In The Dark
It was a dark night throughout the country when power cuts took place from town to town at various intervals. The activities of the City of Colombo suddenly came to an abrupt halt at around 8 p.m. Actually this was not a temporary power failure but the beginning of a national catastrophe due to severe drought experienced by the Electricity Board and the lack of power plants in the country.
‘The power cuts’had seemingly become a daily occurrence where the people were getting quite accustomed to the idea of being ‘in the dark’; sometimes up to four to five hours! On this particular Sunday evening darkness enfolded the Galle Face Green unexpectedly disappointing many who had come there to relax and enjoy the evening, either with their families and/or lovers.
The constant thunderous noise emanating from the sea beneath the Galle Face Green due to the breaking of giant waves in the dark sounded like warning bells to everyone, as much as an expression of nature’s infuriation towards the handling of the power crisis by the authorities.
The cool breeze that usually sweeps across the Green turned into a powerful hurricane, but the temperature was cool. Here and there one could spot fire-flies roaming about as if to compensate for the lost electricity in the Green. Vendors of fast food and drink started to light their stand-by lamps to earn their living. The head light beams from the cars that flashed from the main road intermittently focussed either on families walking in the dark hand in hand or exposing lovers and throwing them out of their own world in the dark!
Anoma hailed from a sophisticated, rich family in Colombo 7. Her father was regarded as one of the most successful business tycoons in the city. Rukmal was a neuro-surgeon who had just returned from England to work in a modern new private hospital in Colombo.
Anoma and Rukmal became engaged only a week ago and they decided to meet at the Galle Face Green as their first courting session to have some privacy. Rukmal drove his own car to meet her at the Galle Face Green while Anoma was driven by Simon, the family driver in a Mercedes Benz 320 SL.
Simon had been working for over a decade with Anoma’s father and he was considered to be a very humble, faithful and a trustworthy servant. Although he was in his early fifties still he maintained his sharp handsome features. Being single he was no doubt an eligible bachelor and his personality stood out everywhere he went and managed to steal flirtatious looks from women. He had, however, sufficient will-power to have a control over his own convictions, which made him to take a firm decision so as not to get entangled in a matrimonial knot; therefore he was serving the Gunatunga family aimlessly.
Anoma and Rukmal were to get married soon and her father had already made preparations to have one of the grandest weddings in Colombo and arranged an expensive wedding gift for the couple in the form of a world tour to spend their honeymoon.
On this dark evening at the Galle Face Green Anoma suddenly showed signs of being uneasy. It was getting too late she thought, and she knew her mother would be worrying to no end, especially when she came to know that the whole of Colombo was in darkness.
“ Where’s the driver? It’s getting too late. Mother must be getting highly worried by now, and I must go now Rukmal, but where’s this chapp Simon”? Anoma was getting impatient.
“Don’t worry dear, he is sure to be here somewhere. I will go and find him. He can’t be that far away surely! Most probably he must be flirting with that Ayah who came with those Burgher children a few minutes ago. I’ll ask him to report to you immediately on my way home”. Rukmal bid good-bye to Anoma and went in search of the driver to convey the message on his way home.
“Good night Rukmal darling, see you tomorrow,”
Anoma greeted him as he was moving out of her in the dark. She then slowly walked a few yards towards the metallic grey Mercedes Benz 320, paused for a while looking at the sky while in deep thought, opened the rear door and sat there impatiently awaiting the driver’s arrival.
The sudden power cut made so many people who were enjoying in the Galle Face Green disappointed and made them go home. Anoma, after being seated in the car for some time, started to feel the boredom more than fright which steadily but certainly turned into anger due to the absence of the driver.
After ten minutes or so, to her relief the driver appeared suddenly. He seemed to be in a mighty hurry. Without a word he opened the driver’s side door and started the motorcar. In a moment the Mercedes Bens took off like a rocket. Anoma wanted to ask the driver why he was in such a temper!
‘May be his flirtation with the Ayah had been disrupted by Rukmal’s appearance and perhaps Rukmal may have spoken to him harshly’, she thought.
The driver’s behaviour was very irrational today thought Anoma.
‘Why is he trying to fly on the road? What has happened to his normal steady and careful driving techniques today’?
Anoma’s mind turned into a thought machine. Either side of the road was still in total darkness as the Benz raced at speed. Even the intensity of the head light beams of the Benz was inadequate to give a clear view of the road ahead.
Within minutes Anoma realised that the route the driver was taking that night was not the usual one. The area they were passing at speed was completely strange to her eyes. At every turning Anoma was thrown into fright and confusion by not knowing what to do. It did not take that long, however, for her to ultimately realise that she was not heading home!
‘ Am I in danger? What is he up to tonight? No! No!! It can’t be, and I am being silly and thinking nonsense. Simon has been our driver for so long and he is like a family member to us. After all he has always been very protective, especially towards me wherever I went alone,’ Anoma thought to herself in an effort to calm herself down.
‘Then how can I account for his unusual behaviour tonight? Is he under the influence of liquor or drugs?’ She knew for sure that he did not have any access to liquor during that short stay at the Galle Face Green. But one thing was certain that he was definitely not heading towards Buller's Lane that evening. She wanted to shout, or as an alternative jump out of the moving car. She started to panic.
