ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42


Tharani Tennakoon, a brilliant young student of Ecole International, Kandy, who touched many lives wrote the following essay for the Commonwealth Essay Competition when she was 14. Sadly Tharani died of brain cancer a few months later aged 15. Had she lived she would have celebrated her 16th birthday on March 15. The essay which won a 'highly commendable' Award at the contest is reproduced here:

By Tharani Tennakoon

I was laughing and running along the paddy fields with my dog, Rover. All around me were acres and acres of lush greenery. It was a blessed sight for us those days. The green foretold that the harvest was going to be good and it meant fun times ahead. My dog jumped onto me and as I fell backwards into the mud, I could see the dazzling golden yellow sun looking down from the bright blue sky, reflecting my happiness.......

I woke up as the train jolted to a stop. I looked around, bewildered. It took me a few seconds to realize that I wasn't in the paddy fields anymore. Just as I felt my head clear, the train started moving again. The compartment I was in wasn't much crowded and there was no one sitting beside me for me to talk to. I turned my head and looked out of the window. The scenery had changed. The land wasn't fresh and green anymore. In fact, it was starting to look parched and dry. The red- brown dust was everywhere. Clouds of it flew up, disturbed, as the train hurtled forward.

A blinking red light caught my eye as we passed a railway crossing. The red colour made me feel uneasy and restless. I never did like that colour. To me, all it symbolized was hate, rage and destruction. I remembered the flames that engulfed our neighbour's house during the riots, when the rebels set fire to it. They leapt up, licking the whole house, casting a reddish glow against the black sky of the starless night. And no one dared to go and put out the flames because that alone would make you their next target.

Turning my thoughts away from that horrifying scene, I observed the people in the compartment. There was a little girl who caught my eye instantly. She had coal-black hair in a cloud around her face, with a pair of playful eyes to match. She was wearing a dress of a light purple shade. Come to think of it, she looked exactly like my mischievous best friend in the school days - Nelum, named after a beautiful flower, pink or white in colour with a hundred petals. The fun we had! I smiled as I thought about those days. Once, she had carefully set up a bucket of purple paint on the door of my room in the hostel we both were in. Fortunately, I spotted it and transferred it onto her door... I can still remember the bemused look in her eyes as she stood in front of me, drenched from head to toe with purple paint, looking quite a sight!

Everyone was staring at me when I opened my eyes. It took me quite a while to realize that I had been laughing out loud. Blushing, I turned away from the stares, closed my eyes and let my thoughts drift away again. What now came into my mind was the time I had high fever and had to spend some time in the hospital. It was an awkward place. Everything was spotless white and gleaming from the ceiling, to the beds, to the floor. Even the doctors were wearing white, as were the nurses. The only thing that broke the monotony was the curtains, which were velvet green. Sometimes, when I felt lonely, I used to look at those curtains and let their colour soothe my eyes and relax my mind. It was a lovely surprise when my friends brought me a lovely bunch of pale pink roses- my favourites- tied with a ribbon of a darker shade. I loved to see the way they contrasted with that clean white wall I set them against.

The scenes of the hospital were drowned by another long-lost memory that surged to the surface at the remembrance of the pink colour. The sun was setting behind the mountains, and determined to leave a memorable effect; it was casting out a lovely pinkish-orange glow, against the golden sky. I let those colours bathe and refresh my soul that day. I have never seen a more beautiful sunset since.

“Toot- toot!". The ear-piercing hoot of the train dragged my unwilling mind back from the past to the present. I willed my eyes to open and looked out. A pleasing sight awaited me. The train was now travelling along the seaside. I could see the dark blue sea sending waves that rose and crashed against the rocks sending out a white, foamy spray. I could see people enjoying themselves on the beach, children flying rainbow coloured kites and playing, having a relaxing time.

I plunged into the icy blue water... I rose up to the surface to gasp for breath and cough out the water I had swallowed. "You just wait," I screamed in mock-rage at my friend, who had taken it into her head that it would be most funny to push unsuspecting me into the water. I climbed out of the pool and rushed after her and eventually gave her a 'tit- for-tat' while everyone else roared with laughter. We had a positively 'whale of a time'.

The greenish tinge on the blue of the far-away water of the ocean also reminded me of the time that I went on a trip to a wild-life sanctuary. I considered myself the luckiest, because I was the only one who caught sight of a peacock with its plumes fully spread out like a multicoloured fan and strutting about pompously. It was too bad that it didn't drop one of its colourfully printed, blue-green feathers for me as a keepsake! The most awing thing spotted during that trip was a herd of elephants. We could see that they had just enjoyed a mud bath since their usually grey skins were coated with a layer of brown.

Grey, the thought of that colour brought with it a feeling of sadness. There came into my mind, a picture of the grey stone laid on the spot where I had to bury my most dearest and faithful friend- my dog- Rover. I can still feel hot tears enter my eyes as I think of him. Once a month, I would always take a single pink rose and lay it gently on that stone.

That rose reminded me of the first room I stayed in with my friend. It was painted pink, my favourite colour. My wardrobe was filled with clothes in all shades of pink - pink blouses, pink skirts, pink frocks, with all sorts of jewellery to match. 'Pink wardrobe' was what my friends called it.

I came out of my dream world as the train stopped at a signal light. It was beginning to get dark outside. I looked at my watch. It was seven o' clock. My journey would end soon. The compartment was almost empty. I got up, pulled my travelling bag out of the slot and got ready to leave the train. Colourful lights were coming on in the city. It reminded me of the costume party we had on our last day of school. It looked as if all the colours of the rainbow and all the flowers in the gardens had come down to our hall that night. But the memory of the 'Kandy Perehara' topped it all. The dancing orange flames of the torches, the gold, bronze and cultural flags, the elephants dressed in all colours with bright little lights and the swirling dancers with colourful dresses, were sights I would never forget.

In the huge, busy city I was heading for, to start my university life, there would be no time to relive old, sweet memories. As the train pulled in at the station, I closed the colourful scrapbook of precious memories of my mind. I did not feel sad because I knew that if I needed it again it would always readily open and help me to appreciate my colourful life.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.