VILLAGE SKETCH—20-DAVID AND GONIYA: HEROES OR VILLAINS?
Posted on June 15th, 2012

Arcadius

David Mahattaya had no doubt that he was a brave man. Others, including his spouse (or, more aptly, his ball and chain), thought that he was a braggadocio. However, I must concede that this was only a difference of opinion.

Wags said that if the neurons surrounding the cerebrtal cortex of his namarupa were as fertile and healthy as the material manifestation of his rupa (pysical form), David Mahattaya would have certainly made his mark as a great man. He was tall of frame and hoggishly peppy. He had his suave growth of hair tied up in a knot. Like Gen. De Gaulle, the arrogant president of France, he enjoyed the enviable privilege of surveying the world from a lofty elevation. Hence his potential for greatness was indeed very promising.

He described himself as an agriculturist although in the eyes of others he was a farmer. He had applied his agricultural knowhow to develop a large enclosure of a wide variety of vegetables and herbs in the backyard of his residential allotment. During the harvest seasons, his extraordinary farming skills were much in demand by those who owned rice paddies and other agricultural property. He was a deft tiller, an expert plougher, and a renowned watchman of the rice paddies.

His gripe was that so far Providence had given him no chance to establish his bravery. Not that he was lacking it.

Perhaps, going by the story I narrate below, a celestial authority (Providence, perhaps) decided that the time had come to grant the chance that David Mahattaya was waiting for!

 David Disarms Mahatun

It was the harvesting season. Sheaves of harvested paddy placed into stacks lay around the threshing-floor assigned to each rice-paddy. These stacks often became the targets of the village thieves if the cultivating farmers failed to keep a nocturnal watch.  The watchmen would stay the night in a hut set up near the stacks armed with appropriate tools of defense.  They would sing pel kavi (field shed lyrics) to forget the night’s loneliness and to scare off the thieves and beasts.

My Grandfather, the Ralahamy, had hired David Mahattaya as the pel rakinna (watchman of the harvest) for Muttettuwa, our largest rice paddy. While lodging in the thatched pela (field shed), he had intoned several charming verses or pel kavi to forget the desolation, and innocently thought of having “forty winks.” As was his wont, he had kept his billhoook under the pillow ready to face any eventuality.

In the Stygian darkness, a brace of redoubtable fellow creatures answering to the names of Mahatun and Patin had been keenly watching the renowned watchman of the field.  The means of livelihood of this duo did not necessarily take the form of honest labor.They were adepts in the practice of unmitigated knavery.

Mahatun had been down on his luck for some time. Several weeks earlier, misfortune had befallen him when he sneaked into the cattle yard of a certain villager. His expertise in cattlelifting had failed him on this occasion. When he was leaving the yard in the company of a robust bullock, the cattle owner had started giving chase forcing the cattle-lifter to run for his life.

Mahatun had propelled himself at breakneck speed when he had lost his footing and, most grudgingly, undergone the experience of moving his body like a ball. When the “ball” stopped rolling, he had found himself still alive but with a dislocation at the armpit.The result was that he was rendered incapable of performing his abominalble adventures for some time.

There was a rumor that the cattle owner had got a famous priest to recite vas kavi (imprecatory verses) against Mahatun.

The dislocation had not been completely healed when Mahatun thought of outwitting David Mahattaya on this particular night. Hiding behind a hedge, Mahatun and his sidekick Patin had watched the movements of David Mahattaya until the latter had begun his slumber (or “40 winks”).

Thereafter, the two companions had crawled towards the field shed intent on disarming the renowned watchman of the field. With the utmost circumspection, Mahatun had put his hand uner the watchman’s pillow to ferret out the billhook when the slumbering watchman had sensed a “fif” (funny internal feeling). Involuntatily, David Mahattaya had caught hold of the searching hand and wrenched it with all his might. Unable to bear the pain, Mahatun had screamd a pathetic appeal to “let go [his] dislocated hand.”

David Mahattaya had been in no mood to show pity. Perhaps a fleeting thought that this was the right moment to let the world know his bravery, made him inexorable. He had tightened his grip and continued to wrench the hand of his adversary with great ardor.

Goniya Takes Revenge

The hullabaloo caused by effective wrenching had brought to the scene a hefty earthling known in the neighbourhood as Goniya, who happened to be a sworn enemy of Mahatun.This worthy had spared no time to kick up a shindy to pay off old scores. In the battle royale that ensued, Mahatun’s hand was dismembered at the dislocated joint, whereafer Goniya and David Mahattaya dumped the brace of redoubtable fellow-creatures into the muddy field.

When Mahatun and Patin were rolling in the mud trying to come out of the mire, worse misfortune had befallen them. The watchman’s billhook had mercilessly descended upon them riving and rending their respective anatomies. Their cries for mercy had fallen on deaf ears. The billhook had continued to descend upon them even after their souls had departed until they were brutally reduced to a few bloody slices!

It was a double murder.

Crime and Punishment

In the dead of night. Davide Mahattaya came rushing to our place shaking like an aspen leaf and breathlessly muttering, “I killed two. I killed two.”