As she correctly gauged he did not do any harm to her. The car went and parked right at the entrance of the house, but it was not her home at Buller's Lane, Colombo 7. It was also a plush house, newly built large and accommodative, she spotted it from outside. “Is it a hotel? She thought for a moment and spoke out for the first time.
‘ Driver”! Her tone had roughened with fear and anxiety. The driver looked over his shoulders and started staring at her in a strange manner. Time was ticking over fast and she was beginning to shiver with fear and anger in the dark.
“Driver…….”! What the bloody hell are you talking about”? came swiftly from the driver’s mouth like a bullet to Anoma’s astonishment. He sounded really angry.
“What’s the meaning of this driver, what are you playing at?” Questioned Anoma.
“Yes, what is the meaning of this and what sort of a game are you trying to play with me I should ask you?” retorted the driver and switched the courtesy lights on, inside the Benz.
The man who was staring at her was not Simon the family driver Anoma realised, but a total stranger. He was dressed smartly in a European suit. Though his countenance had changed he looked a decent gentleman from a respectable family.
‘They are the worst culprits these days with misused power of their parents’ she thought and shivering with fear but pretending to be brave Anoma pounced on the stranger:
“What sort of dance are you trying to perform here with me?”
“What are you talking about”? He barked at her.
“Trying to take undue advantage of innocent women. You know, People like you should be hanged and not even imprisoned” she raised her voice.
Man’s voice too turned harsh and louder as if to overpower Anoma’s
“ Deceive and take undue advantage of innocent women” ! The stranger exclaimed. He started to shiver with anger and Anoma thought such behaviour was a clear-cut indication of fright of a beaten dog with his tail hidden between its hind legs!
‘He must be having plans on my virtue. Oh… Gosh ! What am I going to do now?” She panicked.
“ You bloody womaniser”!
“ Womaniser”, he repeated with anger.
Anoma did not give up but retorted,
“Not only you are trying to kidnap innocent women but you are trying to steal their expensive cars also, aren’t you” ?
“ Don’t you even repeat such words again to me m’am, you understand. Who the hell do you think you are ? And Where the hell did you land here from ? I tell you something; to me you look a bit decent although you have a foul mouth. From your dress, the makeup, the perfume and the way you speak indicate something to me that you are a rotten apple from a good family. You must be a mad woman, have you escaped from the lunatic asylum at Angoda ”.
“Lunatic escaped from Angoda, how dare you? Are you a flirt, womaniser or a pimp I don’t understand, where are you taking me, Anoma tried to overpower the stranger as they were still seated inside the Benz and engaged in an argument in front of the mansion.
Their heated argument attracted a few curious onlookers around them to the scene in the dark. Having seen people gathering around them and getting Dutch courage she tried to take the upper hand over the stranger and to take control of the situation.
“ Now that everything has misfired, you can’t fool anyone mister. Come on, come on, and come out with the truth. Were your intentions to steal the car or rape me in the dark, or is it both “? Anoma pounced at him.
“Look my dear woman, Ido not know who you are but please take it into your puny head that I have only a limited amount of patience. Consider yourself lucky that you are a female at this very moment as otherwise I would have blown your bleeding brains out by now”.
The angry man kicked the side door of the Benz as he got off the car so as to release his anger and frustration and demanding her to get off the vehicle. The force at which the car got the beating made the rear passenger door glass shutter break and fall into pieces.
“ Just because you have completely failed in your monkey pranks and lost your temper too what right have you to damage my car? I can call the police in this instance and get you arrested on many charges, you look sharp mister,” Anoma warned him.
“Who do you think you are, you pretty face? I also can summon the police and get you back to Angoda, do you know that”? Replied the man.
Sudden flashing lights of a motor vehicle indicated that someone was approaching at the scene. It appeared that an onlooker had already informed the police about this debacle and the Law was going to sort the problem out. The number of observers increased by the second at the scene and surrounded the Mercedes Benz where Anoma was still seated. Within seconds a second car arrived on the scene which was an identical Benz 320.
The person who was still in argument inside the car where Anoma was determined not to get off the vehicle switched his headlights on to inspect who was approaching thinking at least the police would be able to sort the mess out. But it was not to be. It was another Mercedes Benz 320 identical to the car in which Anoma was seated and arguing fiercely with the stranger.
“Anoma what happened? Why didn’t you come home? With whom are you gallivanting in the dark? Who is this rich guy who is taking you out in a Mercedes Benz 320”? Another boy friend eh! Confused Rukmal jumped out of the Benz followed by driver Simon.
“ Aiyo Madam! I have been looking for you all over the Galle Face Green in the dark. When I saw the car and not you in it, I panicked and went straight to Rukmal Hamu’s house to see whether you had gone with him. When I told the story to Rukaml Hamu, he became worried and nearly fainted. “ Don’t worry, we have not told Ammi or Thathi about your missing yet. Hamu told me not to panic and we went all over looking for you madam and suddenly Hamu spotted you with his head light beam how you were seated in this Benz car. Thank God we found you safe and in one piece. By the way madam whose is this Benz car, this is just like our Loku Hamu’s motor… no.? Simon, the driver exclainmed.
It did not take hours to sort out what had happened and Anoma was shrinking with shame and did not know where to hide her face for getting into an identical Benz car of a stranger.
How could she look in the face of the stranger even to apologise after making such a booboo of the situation? Rukmal finally apologised to the young man as he shed a sigh of relief having realised of all what had taken place ‘in the dark’.