It was the kind of day when you wake up with the gnawing pain of illness, hear the pouring rain outside, and say, “Okay, life, I get the hint, I’m just supposed to stay in bed today and pamper myself, right?” I never seem to go wrong when I do that. But then it just feels like you’re not trying, and that it might be an obstacle to be faced, not a hint to be taken. I’m never sure of the difference between the two. So I unwillingly clambered out of bed.
After a breakfast incredibly similar to that of the day before (but today I got my fried egg!) I started off on my rounds to do all the errands I’d failed to complete the day before. I walked to the station under my pink umbrella, gingerly stepping around puddles as best as I could – but arrived at the ticket counter with sopping slippers anyway. I bought return tickets for myself, Minky and Reza (who would be arriving in the night) and my parents (who would be arriving with my suitcase of children’s toys the day after) and waited rather miserably for Mr Premadasa to come pick me up. It’s funny, though, feeling miserable about sopping feet and a dull stomach ache and also knowing quite well that I have nothing – really – to be miserable about…so it was more a sort of guilty misery or miserable guilt. It’s a peculiar feeling.
I went to Cargills and decided to buy all the Milo I needed both for the workshop and the two performances as well – it ended up being quite a lot of Milo and I wondered if I should just buy them in smaller numbers, as I usually do. Then I decided that it would be silly to keep making trips to Cargills so I bought them all. I also managed to get the rest of the photocopies, and made a stop at a small fancy goods store to buy lipstick (for the aunties in the play) and eyeliner (for moustaches and beards) for the next day. My last stop was at the bakery near Thai Hotel to pick up the buns I’d ordered from the day before (Mr P and I had decided that it would be best that I made an order beforehand to avoid the troubles of the previous day!) but got there to realise that there were no buns in sight. The owner quite flippantly said he thought we were getting late, so he sold all the buns, but I felt he’d never made them in the first place. We also weren’t late, and he had Mr P’s number if he’d wanted to ask whether we’d be coming to pick them up. The last straw, I discovered, is quite literally a straw – all the worries I’d had over the last few days about rain and parents and armies and learning lines and blocking all came together and quite suddenly I found myself telling him off. It was ridiculous, in retrospect – I talked to him about disgruntled customers and how people wouldn’t trust him and how it was bad for his business. It must have been the silliest-sounding scolding he’d ever received in his life, but I was quite serious (and angry!) at the time. If it had happened on any other day I suppose I would have grinned and borne it, but it just happened to be One Of Those Days. Ah well, it makes a story, at any rate!
When I got back to Indrans, I decided to focus on the good things – although Kamal wasn’t back yet and Gajan would be escorting me once again, he’d offered to look for someone else who was bilingual and could help me out, and he did. Today I met Ishara, Sinhala but fluent in Tamil, and clearly not at ease about being carted off with a strange girl from Colombo to Mullaitivu (but then again, who in their right minds would be?)
I always have a good turn-out from Kakkaiyankulam, but after yesterday’s rehearsal I was relieved to find that their numbers were undiminished and they were as high-spirited as ever. When I got to Chiraddikulam, I found their numbers were almost as good – the only two who were missing were my flakiest, Mayuran and Sathurjan. I suppose I must just accept that as a whole, my Chiraddikulam children aren’t as enthusiastic as my Kakkaiyankulam kids, BUT the ones who are enthusiastic are wonderful. I’m hoping that this is my last day reassigning parts (I fear I’ll have to give out new parts on the day of the performance!).
As predicted, this rehearsal was infinitely better than the day before (but I secretly wished I had Minky and Irfadha to help me – the kids reached an all time high when they were around!). I got the children in Taking Seeya to Hospital to perform is once, then made notes so that Ishara could take over (this one was in better shape than the other). Then I worked with Looking for Pradeep. After two intense rehearsals of Pradeep, I decided that we were done. The children are actually quite good, especially Loheswari and of course Ijas. The performance would be what it would be, but I’d promised the children playtime and I thought I should deliver on that promise. So I took them out to play Dog and the Bone.
Meanwhile, Reza called to tell me he’d missed the train because of a huge traffic block (there had been some sort of rally or demonstration – typical Sri Lanka!) and he promised to try to make the night mail – dedication on his part because that would mean he’d have to come for the performance without proper sleep! Minky, meanwhile, was on the train alone, and probably just as uncomfortable as Ishara about travelling into the unknown, but was making the best of this less-than-ideal situation.
Watching the children play was a relief, in a sense, partly because I don’t have to do anything and partly because it’s such fun to watch them engage in the same game every week and have it never grow old. Unfortunately, it meant that I missed a few more calls…I got back to the community centre to find I’d gotten a call from Lt K. I called him back, and learned to my horror that the river near Chiraddiukulam was rising, and was threatening to cover the bridge. I’m sorry to say I completely freaked out because I think it was because my worst fear felt like it was coming true – being entrusted with lots of children and then something happening to them. I need to work on being a Reassuring Presence at times like this!! I made sure I had all the Kakkaiyankulam children bundled into the van (and yelled at the children for saying “yes” to other people’s names). We said a hurried goodbye to the Chiraddikulam children, and zoomed over the bridge – the river was just spilling over it and the army was there so I stopped only to thank them for the heads up. Ten minutes later I got so freaked out that I checked the children’s names again.
On the way back, I decided that it made no sense to risk the children’s lives for a performance, even though it rankled that this was the second time I’d tried and failed. Meanwhile, Reza called me to let me know that the railway strike (which should have been on Wednesday) was actually going to be on Friday, so the night mail wouldn’t be running. My mother called and told me the same – she and my father were considering taking a bus to Vavuniya but I told her not to worry. She agreed that it made absolutely no sense to have the workshops if it was a risk to the children’s lives (although I knew it was entirely likely that now that I’d made this decision, V-town would be hot and sultry the next day). Not having Reza around was also a drawback – partly because he was the photographer and videographer, and partly because he speaks Tamil. Not having my parents around meant no end-of-year presents. Also, I’d be scared out of my skin the whole day worrying about overflowing rivers and stranded children. I decided it really wasn’t worth it, and wondered if I’d made a mistake getting out of bed in the morning – I wouldn’t have bought surplus tickets or cartons of Milo. I also wouldn’t have had a good rehearsal, though, so there’s that.
So I came home and did what I usually do – ate dinner and watched Psych. I think I’ve stress-busted a LOT watching Psych. Minky called me when she got to Madawachchi and I went with Mr Kumar (the manager? Or perhaps the owner?) to pick her up. While we waited, he told me about his childhood in Omanthai, and how they’d lost business and land during the war. Apparently his mother was a school principal there, and they’d had 40 acres of land. During the war they’d lost a lot of stuff – as well as 40 lakhs worth of business. I’m a bit hazy on the details, but I think they’d imported something and then there was curfew and they weren’t able to take everything or something. I wish I’d understood better what he said. And now he has Indrans. So you just keep going, I guess. Oh, and. Apparently he’s related to Mr Kanapathy. Should I even be surprised? I told him that I wouldn’t be needing the rooms after all, and offered to pay a small fee for it, but he was gracious enough to refuse.
Minks wasn’t the only one on the train – Kamal was on the train as well! It was really nice to see him, partly because it feels nice to think that I now have friends in Vavuniya. And then we made our way to Indrans, whereupon I poured out all my worldly woes to Minks for an hour. Given that I can’t go to the villages, and I can’t go home, looks like tomorrow will be a mandatory holiday in Vavuniya!