeved shirt and drove away with the last night theft in the boot. A new couple had tied their nuptial knots on the altar of purity and their guests appeased their taste buds on the sacrifice of the poor chickens for the education of Mahesh’s children. Irony is dramatic.

Mahesh and Wimala left no stone unturned to make their lost hopes realized in children’s education. Mahesh was only two marks short of university admission. His father was a municipal worker and mother; a basket woman who carried vegetables on her head from door to door in the city of Galle. Wimala hails from a well to do family, but her insistence to marry Mahesh made her a family outcast. She inherited nothing from her parents and they turned a blind eye to her on the city streets.

Her numerous requests to her parents to help them fell on deaf ears and they took to their hearts to make their six children shine on the horizon of education one day by hook or crook. Mahesh and Wimala were in the same class when they bid adieu to their alma mater.

The third of the family, Kalingu was a prodigal son and all the others played no second fiddle to anyone in studies. Mahesh and Wimala underwent many a hardship to educate their children and as a dutiful wife Wimala, under any circumstance didn’t let their children know how money was earned for their education. They were provided with the best of education, uniforms, tuition and additional reading materials all the time because they were bound by a firm determination to live a contented life one day.

Their homestead was ideal for home gardening and Wimala spent most of her time in it to keep the home fires burning. Their children make it a habit to burn mid night oil to come off with flying colours at their examinations. The garden became very greenish with Wimala’s sweat and home expenses were no more a big burden to them. They had rented out the house and the plot from the village money lender and he increased the monthly rent.

The only motivational factor for them was Wimala’s parents’ Cinderella treatment to them as her sisters and brothers were well treated by them. Children’s potentials were high and their gumption to achieve their target knew no bounds. Both Wimala and Mahesh applied for government jobs and desperately failed at their attempts. They genuinely wanted to give up stealing, yet they could not find any way.

During the election time, they filled a bundle of applications to be given jobs immediately after the election, but when they met the winning candidate they were told that they were not in the priority list. Many a night he spent climbing trees to hang cut-outs, but the real job applications had been given to the kith and kin.

One day their eldest son asked from his mother about the way of income of their father. Mother told him their father was a supplier of fresh plantains and meat to the city hotels, wholesale, with the help of a friend who was one of his classmates. She slowly, yet steadily put into the ears of the other children the same notion with common sense.

Mahesh was caught red handed by police while he was transporting fifty kilos of fork, wild boar flesh.

The police prosecuted Mahesh and his accomplice who provided the white van and both were found guilty. Mahesh was sentenced to a prison term of three months, it was rigorous imprisonment while his friend was fined ten thousand rupees or in default of the fine three weeks imprisonment at an open prison camp. His parents paid the fine and took him to their custody.

One day Wimala visited the open prison camp in Hambanthota and to her dismay Mahesh was wearing the prisoner’s jumper. Tears came down her cheeks, yet she managed to discuss what to do till he returns to support the family. Adding insult to injury, her father had unexpectedly visited Wimala and told her that it was poetic justice. Their eldest son Vibhutha had come of age by that time and asked her mother about father’s long stay.

They were in a common agreement not to divulge the happening to the children. She never breached the promise and the news went round the village that Mahesh was in prison. Wimala thought of the dignity of the growing children and left the area. A distant relation had come to give them a helping hand and Wimala started another minor business. That was making string hoppers and hoppers for the nearby canteens of the large industrial area of Koggala.

She could manage both home and children’s education independently. In the meanwhile, Mahesh was given presidential pardon on good behavior and came home. The eldest son Vibhutha was selected to the medical faculty and the others were doing their studies well.

Their family income was not enough for their growing demands and Mahesh embarked on a very precarious path. It was going with the way of life of the area and he was frequently travelling in luminous cars in good clothes with a tie. Children were very happy as his father was thought to be an executive. Within a very short spell of time he had to appear before the court several time. When he appeared for the fifth time in two years the judge took up the matters seriously.

‘You have a very notorious history of criminal behavior. You have committed a number of thefts and caught red handed in drug trafficking. Do you have anything to declare to the court?’ The judge inquired perusing through the penalty code.

‘’O your majesty, it is the society that made me a thief.’’ Mahesh quipped without any hesitation as the court had become like his own compound to him now. His eldest son, now a promising medical student fainted in the court precincts as it was very palpable to him how his expenses had been made by his parents. His wife was summoned to the dock as the main accomplice of the case and she said to the court,’’ My husband is a jailbird. All these time I managed to look after our children as a dutiful mother under trying conditions as all the attempts we made to live a righteous life failed. O my majesty we are innocent. It is the society that made us criminals.’’


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