Grandfather, quite naturally, wished to know whether he meant what he said or he had taken leave of his senses.

David Mahattaya pointed at his billhook, covered with blood, and continued to mutter, “I killed two. I killed two.”

Grandfather realized that David Mahattaya had not taken leave of his senses. So he took out the Grave Crime Register, which was meant to record crimes including cattle thefts that exceeded a loss of Rs. 20 or more, and wrote down particulars regarding the double murder.

As the village headman, Grandfather immediately did his duty by sending word to the Weligama Police about the night’s butchery.The police arrived at the scene of the murder and after preliminary inquiries took David Mahattaya into custody.

The postmortem took place in the presence of a magistrate from the Matara District Court. His Honor was an irascible individual, who took eveybody around into task for disturbing the peace “”…” probably his own peace, in particular. At the trial, the defense counsel argued that the accused committed the murder in self-defense. So His Honor sentenced David Mahattaya to four years rigorous imprisonment.

An Unexpected Revelation          

Even though David Mahattaya was hauled into prison, he must have been pleased as punch for having succeeded in establishing his bravery to the satisfation of the previously skeptical villagers, including his ball and chain. There was no longer a difference of opinion on this matter “”…” at least for some time!

In spite of what the wags said, David Mahattaya had made his mark as a great man in his own way!

After serving only two years of his prison sentence, David Mahattaya was released on parole. On his return to Pathegama from prison, he received much kudos (praise and respect) from the villagers. No longer was he called a braggadocio.

He delighted in giving vivid descriptions of what happened on that fateful night and how he disposed of the two undersirables with his billhook. He was not the sort of man who could be scared even by the devil. Certainly not!

Edifying the admiring villagers with such observations, David Mahattaya used his enviable privilege of surveying the world from a lofty elevation.

Years later, Goniya made a confession that David Mahattaya was innocent of killing Mahatun and Patin, that it was he who committed the butchery and that he got David Mahattaya to take responsibility for the murder on the threat of blowing out his brains otherwise.

But David Mahattaya would have none of that. He insisted that Goniya had nothing to do with the murder. He continued to survey the world from his lofty elevation and declare, “I killed two. I killed two.”

[Note: The original version of this Village Sketch by Arcadius appeared in the CDN Saturday Magazine on 4 Dec. 1965. Arcadius revised it in 2012. All 28 articles in this series will be released this year in a book titled VILLAGE LIFE IN THE “ƒ”¹…”FORTIES: MEMORIES OF A LANKAN EXPATRIATE (Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse).]ury.]

David Mahattaya had no doubt that he was a brave man. Others, including his spouse (or, more aptly, his ball and chain), thought that he was a braggadocio. However, I must concede that this was only a difference of opinion.

Wags said that if the neurons surrounding the cerebrtal cortex of his namarupa were as fertile and healthy as the material manifestation of his rupa (pysical form), David Mahattaya would have certainly made his mark as a great man. He was tall of frame and hoggishly peppy. He had his suave growth of hair tied up in a knot. Like Gen. De Gaulle, the arrogant president of France, he enjoyed the enviable privilege of surveying the world from a lofty elevation. Hence his potential for greatness was indeed very promising.

He described himself as an agriculturist although in the eyes of others he was a farmer. He had applied his agricultural knowhow to develop a large enclosure of a wide variety of vegetables and herbs in the backyard of his residential allotment. During the harvest seasons, his extraordinary farming skills were much in demand by those who owned rice paddies and other agricultural property. He was a deft tiller, an expert plougher, and a renowned watchman of the rice paddies.

His gripe was that so far Providence had given him no chance to establish his bravery. Not that he was lacking it.

Perhaps, going by the story I narrate below, a celestial authority (Providence, perhaps) decided that the time had come to grant the chance that David Mahattaya was waiting for!

 

David Disarms Mahatun

It was the harvesting season. Sheaves of harvested paddy placed into stacks lay around the threshing-floor assigned to each rice-paddy. These stacks often became the targets of the village thieves if the cultivating farmers failed to keep a nocturnal watch.  The watchmen would stay the night in a hut set up near the stacks armed with appropriate tools of defense.  They would sing pel kavi (field shed lyrics) to forget the night’s loneliness and to scare off the thieves and beasts.

My Grandfather, the Ralahamy, had hired David Mahattaya as the pel rakinna (watchman of the harvest) for Muttettuwa, our largest rice paddy. While lodging in the thatched pela (field shed), he had intoned several charming verses or pel kavi to forget the desolation, and innocently thought of having “forty winks.” As was his wont, he had kept his billhoook under the pillow ready to face any eventuality.

In the Stygian darkness, a brace of redoubtable fellow creatures answering to the names of Mahatun and Patin had been keenly watching the renowned watchman of the field.  The means of livelihood of this duo did not necessarily take the form of honest labor.They were adepts in the practice of unmitigated knavery.

