By Gamini Weerakoon -
Avurudu Kumaraya is Sri Lanka’s eternal prince charming. Withered old grannies get misty- eyed reminiscing their salad days when they awaited the arrival of the Avurudu Kumaraya during the Avurudu festivities. He arrives in a golden horse and carriage, wearing the majestic gold crown, decked in gold, bare bodied but with a riot of gold ornaments adorning his chest and hands and his ankles too.
This non ageing masculine Adonis roams the country secretively flirting, luring, seducing etc., etc., Lankan lasses as they go up and down on their swings hung on Kadju Puhulang trees.
There are some cynics who do not believe in the Avurudu Kumaraya. To these doubters our question is: Why are thousands – if not millions – of our Lankan lasses this week fighting it out in each village to be chosen this year’s Avurudu Kumari of their village?
Stretched out in our Hansi Puttuwa with a copy of the LLRC report on our chest but our thoughts straying to past Avurudas, we realised that the Avurudu Kumaraya has not visited us for the past two years. Has he been bought up by international NGOs, bribed by foreign powers, abducted by New Delhi? Such thoughts were straying across our mind while we were nodding into a pre-afternoon nap when the banging on our gate woke us up rather rudely. We dragged our feet to the gate. Lo and behold it was Avurudu! He was getting out of a taxi. This guy has an air of regal nonchalance about him. Doesn’t await common greetings, invitations etc. ‘Hullo, Hullo’, he said, and strode into out sitting room and stretched himself on our Kavichchiya gracefully adjusting his Chinese silk sarong quite in contrast to the tucking up done by Vermin down Kiributhgoda way.
Our opening gambit to our family friend for generations was: Why did he not honour us with a visit in the last two years? Well, the intention was there but his last two visits were hectic. Sri Lanka was celebrating the ‘historic victory’ and even after 11 months of the event he was whisked away from one Kiributh and Kavun party to another till he ran out of time. When he arrived the second year, the ‘victory celebrations’ were continuing and it went on and on and he had no option but to be hijacked from one celebration to the other’. This time the celebratory victories seemed to have abated with Sri Lanka having declared war on the United States and the United Nations.
We then came to the all important question: ‘ What has happened to your golden carriage and the four magnificent white steeds with their flowing manes?’
Playing the LP
Avurudu explained. He had travelled across the seas in his golden carriage drawn by this lovable steeds, come over the American Embassy, crossed Galle Road and landed on the lawns of Temple Trees. The moment he landed, the Big Boss came running out tugging his red shawl, welcomed him with open arms and took him to the interior of the presidential palace. The Big Boss was in a talkative mood, blackguarding the Yanks, UN and EU while playing his long playing record on the Hambantota Port, air port, and the highway when he was told that there was a call from Washington.
‘Mung danne neddhe may Avurudu kale’, he had muttered and excused himself promising to return soon. Then P.B. (Pass the Buck) Jayasundere and Cabaralal had come in looking battered and bashed. It is a tough time; export income is dropping drastically and imports are increasing dramatically, fuel prices shooting up and the dollar and Euro are rising and falling like Bandakka. The public was on the streets rioting and demanding higher salaries. Fortunately Geneva came and our side resorted to the rent-a-mob strategy to support our leader and burn effigies of Hillary and Barack.
‘We need gold reserves and you should, as a staunch friend of Sri Lanka give us your gold carriage,’ pleaded Cabaralal. It will stabilise the currency and news that we have got your carriage will end investor confidence sky high.
Golden carriage gone
Avurudu had said that his golden carriage was state property and had to be returned. To which the Big Boss had assured it will be done as soon as the billion dollar loan from China was received. ‘And so I gave them the carriage on the promise that my horses will be looked after. But how will I travel in Sri Lanka without my vehicle?’ I asked.
‘You will have the best motorised chariots in the world: Super Mercedes, BMWs bullet proof including the tyres, everything you desire will be there inside these motorised chariots, I was assured and the Big Boss rang up his transportation manager immediately.
Sons and brothers
There seemed to be some problem and the Big Boss appeared to bedeveloping apoplexy. ‘What no Mercedes or BMWs?’ I heard him screaming.
‘I have only three sons and there are much more of those models in the garage. Who? My brothers? They too had taken the cars out. Ah, Avurudu season—gone to the villages, So not one vehicle in the garage save mine? Seize the best available car of a minister and send it to me immediately… What the ministers have gone abroad or to their villages, their children have hijacked official cars? I will sack the whole lot….’ he thundered.
To cut the long story short he said it ended with him being provided with a budget taxi.
Scotch and DD
Avurudu is a thirsty type, even before noon he wants a swig. ‘Get the Scotch out,’ he called.
Now we had a problem. We explained to Avurudu. ‘The sons of the nouveau riche – the new rich—drink like fish the best of liquors. Shortly before the Avuruda there was not a bottle of duty free whisky at Kollupitiya junction. Sons of ministers and other riff-raff had swiped all the Scotch and brandy off Kollupitiya and even the super markets. I sent my kolla to a Dirty Harry’s joint near my abode and managed two bottles of Double Distilled, I said, producing them rather sheepishly.
Avurudu was not amused. ‘I’ll chase it with ice and soda,’ he declared tersely.
Sorry, I said, once again. No ice, there was a power cut and the ice has melted away. We feared our guest might walk out but the decent fellow didn’t.
‘OK get me iced Soda at least,’ he declared.
I shivered. My feeling was that there was no soda in the house. But my ever loving rose to the occasion. She had been an admirer of Avurudu in ‘them days’ and been listening to our conversation. She walked in with the soda with all smiles for Avurudu. ‘I kept the soda in case one like you dropped in’, she said and added: ‘I can’t keep any soda or any drinks. He drinks them all’. Avurudu in sheer anger poured a double Double Distilled (DD) topped it up with soda and gulped in down. This was not the way to drink DD but he repeated the procedure soon. I managed just one drink of the DD during this period. My guest had now hit almost the bottom and asked me whether I did not mind him giving a drink to the budget taxi driver. He poured out the remainder which was a ‘bumper’ and the driver hooked it at ease over the ropes like Mahela Jayewardene.
‘I want to go home straight in this taxi, Avurudu declared and hoped the road was long enough as a runway for the taxi to take off. ‘Thanks Avurudu. Take care and come again,’ we said. Avurudu glared: Come again? To this Paradise, this Miracle of Asia which swiped my golden carriage, and has no Scotch, ice, or soda? And got into the taxi. The budget taxi roared down the road and disappeared in a cloud of dust. Take care Avurudu, take the airways and not the highways, they are dangerous, we muttered again even though he may not have heard us. He is our friend.(Sunday Leader)