Posted on July 13th, 2012


Ghosakaya, the loudmouthed, was not a big man. He talked big though. A swarthy man with graying hair tied in a small knot, he became famous for his propensity for Bacchanalian habits.

Equally famous was his tone of voice. Apparently, he had an incredible degree of lungpower. It was the general belief that he was not inclined to make a distinction between softness and loudness when he conveyed his thoughts verbally. Or he could not. Irrespective of the time, place, or circumstance, he was invariably sonorous. Even in his bed!

Whenever he opened his oral cavity, he made the rafters ring, metaphorically speaking, with no effort at all. The ancient nobleman, Ghosaka Sitano, had been endowed with a similar power. The villagers, who had a fair knowledge of Buddhist literature, did not fail to see the similarity and honor their contemporary with the distinguished name of his ancient counterpart.

Moreover, a Buddhist parable refers to a deity called Ghosaka (he of the voice) who accompanied the private Buddha to protect him from wild beasts by making a loud noise. In the World of the 33 Gods, when he talked with the other deities, the sound of his voice echoed and reechoed through the entire domain of the gods because of the past practice of making loud noise. Thus, Ghosakaya of Pathegama did not feel disparaged by his nickname because he was in the distinguished company of a deity.

Those who had an intimate knowledge of the personal history of Ghosakaya attributed his sonority to a circumstance directly involving his marriage. Because he showed no willingness to eschew these virtues, he eventually discovered that he could not make his ends meet. Perhaps he thought of a widowƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s cruse (an unending source) that would enable him to carry on his riotous living until he reached the end of his mortal tether.

But let alone a widowƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s cruse, he could not find even a widow to suit his design. This was probably the reason that directed his attention to a spinster who lived at Gonadeniya. She was partially deaf and dumb, neither pleasing nor exciting. She was rather old, too. No eligible bachelor thought of this unfortunate woman.

Except Ghosakaya! He, no doubt, thought of her in terms of her property value. She owned a tiled house and about 1.6 hectares (four acres) of land. She was reputed to have some money as well.

Ghosakaya sent a proposal and married her, even though it was well known that he did not have an iota of affection for her. Nor was it a secret that he had a couple of paramours. In fact, Ghosakaya had to raise his voice whenever he had to tell anything to his wife because she was hard of hearing. This, naturally, he had to do every day. Eventually, it came to the stage that he could not speak with anybody without being sonorous.

At the time that this ideal matrimony took place, Ghosakaya had been a protƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚©gƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚© of my grandfather, the powerful village headman, who was also an expert gambler and tippler. That was the time when somebody had to carry a pot of toddy and follow Grandfather wherever he went from one gambling spot to another and from one resting place to another. This duty had been assigned to Ghosakaya for a period of time.

Both of them gambled together and tippled together. The medieval satirist who observed that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes togetherƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ was absolutely right. On nights when the moon shone brightly, Ghosakaya would take a drop too much and ramble along the road singing a quatrain at the top of his voice. One could not say whether it was alto, contralto, or something else.

He used to come to our place fairly often. Probably he considered it a nuisance to put on a shirt or singlet. But he always carried a folded span cloth on his shoulder. Susila, our housemaid, was utterly scared of him. She never came out of the kitchen when he was present. Though, as far as I knew, he had done nothing to scare her.

The villagers called his wife Goluwa (dumb person). Obviously, her married life was not a happy one. She used to complain in sign language about her wayward husband and his nefarious activities. But, poor woman, she could not tongue-lash her husband whatever mischief he did. Even when she tried, Ghosakaya would rend the air asserting that Goluwa was only driveling. He intended that such rending would drown her impaired voice, even though everybody knew her grievance was genuine.

When she wanted to express her disdain, she would sputter, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Apune balla ballaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ by which she meant that Apune behaved like a dog. Apune was the word she used to refer to her husband.

There was a time when every able-bodied man in the village had to pay a capitation tax of one-and-a-half rupees a year or give his services free on two days for repairing roads. Ghosakaya, the loudmouthed, vowed that he would defy this slavish law. He did, and he was summoned to the rural court.

The president of the rural court was blind in one eye. Because his blind eye was completely chalky, people used to call him Kirikana. Ghosakaya was found guilty of disobeying the law whereupon the president ordered him to pay a fine. While paying the fine most grudgingly, he had seen a person known to him in the court and commented, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Kirikana fined me.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Because he could not speak without being sonorous, this aspersion had reached the ears of the president himself, who ordered him to pay a bigger fine for contempt of court.

This had not perturbed Ghosakaya at all. He had paid that fine as well with the affirmation, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Kirikana KirkanamaiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (Kirikana is always Kirikana). Raging with anger, the disparaged president imposed on Ghosakaya the maximum fine that the law had authorized him to impose on a charge for contempt of court.

Having paid the maximum fine, Ghosakaya returned home victoriously. He had defied the slavish law in spite of the fact that he had to give the state a far bigger sum of money than what he was expected to pay in the form of a capitation tax.

Several years later, he was involved in a border dispute with his neighbor, Beti Mudalali (midget entrepreneur) of Ihalakoratuwa. They became archenemies, and border clashes became a regular occurrence.

The loudmouth threatened to assault his neighbor on numerous occasions. One day, he got ready to carry out his threat, having guzzled a potion of toddy, and marked his time to meet his rival face-to-face.

It had been a gloomy night. When he finally saw Beti Mudalali coming down the road, Ghosakaya folded his sarong at the knee and, assuming his best fighting mood, approached his adversary, bellowing forth a round of unadulterated abuse.

But he had not been able to approach him too close when he had fallen into a weed-covered ditch and sprained his leg. Thus while his adversary went home unharmed, Ghosakaya had to go home screaming and suffering for his misadventure.

The border dispute was taken to the district courts. Beti Mudalali never returned to the village after the day he went to Matara to attend this case. No one knew what happened to him thereafter. But the border dispute did not end there. It developed into a bigger land dispute. The court ruling was that Ghosakaya had no right to occupy Gonadeniya.

So it was quite late in his life that Ghosakaya realized that his wife, Goluwa, had no property at all, neither the tiled house nor the four acres of land. Probably he no longer thought of her in terms of her property value. Goluwa had borne him a couple of children, one of whom was a mute boy. With his family, Ghosakaya went to live in Ihalaowita.

He had a few children by his paramours as well. I now understand that Susila was one of them. I also understand the reason why she never came out of the kitchen when Ghosakaya was present at our place.


[Note: The original version of this Village Sketch by Arcadius appeared in the Daily News Magazine on 3 Feb. 1966. Arcadius revised it in 2012. All of the 28 stories in this series will appear in a book titled ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Village Life in the Forties: Memories of a Lankan ExpatriateƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ that iUniverse (Bloomington, Indiana) will release later in 2012. The iUniverse Editorial Board gave it the EditorƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Choice award this week.]

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