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Monthly Story, December 2021


Image → @ekrulila

Rasa → Śṛṅgāraḥ (शृङ्गारः): Romance, Love, attractiveness. Presiding deity: Vishnu. → Adbhutam (अद्भुतं): Wonder, amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma

Archetype → Everyperson



Anura shuffled the newspaper, disgruntled at the sound of high-pitched laughter coming from his daughter Nimali’s room. Nimali was having friends from her hairstyling course over. Their shrieking rang through the hallway, almost visibly jarring the tranquil incense smoke from Anura’s Buddha shrine, and scratched his usually smooth Sunday morning. Anura had to answer the doorbell thrice that morning, while the Sunday radio sermon was on, admitting girl after girl—each with more extravagant hair—into his house. So, when the bell rang for the fourth time that morning, a very cross Anura walked out muttering under his breath. As soon as he opened the door, Nimali’s feisty pomeranian Minchi hurled itself at him delightedly. He called Nimali while trying to contain the frenzied animal, but she didn’t come. The bell rang again. Holding the dog down, Anura called his wife. But, the dog leapt up to his chest, making two streaks of mud on his crisp white, ironed shirt. The bell rang again. Within the span of the fifteen seconds that it took Anura to make it to the gate while fighting off the dog, the bell rang twice more. Uncharacteristically angered, Anura shouted at whoever was outside the gate; his voice sounded oddly like the young girls’ high-pitched shrieking. When he finally flung the gate open, with two distinct lines of dirt down his shirt and an excited dog bouncing on his side, Anura was taken aback. Instead of an extravagant haired girl, there stood two monks.

Anura had never seen these monks before; He was the chief-donor of the village temple and knew each monk personally, and even had some on Whatsapp. Who were these two? One monk was round with a beaming face. The other monk was thin and tall, with an expressionless face. The round monk politely asked if they could come in. Anura distantly felt his brain switch on an automated programme for the code of conduct when dealing with monks—it was practised to perfection in his lifetime as the third generational link of a family that proudly held on to the village temple’s chief donorship. His hands came together unthinkingly in the worship gesture, and his mouth blurted out courtesy words. He backed into the garden, giving way to the monks to come, and picked up the dog to keep it from snapping at the trailing orange robes. Anura slowly backed into the house, careful to not turn his back to the monks (which is disrespectful, as his grandfather taught).

Anura let the monks in, threw the dog unceremoniously into Nimali’s room and closed the door. He asked the monks to spare him a second and started backing towards the linen cabinet for two white sheets. It was customary to cover seats in clean fabric before offering them to a monk. But, there were two white sheets already hanging off a living room chair. Anura grabbed them, relieved at the unexpected convenience. He covered the chairs while making courteous chit-chat. The monks said they travelled from a rural monastery past Kirinda. Anura told the monks how their village temple was built by his grandfather. As the monks took their seats, Anura realised that the two white sheets were, in fact, covered in hairs—probably used by Nimali and friends for trimming. Watching the orange robes pick up tufts of brown and bleached blonde hair, Anura could only squeeze his hands into anxious fists. But, the monks seemed oblivious. The round, smiling monk explained how it cost them a lot to develop their rural monastery. His voice was sweet and melodic—what you call a sing-song voice perfect for sermons, Anura observed. The thin, expressionless monk explained how supporting those who walk the path of truth, like themselves, is a merit transcending lifetimes. Anura nodded, impressed at how the monk displayed absolutely no emotion—a mark of a man in control of the mind, he thought. Eager to make up for the sin of blonde hairs on orange robes, Anura pulled out two five-thousand rupee notes from his wallet. Just as he handed the money to the beaming round monk, a raucous hoot of laughter erupted through the cracks of Nimali’s door. Anura backed into Nimali’s room, opened her door and hissed at the girls. They were applying blue eyeshadow on Minchi the pomeranian and had braided its long fur into neat rows. Sensing its chance to escape, the dog scurried between Anura’s legs and dashed out through the front door.

Seeing the monks get up to leave, Anura felt determined to reaffirm his good Buddhist lineage. He handed the monks his business card, volunteering to crowdsource at least a hundred thousand rupees to develop their monastery. Outside the door, one and a half pairs of monks’ slippers waited with teeth marks all over. Anura knew exactly what had happened to the missing one. He walked back into the house wordlessly and returned with another five thousand rupee note; He offered it and his own rubber flip-flops so that one monk wouldn’t have to go slipper-shopping barefoot. The thin, expressionless monk put on Anura’s slippers, blessing him. The round, smiling monk took the money saying that they wouldn’t have accepted it if it wasn’t for having to take the bus all the way back to Gampaha.

‘Gampaha? Didn’t they say they’re from Kirinda?’Anura heard a voice—that sounded a lot like his wife’s—asking in his head.

Anura watched the monks leave through the gate which had been left open all this time, forgotten. He stared at the gate hanging wide open, moving slightly in the wind. After a few quiet seconds alone, Anura walked slowly across the garden. He stepped over the open gate. Priyani—his neighbour returning from the corner store with some laundry powder—nodded her head quizzically at Anura. She laughingly asked why he looked as if he ate something very sour. Anura smiled a faint smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Turning his gaze to the street, Anura saw the monks get into a taxi, and take off. Anura’s slipperless feet burnt from the heat of the tropic sun on asphalt. As the taxi disappeared at the bend, Minchi the pomeranian appeared running down the street with eyeshadow, braids and carrying a slipper in its mouth.


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