Twelve year old Sena wanted to win the Vesak lantern competition. He was excited when he heard that his school was judging the lantern competition. It was already the first week in May. He was glad he had already collected thin
bamboo branches with Indrani, his younger sister. He had also split some of them into thin long strips to make the frames for the lanterns.
He smiled as he thought of his idea to have peach coloured lanterns with peach coloured decorations. It was to Indrani he had shown a little star when dusk was turning into night time. The star was a little away from the bright evening star.
'Look nangi, look at the star'.
'Look to the left, a little away from the big star, the evening star.'
'Yes, yes I can see it now.'
'Isn't it peach in colour?''Peach?'
'Yes, keep looking at it for some time.'
'You are right aiya, now its twinkling at us in peach.'
'I've been looking out for it for a few evenings and when I see it I feel happy.'
'I'll call it Sena aiya's peach .'
They were standing on a hillock with a view of the sea and then they both ran to the house. Their father was a fisherman. Sena and Indrani used to watch the boats go out to sea from
Sena's friend Saman 's older brother worked in a stationery and book shop. The big boy used to always get Sena coloured paper at Vesak time as he knew Sena was good with art work. This time, Sena asked whether he could get him peach coloured tissue and bristol paper with some red cellophane paper too. Sena had already collected gum and paste and other little decorations for his project.
A few days later when Sena and sister came home after school, he had his meal, attended to some chores and ran off to Saman's place. Saman knew why Sena had come, smiled at him and ran inside and brought two big bags for him.
'Thanks Saman, please thank loku aiya too,' beamed Sena.
'I'll come over another day to help you with the lanterns.'
'Please do,' replied Sena and ran off.
At home, Sena
gathered all his materials for the lanterns and sat down to work and work he did. With the bamboo he had already cut, he made the frame for a big lantern and four small ones. Next, he got two very long strips of thin bamboo and as he held the strips across, they arched as the bamboos are flexible.
Then, with Indrani's help, he cut out a number of
flowers on the Bristol board. Similarly, he cut out the peach tissue and red
cellophane too. Each flower had three layers with a
cellophane in the middle. He cut a hole in the middle of the flowers to thread the flowers on the long strips of bamboo.
Every afternoon he and Indrani worked
diligently. Sometimes, Saman joined them and all three worked together. Later in the week, when they threaded one long
bamboo strip with the
flowers and Sena held it high and across, Indrani clapped and jumped up and down.
'Sena aiya, it's soooo
pretty', she said.
Next, he began to paste the peach coloured tissue on the big lantern frame.
Soon, it was nearing the Vesak day and by now he had threaded the other long bamboo strip with the
flowers and he had pasted the small lanterns and got the frills for the lantern ready. Then, he told nangi to get on top of the table and he showed her how to hold the flower
bamboo strips in the middle. He brought the big peach coloured lantern and held it hanging from the mid joint.
'Nangi, there'll be four little lanterns hanging at the flower stick ends too.'
'Oh! Sena aiya it's so
pretty. You will surely win the first prize.'
'Thanks nangi. You should be a judge.' Sena replied and laughed. 'Also nangi, Saman's aiya told me that he will help me light the flowers and the lanterns with little electric lights.
At dinner that night, Thaththa said, 'Sena
tomorrow will be the last fishing night before the Vesak holidays. You could join us. '
'I would like that very much.' Sena answered. He was happy as so many
exciting things were
' Why cant I go too?' nangi piped in.
'Pooh!, a girl! Women don't go out to sea.'
'But, why not?'
'Why not? Why not? Enough of this, Indrani, please clear the table,' said Amma sternly’.
Next evening, they all went to the beach to see Thaththa and Sena go out to sea. Very late in the night there was a storm. Indrani slept through it all. Amma was awake.
following morning, very early, there was
pandemonium on the beach. Amma and Indrani too ran there. Thaththa and Sena's boat hadn't come back. There were other fishermen too in that boat.
families were anxious and agitated. The men on the other boats that had arrived were anxious too. Some went to report to the naval office. They would send out a motor boat with a search crew immediately.
Then, it was Vesak day and Saman took Sena's lantern and decorations to display them with his
brother's help. It was a treat to look at it, all lit up on the full moon night. When the school judges came around, it was no
surprise that Sena's lantern won the first prize.
Saman informed Indrani that she would have to go later, to receive the prize. Amma cried when she heard the news.
Indrani ran in the night to the hillock and looked at the peach star and implored.
'Peach star, peach star, You are Sena aiya's friendly star. Please look after the lost boat people and bring them safe to us.'