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Indra and Diana were trapped—if that is the right word for what could well be described as the safest and most peaceful spot in the country—in a wild life reserve during the troubles. They had been on one of their regular visits to Phyllis who, though she adored her massive house and her little village, grew quite bored with it at times and, whenever she could, bundled any house guests available into her land rover to make an Expedition. These were often to the sanctuaries, but as often as not they were simpler meanderings towards and not towards some distant and not very vital goal, designed primarily for the enjoyment of the countryside, and the birds and the trees and the flowers. At the back of the vehicle, amidst pots and pans and provisions, were two village belles (usually chosen by lot since demand for places on these trips was intense) to do any wayside cooking and serving required, and either with them or on the roof-rack, depending upon the claims of modesty and their ages and his, was a boy of all work to set up deckchairs and build fires and do any other odd jobs necessary. Though Phyllis could do without a great many things, there were certain comforts she thought basic; and, even if Diana occasionally worried about the almost feudal character of these expeditions, to Indra they were blissful.

The troubles rocking the rest of the country indeed scarcely impinged upon them in their rural retreat, hearing about them as they did only from isolated trackers met on the paths or fitfully over the carefully censored and furiously crackling radio. They did however have a cause for worry in that the boy they had brought with them was Tamil. This was largely Indra’s responsibility and, if ever Diana came near to criticizing Indra’s initiatives, it was on this occasion.


Krishna was the son of Phyllis’ ancient gardener and had grown up within the grounds of the House; but a few months before he had gone off for ever along with his older sister and her husband to the new colonies that were being established in Vavuniya, in the bare and derelict lands between the Tamil north and the Sinhalese to the south. He had however found the life there dull and the work heavy, and had complained bitterly to Phyllis in several letters. His father nevertheless said firmly that the boy ought to settle down to being a landed proprietor, on however small a scale, and though Phyllis had been told that his views were governed by the fact that he had been given quite a large sum of money when the boy was taken away by the people setting up the colony, she felt that she ought not to interfere. But Indra had been very determined on hearing of the situation during his last visit, and had even suggested a trip to the area so that the boy could be rescued. So here he was with them now, deep down in the farthest south of the island, with many miles to travel through hostile country before they reached refuge in the Village; and, though he could speak Sinhalese, his accent was bound to give him away, if he were subjected to any rigorous and aggressive test.

About Krishna, as it turned out, they need not have worried. Their driver had a profound distaste for Tamils in general, but also a tremendous loyalty to Phyllis’ whole household, so he was convinced that Krishna did not really count. He swore violently accordingly at anyone who tried to stop them en route to see if there were any Tamils in the vehicle, and he carried such conviction that they got through unscathed. This was in spite of the fact that the day on which they set out, thinking that things had now calmed down, was that on which the troubles spread to the hills and erupted in the towns through which they had to pass.

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