Mahatun had been down on his luck for some time. Several weeks earlier, misfortune had befallen him when he sneaked into the cattle yard of a certain villager. His expertise in cattlelifting had failed him on this occasion. When he was leaving the yard in the company of a robust bullock, the cattle owner had started giving chase forcing the cattle-lifter to run for his life.

Mahatun had propelled himself at breakneck speed when he had lost his footing and, most grudgingly, undergone the experience of moving his body like a ball. When the “ball” stopped rolling, he had found himself still alive but with a dislocation at the armpit.The result was that he was rendered incapable of performing his abominalble adventures for some time.

There was a rumor that the cattle owner had got a famous priest to recite vas kavi (imprecatory verses) against Mahatun.

The dislocation had not been completely healed when Mahatun thought of outwitting David Mahattaya on this particular night. Hiding behind a hedge, Mahatun and his sidekick Patin had watched the movements of David Mahattaya until the latter had begun his slumber (or “40 winks”).

Thereafter, the two companions had crawled towards the field shed intent on disarming the renowned watchman of the field. With the utmost circumspection, Mahatun had put his hand uner the watchman’s pillow to ferret out the billhook when the slumbering watchman had sensed a “fif” (funny internal feeling). Involuntatily, David Mahattaya had caught hold of the searching hand and wrenched it with all his might. Unable to bear the pain, Mahatun had screamd a pathetic appeal to “let go [his] dislocated hand.”

David Mahattaya had been in no mood to show pity. Perhaps a fleeting thought that this was the right moment to let the world know his bravery, made him inexorable. He had tightened his grip and continued to wrench the hand of his adversary with great ardor.

Goniya Takes Revenge

The hullabaloo caused by effective wrenching had brought to the scene a hefty earthling known in the neighbourhood as Goniya, who happened to be a sworn enemy of Mahatun.This worthy had spared no time to kick up a shindy to pay off old scores. In the battle royale that ensued, Mahatun’s hand was dismembered at the dislocated joint, whereafer Goniya and David Mahattaya dumped the brace of redoubtable fellow-creatures into the muddy field.

When Mahatun and Patin were rolling in the mud trying to come out of the mire, worse misfortune had befallen them. The watchman’s billhook had mercilessly descended upon them riving and rending their respective anatomies. Their cries for mercy had fallen on deaf ears. The billhook had continued to descend upon them even after their souls had departed until they were brutally reduced to a few bloody slices!

It was a double murder.

Crime and Punishment

In the dead of night. Davide Mahattaya came rushing to our place shaking like an aspen leaf and breathlessly muttering, “I killed two. I killed two.”

Grandfather, quite naturally, wished to know whether he meant what he said or he had taken leave of his senses.

David Mahattaya pointed at his billhook, covered with blood, and continued to mutter, “I killed two. I killed two.”

Grandfather realized that David Mahattaya had not taken leave of his senses. So he took out the Grave Crime Register, which was meant to record crimes including cattle thefts that exceeded a loss of Rs. 20 or more, and wrote down particulars regarding the double murder.

As the village headman, Grandfather immediately did his duty by sending word to the Weligama Police about the night’s butchery.The police arrived at the scene of the murder and after preliminary inquiries took David Mahattaya into custody.

The postmortem took place in the presence of a magistrate from the Matara District Court. His Honor was an irascible individual, who took eveybody around into task for disturbing the peace “”…” probably his own peace, in particular. At the trial, the defense counsel argued that the accused committed the murder in self-defense. So His Honor sentenced David Mahattaya to four years rigorous imprisonment.

An Unexpected Revelation          

Even though David Mahattaya was hauled into prison, he must have been pleased as punch for having succeeded in establishing his bravery to the satisfation of the previously skeptical villagers, including his ball and chain. There was no longer a difference of opinion on this matter “”…” at least for some time!

In spite of what the wags said, David Mahattaya had made his mark as a great man in his own way!

After serving only two years of his prison sentence, David Mahattaya was released on parole. On his return to Pathegama from prison, he received much kudos (praise and respect) from the villagers. No longer was he called a braggadocio.

He delighted in giving vivid descriptions of what happened on that fateful night and how he disposed of the two undersirables with his billhook. He was not the sort of man who could be scared even by the devil. Certainly not!

Edifying the admiring villagers with such observations, David Mahattaya used his enviable privilege of surveying the world from a lofty elevation.

Years later, Goniya made a confession that David Mahattaya was innocent of killing Mahatun and Patin, that it was he who committed the butchery and that he got David Mahattaya to take responsibility for the murder on the threat of blowing out his brains otherwise.

But David Mahattaya would have none of that. He insisted that Goniya had nothing to do with the murder. He continued to survey the world from his lofty elevation and declare, “I killed two. I killed two.”

[Note: The original version of this Village Sketch by Arcadius appeared in the CDN Saturday Magazine on 4 Dec. 1965. Arcadius revised it in 2012. All 28 articles in this series will be released this year in a book titled VILLAGE LIFE IN THE “ƒ”¹…”FORTIES: MEMORIES OF A LANKAN EXPATRIATE (Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse).]ury.]

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