Short Story: A strange visitor | Sunday Observer

Short Story: A strange visitor

Nimal and Sunil were good friends. They worked in the same office as executives. They worked so well that soon they were able to win the confidence of their superiors. Nimal was rich but Sunil was poor. The difference in their financial and social status was not a matter of concern for them. So they carried on their friendship nonstop.

Nimal was from a well to do family. His parents owned some estates and factories. His father had his own car for the family use, while Nimal too had a car for himself.

Nimal had some particular qualities, he liked people very much, and wanted to know about them. He was curious by nature. Although rich he was not proud. He didn’t like to stay at home and look after his father’s properties. He was used to city life. So to fulfil his ambition he sat the central clerical examination and passed. He got an appointment as a clerk, and in the office he met Sunil, another clerk. They studied hard and got through the executive exam. Thus they got appointments as executive officers in the same office.

Travelling to the office was difficult. So they got a boarding house in the city. The householder was a rich businessman. His family consisted of the parents and two daughters.

The two daughters were very beautiful. They were in their twenties. They were so pretty that they looked like Roman images. They were well behaved and trustworthy. The boarders too were well behaved and disciplined. Subsequently the inmates treated them without any reserve. The inmates and the two boarders were similar in appearance and good looking.

This amazed outsiders, who thought they belonged to the same family. Furthermore they travelled together in their cars. When the householder got an invitation for a wedding or a function the two friends, whether invited or not joined them. Whenever the family members went on pilgrimage, the two friends joined them. The friends were in a happy mood always.

But Sunil, privately felt sad thinking about the circumstances that prevailed in his house. He thought, if he was rich like his friend he could have treated his family members well.

Sunil’s father was a poor farmer, his mother an ordinary housewife and the two daughters school going children. Although they were poor and lacked many things they were content with what they had. Theirs was a thatched cottage, with no facilities.

Sunil was a thoughtful person. He saved some money, and at the end of every month he visited his parents and gave the money to his mother. Occasionally, he would visit his parents with money, clothes and dry food. He opened up saving accounts and credited some money in favour of his two sisters. Nimal’s generosity and kind heart helped him do such things.

One day, after dinner, while they were chatting, Nimal suggested that they go somewhere to redress the mental agony. On the particular day, they set out in the evening by car. They drove along a crowded city. On either side of the road were many slums. Nimal’s curiosity arose. He started questioning each and everyone he saw. He wanted to know details about them. The people in the slums looked sad and weary. They looked as if they had arrived from an outer world.

While driving along a congested road, Nimal noticed a fat, middle aged woman. Nimal slowed down the car and smiled at her. She too smiled as if she was inviting him. He thought it was the exact place he was searching for. He stopped the car in front of the house, and got down. Sunil did not like this type of venture and said, he would wait outside. With a firm determination Nimal entered the house. The chubby middle aged woman welcomed him and showed him the receptionist, who showed some photographs of girls. Nimal paid the required sum and got a key with a number tag and the photograph of the girl he selected.

Nimal entered the room; it was a well kept room with a bed a table and a chair. He saw a very pretty girl of about 22 years. She was modest and shy. She behaved in such a way that very soon Nimal realized she was new to the job. She had come there for the first time in her life.

At sight of the stranger, she started to shiver. However, with some courage she smiled. Nimal smiled, as if he was smiling with a sister of his own. He started a friendly chat to ease the tension. Her innocent, pretty face encouraged Nimal to talk.

Nimal questioned her in depth. He wanted to know the ins and outs of everything about her. The girl was educated and sensible. At first sight she realized that this person was good natured.

The girl was Nirmalee, from a poor family in Kegalle. Although her parents were very poor she managed to pursue her studies. She passed her H.S.C. examination with credits. She and her parents tried their level best to find a suitable job for her but failed in their attempts. The plight of her family members was unbearable. The more she thought about this the more she became emotionally restless. At the end she decided to take a step, not caring whether it was wise or not.

