The slanting rays of the sun had already started to touch Sirimal through the opened windows of his room. Freshened and motivated by the mellifluous chirping of birds, he woke up and got ready to go to school to face the moment on which he had been counting his fingers. He ran along the footpath crossing the log that had been laid across the blue canal which reflected his figure until the still waters broke into ripples with the attack of a stone or two thrown by him. He derived immense pleasure in walking along the red-earthen cycle track that ran parallel to the beds of the field, strenuously managing to balance himself. As he entered the school premises, he demonstrated a bit of wavering but got excited to find his principal wearing a broad smile on his face.
“Sirimal, we are proud of you putha, you have obtained nine ‘A’ s.”
Sirimal’s mouth fell open with wonder and exuberance. Suddenly, he awoke from his dumbfounded state and went down on his knees to worship the principal. Out of trance, he rushed back home at an unprecedented speed. Brimming with happiness, he gave the message to his mother. Heart-warming tears welled out of her eyes reflecting the innocent happiness she generated through the success of her son. In a voice mixed with both pain and pleasure, she revealed her heart.
“Putha, if your father were here with us, he would be much happier than me.”
She embraced her son with a heart swelled with motherly love.
The hope of studying in a leading school in the city was growing stronger in his mind. At first his mother didn’t show an interest in allowing her beloved son to separate from her and live in the city alone. But it was Sirimal’s teachers who had advised his mother not to repent about her son leaving her, if she expected his future success. The principal as well as the academic staff of his school had extended their whole-hearted assistance to the poor boy in his hour of need by making the necessary arrangements for him to enter the new school.
Amidst the blessings of everyone, on that particular day, the mother and the son went to the glamorous city where they found his new school, a gigantic one filled with impressive and conducive buildings. Sirimal worshipped his new principal and class teacher with the sheaf of betel that his mother had given him. Then came the most sorrowful situation. Both the mother and the son appeared to be deeply moved by the grief of parting. She laboriously endured the sorrow and left her son kissing him with the words, “May the Triple Gem bless you!”
Sirimal resided at a boarding house which was situated at close proximity to his new school. Time passed by. Gradually, he got familiar with the hustle and bustle of the city which never seemed to diminish except getting aggravated with all its ear-piercing noises coming from the annoying traffic jam. With the anticipation of becoming a doctor, he followed his A/L s in the Science stream. Sirimal went on learning well, and his name was always in the list of those who achieved the top positions in the classroom. In addition, Sirimal was successful in clicking a strong friendship with almost all his classmates and even his teachers sympathized with him.
A band of loungers, morally rotten, and surrounded by the smoke curling up from their cigars, were always haunting Sirimal’s way to the school and his boarding house. Several times they tried to speak with him, but Sirimal was fed up with their behavioural pattern tortured by the artificialities of modern living. One day, the loafers centred Sirimal and gave him a tall lecture based on their narrow attitudes towards the fun of life gained through drugs. A strong, severe young man with long, curled, and dyed hair, who seemed to be the leader in the group came in front of Sirimal and puffed up some poisonous fumes into the air from his cigarette. He started to speak.
“Malli, I think you are from a village!”
Sirimal tried to go away from them, but in vain and they continued.
“Listen to us Malli, we are your friends, don’t be frightened, we are going to teach you how to be mod and move with the times. Don’t you like to be in fashion? You know, drugs are the symbol of manhood. Try a cigarette and you will be amazed to find yourself on the top of the world.”
Sirimal expressed dislike, but the shrewd wicked idlers furthered their unscrupulous task of tempting the innocent boy.
“Where is your masculinity? You are going to school? No, it is a wretched place. Get together with us to enjoy your life. You can eat well, you can dress well, and you can live happily.”
Many a day they made a great effort to entice Sirimal in this way. Their pattern of talking and their enjoyment of life started to draw Sirimal’s attention. The words they uttered were crisscrossing hither and thither in his unspoilt mind. Caught in a dilemma, his heart seemed to be attracted by the pieces of strange and motivating talks given by these roughs. Yes, he had eventually taken the frightening decision of joining them who gave him a hero’s welcome. First, they offered him a cigarette and he was forced to take it. Sirimal who had never even touched one earlier, with some trepidation and shivering fingers, took it while having an ecstatic cough. Since that day he yearned to do it repeatedly, and he became a permanent drug addict before long. Starting from a cigarette, he went to the extent of taking even the most dangerous drugs such as hashish and opium under their influence. When the group of addicts finished their stocks of drugs, they got engaged in some delinquent acts to earn the money with which to buy their next stock. The simple village boy, who was once untouched by such repulsive immoralities, had deteriorated so far as to commit sexual misconduct with prostitutes having been soothed by drugs. Thus, degeneration followed him like a shadow.
He demonstrated poor attendance at school, declined in academic performance, and lost interest in games and studies. Later on, he was branded as one of the most frivolous and weakest students in the class. The aunt who was the owner of the boarding house sent several messages to his mother informing her about the sudden transformation of her son into a drug addict. Sirimal’s mother was lost in a whirlpool of grievous tears that broke her heart like a huge wave clashing the rocks that lie on the coast. The distressing and depressing pressure had a great impact on her inner equilibrium. Her motherly heart had no room for the endurance of such a hard blow, and so she soon faced an untimely death due to a heart attack.
Sirimal was denied access to attend his mother’s funeral because the villagers and his relatives thought that the sinful Sirimal had been a curse in his mother’s life.
The only person who was bothered about Sirimal was his loving mother. Sometimes, he had refused to do the things that his idle friends asked him to do, mentioning his mother. Thus, he was compelled to give up schooling and come to live with them because his mother was no more there to repent about him.
So, Sirimal did it. The shack of the ruffians was like a veritable hell with their drunken quarrels. One night, Sirimal was driven mad by an array of horrible nightmares that rushed in the form of demonic elements moving skittishly before his eyes. Sirimal was so excited and disturbed that he took a knife and committed wounds on himself. It did not take so long and his whole body was in a pool of blood within several minutes. The ill-fated boy was soon hospitalized. The doctor claimed that some drug addicts are badly pressurized by terrible nightmares and ultimately they cause injury to themselves because they are not in control of their faculties. This is what happened to Sirimal too, and his condition was incurable because his chest was severely injured with knife cuts. There he was lying like a long dried stick. Sirimal was coming to understand the danger of his drug habit. He found it quite impossible to come to terms with the mental injury caused by the thought that he was the cause of the ruination of his cherished mother. His dream of becoming a doctor was shattered to bits. Sirimal passed the last few days of his life with great mental frustration and physical suffering, desiring to have the warmness that he once enjoyed in the bosom of his mother. Yet, he knew it well that it could never be experienced once again.
The crucial night arrived. Dangerous nightmares, horrifying and terrifying, began to scare him. A whole host of monsters and devils were penetrating through his eyes. Finding it difficult to grapple with the evil figures, he quarreled with himself. The medical instruments attached to his body were all removed, including the oxygen mask. So, his heart was aching in suffocation which gradually snatched his life away from him.
As he breathed his last, something similar to a cigarette emerged from his pocket and fell to the floor.