ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday January 6, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 32

Happy to be together at last, but home a distant dream

~ A story from the tsunami

By Chandrani Fernando

Sarath was 19 years old and Chandrika 17. They were in love and wanted to build a house before marrying the following year. Sarath, a furniture contractor, obtained a bank loan and bought a truck so that he could supply desks, chairs and other furniture to schools. Sarath and Chandrika were in Ahangama.

It was Unduvap full moon day and Sarath went to Chandrika’s home by 7.30 a.m. Chandrika’s mother and sister had gone to the temple to observe sil. Chandrika was planning to take the mid-day alms to the temple.

Sarath put on the radio and heard a monk preaching a sermon. Chandrika who was scraping coconut to prepare the food for the alms-giving heard a strange sound. She and Sarath rushed to the backyard and gazed at the sea.

There were no waves. The water was deadly still. A huge wave had already destroyed the bathroom at the rear of Chandrika’s home. Both looked at the gardens of their neighbours and saw to their horror that most buildings near the sea had suffered the same fate of the bathroom.

They closed the kitchen door and went inside. The radio had stopped. Sarath, kept a watchful eye on the sea through the window, sensing that some calamity was about to happen. “Collect your jewellery and the bank pass book and nothing else,” he told Chandrika hurriedly. He saw small fish strewn along the beach and as he watched in morbid fascination, a huge wave rushed up the beach.

The whole village was in chaos. Everybody was running for their lives. With the stream of humanity, crying and weeping, they made their way to the temple, where they found Chandrika’s mother and sister. It was December 26, 2004 -- the day the tsunami devastated the land. It was a fearful night for all those who were caught in the tsunami.

The following day, making their way past bodies and rubble, Sarath and Chandrika found the truck entangled in a Wetakeiya tree. Chandrika’s home was destroyed. Three years after the tsunami, they will be marrying soon. But hopes for even a tiny home are just a distant dream.

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