One day, after lunch she left her abode. She came to Colombo, and visited many firms. Many refused her a job saying her that her knowledge of English was poor. Ultimately, she came to a firm-like house. She didn’t know what type of place it was, but her mind was firm. She met the chubby woman at the entrance. Nirmalee was tricked by her. She said, Nirmalee could earn thousands of rupees a day by working in this place. At first she was frightened but enticed by the woman’s flattering. Nirmalee thought about her family, their down trodden lives. Determined to save them from the misery, she entered the house.

Seeing the way some people in the house behaved, she realized it was not a suitable or safe place for a modest young girl. Anyway, she was quiet, and prepared to sacrifice her esteemed life for the welfare of her family.

Towards the evening many young people of different social status came. They spent many hours in the house. Nirmalee was in a room, waiting for a predator. It was the first encounter she would have with an outsider. The predator was none other than Nimal. Nimal was stupefied by her sad story. He thought for a while. He was employed, young and single and so he was in a strong position to feed a woman. With tears in his eyes he said he was ready to marry her and save her from this precipice, provided she would agree. Nirmalee never thought a person of his calibre would make such a proposal, and without any hesitation she gave her consent. No sooner he got her consent than he ran to the person in charge of the place, disclosed his idea, paid a large sum of money as compensation and got the girl released. He accompanied Nirmalee to his car. All the while Sunil was waiting for Nimal at the boutique. Bringing a girl from the house was a great surprise. He could not believe his eyes and was gaping at Nimal and the girl with his mouth wide open, keeping his left hand fingers on his chin.

Soon all got into the car. Nimal drove speedily along the Colombo Kandy road, passed some important towns such as Pasyala and Nelundeniya and came to Kegalle.

As requested by Nirmalee, Nimal drove the car along another road and came to a junction and proceeded along a narrow road. Passing some paddy fields and coconut groves he stopped the car in front of a thatched cottage.

As soon as the inmates heard a car stopping in front of the cottage they ran towards the car to see what was going on. Nirmalee got down from the car, and the others followed suit. Nirmalee’s parents and sisters were astonished at the sight. Nirmalee went in the morning and came home in the evening. What happened to her? Had she met with an accident or had she fallen ill on the way? She might have done any unlawful thing, they thought.

Mother rushed towards Nirmalee and embraced her with love. Father and the two sisters looked on with amazement. Nirmalee’s father, as a dutiful responsible adult questioned the gentlemen as to what made them bring her home like this from her workplace. Nimal, at this juncture, explained everything from beginning to end, without hiding anything. Nirmalee’s parents were impressed about Nimal. His unexpected benevolent behaviour won the hearts of all the members of the family. After the preliminary greetings were over Nimal revealed his idea. Nirmalee’s parents were overjoyed, and said, meeting a well behaved person like Nimal was a great consolation for them.

Nimal fully realised the pathetic heart rending situation this family was going through. He gave enough money to Nirmalee’s father to construct a good house with all facilities, and some money to her mother to buy clothing and other requirements. Promising to visit them in a few months they left the cottage. It was sad to see Nimal’s car going away along the narrow road, that gloomy evening.

As promised, he once again visited to ascertain whether the house was complete. With some money they saved, Nirmalee’s father bought a few acres of land to cultivate. The family grew vegetables for their consumption. Before leaving for Colombo, Nimal revealed that his parents would visit them soon.

One day, Nimal came with his parents and some relations and well-wishers. There were a number of cars. Nimal’s car was beautifully decorated with flowers and streamers. He was in bridal costume and the others too in fitting costumes to suit the occasion. Nirmalee’s parents welcomed them respectfully.

At the auspicious time the Poruwa ceremony was held to the accompaniment of Jaya Mangala Gathas. All the visitors were treated to a grand lunch. After the wedding, the couple got into the car and left for Colombo, followed by their relations’ and well-wishers. The people in the neighbourhood had never before witnessed such an eye-catching ceremony. Nirmalee had won their confidence, respect and honour. She was the star attraction. All were in tears to see her off.

B. Soney Fernando 

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