Jayasiri was delighted when his son came home and announced that he and his wife were invited to celebrate the birthday of Uvani’s little daughter, who was five years old, on the following Sunday. Uvani and Jayasiri’s daughter-in-law are childhood friends who continue their close ties even after migrating to Australia. With much persuasion, they convinced their parents to join them and sold their properties in Sri Lanka before taking the plunge. As Jayasiri also decided to migrate with his beloved wife to be closer to their son and daughter, he was very anxious to the meet parents of Uvani and get to know how they felt about this monumental decision.
After living in Sri Lanka for 70 years, it was heartbreaking for Jayasiri to leave his country of birth and settle down in another country and spend the rest of his life in a foreign land away from his brother and sisters and friends. However, make or break decision was finally taken, and they migrated after selling their house and some ancestral property Jayasiri inherited from his parents.
It did not take long for Jayasiri to realize that life in Australia is entirely different from his life in Sri Lanka. However, both his Son and Daughter looked after the parents with loving care and did everything possible to make the last stage of their life happy. Also, his daughter in law made him a member of the council library, which he visited at least twice a week.
The birthday party venue was Berwick Gardens, a trendy park with nicely laid out paths and many play areas for children. Jayasiri was delighted to meet Uvani,s father, Sarath, who was eager to chat with him. ‘So, how are you coping with your life-changing decision?’ Sarath asked. ‘Well, I guess it is too early to give a proper answer to your question,’ Jayasiri said.. ‘Do you know that we already completed two years in Australia? Our children look after us, and everything we need is provided’ Sarath sighed. ‘Do you know that there is not a single day that I have not thought about home? Do you feel lonely here?’ ‘Well, I wish I could meet more people as I am not accustomed to seeing deserted streets. Sometimes I watch out from the window to get a glimpse of someone passing by but no such luck’ I perfectly understand your dilemma Jayasiri, but you will have to somehow adjust to your new life,’ Sarath laughed. ‘Yes, I realize that. I am not blaming anybody.
‘Have you visited the city?’ Sarath inquired. ‘Of course, several times, ’ Jayasiri replied. ’If you want to see people, go to the City and sit on a bench in Federation square. You will see thousands of people from all walks of life. I think you should visit the City more often to get rid of your boredom and enjoy looking at people’ Sarath advised. ‘Can I give you a small tip’? Sarath came close and whispered in Jayasiri,s ear. ‘If you sit on the pavement opposite Federation square, some good Samaritans will give you a few dollars or even buy you a Mcdonald meal’ Sarath laughed
‘I want to visit the City tomorrow. Would you like to join me’ Jayasiri asked his wife. ‘I would love to, but my knee is playing up. So, I cannot walk far,’ his wife complained. ‘Jaye, I heard Sarath telling you about homeless beggars at Flinders street station. Don’t even think about sitting over there and insult our children. We don,t have to beg. We have everything we want here. Go to Federation square and spend some time there if you are desperate to see people?. Who knows? You might even run into a Sri Lankan if you get lucky?’ his wife laughed.’ Yes, I will go to City tomorrow’ Jayasiri told his wife before going to sleep.
The following morning, Jayasiri got ready to leave for the City after breakfast. It was mid-December, and the weather was warm and pleasant, with bright sunshine reminding Jayasiri of home. His son, who lives close to his sister, agreed to come and pick him up and give him a ride to Croyden station. It is a 50-minute train ride from Croyden station to Flinders station in the City. He carried a small bag with a bottle of water and some sweets. Although his wife wanted to prepare a sandwich, he politely declined as Jayasiri wanted to try out Chinese food, his favourite.’ Thatha, try to leave the City before the office crowd comes to the station if you want a seat,’ his daughter advised. ‘Don’t worry, I am a seasoned traveller,’ Jayasiri proudly declared. ‘Thatha, take care and call me if you need me,’ his son advised before dropping him at Croyden station. The train to Flinders came right on time, and thankfully, it was not crowded. Jayasiri,s thoughts went back to the days he travelled daily to work from Bemmulla to Fort. The train was packed, and he never got a seat both ways!
It was around 10.30 when Jayasiri arrived at his destination. He came out of the station and crossed the street to Federation square. This is a landmark which is in the centre of the City and attracts thousands of visitors daily. He could see people walking up and down to various destinations, all in a mighty hurry. True to Sarath’s words of wisdom, he saw few homeless people carrying their meagre belongings and seated on the walkway in front of Flinders station. Some were seated on blankets, and some others on small plastic chairs. Jayasiri walked past famous St.Paul’s cathedral to his favourite Chinese restaurant and had a good meal. He walked back to Federation Square and managed to find a bench to spend the rest of the afternoon watching people. Jayasiri soon started dozing off as he was missing his usual afternoon siesta. He felt someone gently shaking his shoulder and quickly opened his eyes to find a handsome young man smiling at him.
‘Mr Jayasiri, can you remember me?’ He immediately recognized Nuwan, one of the sales executives who visited him during his hotel days. ‘So what are you doing in Melbourne Nuwan?’ Jayasiri asked. ‘I must ask the same question from you, sir,’ Nuwan said with a beaming smile. ‘I will never forget how you helped me, sir. In fact, you advised me not to leave Brintons without learning everything about carpets. What was it that you told me when I tried to quit after a fight with the boss?’ Nuwan asked. You said, ‘Nuwan, there is hope on the horizon. Have patience and work hard. ‘Did I say that? I cannot remember anything?’ Jyasiri laughed. Nuwan went on, ‘I came to Melbourne to sign a contract with this Australian company. I am staying at Novotel hotel, and unfortunately, I am leaving tonight. I would have loved to take you out for dinner.’ Nuwan said, with a disappointed look on his face. ‘So what are you doing here, sir?’ Nuwan asked. ‘Oh, I migrated with my wife as both my children live here,’ Jayasiri said. ‘I guess that is the best option if both your children are here, sir,’ Nuwan said with a sad look on his face. ‘I am so happy to have met you, and please give my regards to your charming wife’. Nuwan departed with tears in his eyes.
Jayasiri managed to get a seat on his return journey as he barely managed to avoid the office crowd. It was around five pm when he reached Croyden. He did not want to trouble his son or daughter to pick him up. Jayasiri took a bus going to Churnside shopping centre. From there it was a one km walk to his daughter’s house. As he climbed the hill and crossed over to the other side, he saw the giant size inflated Santa displayed in front of a house for sale. As he slowly climbed the road leading to his daughter’s home Jayasiri remembered a poem his boss used to recite during Xmas time.
‘Christmas is coming,
Geese are getting fat,
Please put a coin in the poor man’s hat!’
Keerthi Wijesinghe – Sri Lanka