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acts-of-faithJohn too had a very difficult time during these three momentous days. Though on the Monday morning he had declared a holiday and left his office and sought shelter with Tom, he heard later on in the day that a throng of irate entrepreneurs had stormed the Ministry in the afternoon and, finding only watchers there, slaughtered them regardless of race and religion and then set fire to the building. In the afternoon too there had been a concerted attack on his house, though as it happened the armed forces specially stationed there had been able to disperse it, with a few well-timed shots, not all of them into the air. His family had been almost hysterical at these developments, and his eldest daughter who had been sent home, but who still for some reason cherished a fondness for her erstwhile husband who had become a Muslim and divorced her, belaboured John for not having become a Muslim as well. It seemed to her evident after Luke’s speech that all those who were not Muslims would be suspected of being Socialists.

Shortly after the attacks, both from outside and indoors, had subsided, there came Matthew’s performance on television. This roused John’s daughter to a further onslaught on him, this time because he belonged to a government that was intent on persecuting the minorities, and especially businessmen who had never harmed anyone but only made money of which the government was showing itself indecently jealous. She was not the only one to adopt this line. Lily had decided that the time was ripe to put into operation her plan for weaning John away from the government, and she rang him up and said the same sort of thing, and much more logically too. So did several of her friends. Mark’s speech later on in the evening, that detailed Luke’s iniquities but also showed the destruction of all the less radical Tamil politicians, at least one of them an indubitable aristocrat whatever the standard used, only added fuel to their arguments.

They claimed that Luke was the only member of the cabinet who had made clear his support for the prosperous and had attempted to destroy the Socialists. The name that had been imposed on the land, as well as John’s recent regrettable monetary measures, indicated that the government was opposed to Luke’s laudable policies, and Matthew’s speech showed that this was for racist reasons. Mark’s performance had simply proved that, as he himself had claimed earlier, there was a conspiracy of Socialists and Sinhala Brahmins to destroy the fundamentals of decent existence. The irony was that it was the government itself that had launched the conspiracy; and with superb cynicism they flaunted the destruction of all those who did not conform to their requirements, Muslims and Tamils and Sinhalese who were not Brahmins. John did attempt to point out that several Socialists had died as well, but the reply, which only took a moment or two to come, was that these were all Marxists, and he was singularly dense if he could not recognize that what was being advocated and established was National Socialism.

John did not spend a sleepless night only because he took a large dose of vallium. He was quite groggy when he was woken up soon after dawn with the news of the immolation of his son-in-law. If his daughter had been upsetting before, she was almost dangerous now, and had indeed to be sedated. This brought little relief to John because the rest of his family, his wife and his mother-in-law and his other three daughters, kept up the attack. They were even more fierce when news come through that John’s son-in-law’s industrial establishment, which should by rights have now come into the family, had had its name changed in the new found enthusiasm of the converted to one that asserted its Muslim identity, and had during the previous night been razed completely to the ground.

John himself felt very hard done by. Tom’s speech did nothing to make him feel better. His household declared that it was an unwarranted attempt to throw the blame for the whole situation upon a poor defenceless dead woman who had only tried to preserve her own, and John could not help feeling that there was some sense in their argument. Lily and her cohorts continued to phone him to paint out the bankruptcy of the government; and Paul too decided it was time to weigh in himself, and called up in the evening to declare the deep displeasure of the International Monetary Fund and other allied institutions at the continued failure of the Ceylonese government to behave.

The next morning a cabinet meeting was held, but to John’s astonishment and vexation Tom did not seem to think it necessary that anything further should be said or done about the recent incidents. He was much more concerned about preventing the march for peace, which continued to be mentioned prominently in Indra’s newspapers: far from other cataclysmic developments having driven it off the front pages, it was hailed as perhaps the only hope for the nation. That very morning a whole editorial was devoted to Bishop Harry’s courage and breadth of vision which were held to be essential if sanity were to prevail. John’s one attempt to talk about restoring financial confidence was squashed by Tom seizing avidly upon the theme of confidences betrayed as he reiterated the anguish he had undergone throughout the past few days. He dwelt at length upon Harry’s selfish determination to undermine the new national consensus that would otherwise forge ahead towards prosperity in the lucid light of the revelations connected with CARP that had been made to the nation. The cabinet then decided that an order should be officially issued that Harry was to be deported if he attempted to set foot on Ceylonese soil. With regard to the march, on the other hand, it was thought best that it should not be formally banned, but that Phyllis should be very clearly made to understand that the government thought it could become a dangerous and subversive project.

John found it embarrassing enough reporting to his family that no action had been decided upon by the government with regard to what had happened. It was even worse when he told them what had been decided. His whole family declared an undying devotion to Harry and Phyllis that had not been apparent before, and asserted strongly the need at this juncture for positive action, and faith and commitment. Throughout the day, as the news spread about what and what not the government had decided, John was subjected to unceasing assaults on the telephone and even in person by more and more members of his and other communities, who accused him of despicable callousness. As the day wore on his resistance weakened. After tea he locked himself in his room and refused to be disturbed and pondered deeply on his past and on the future of himself and his family. At dinnertime he announced that he would submit his resignation to Tom the very next morning.

Yet not even then were his trials over for the day. His wife telephoned Lily to give her the good news, and Lily promptly said that that was not enough. She would come over herself to discuss a further plan of action. She was as good as her word, and before John had finished dinner she had come over to tell him that he ought on the next day, as soon as he had resigned, commence a fast unto the death unless the government took some positive steps to recompense those who had suffered and to restore the morale of the entire nation. John protested feebly, but he knew from the start that once he had given in there was no stopping. The only consolation was that Lily promised to join him in his fast, and also proposed that the best way to draw attention to their cause was by fasting outside one of the more prestigious Hindu temples in the city, one so grand indeed that John had never yet penetrated into its fastnesses.

As Lily left after the plans had been analysed, John felt in an odd sort of way that perhaps he had at last arrived. Even if he himself died, for he placed no faith in Lily’s assurances that the government could not afford to let him die and would surely therefore make some sort of concession that would allow them to call off the fast, by this act more than by anything he had done or achieved previously he was surely preparing a better and brighter future for his family. Certainly they seemed more appreciative of him than they had been for a long time, even his mother-in-law. Nevertheless, having decided not to take any more vallium, John did not, it must be recorded, despite his spiritual upliftment, sleep at all well that night.

Ceylon Today 1 Feb 2015 – https://www.ceylontoday.lk/96-83640-news-detail-home-truths.html

 

 

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