It was an extraordinary way to die. Bizarre, in fact. There he was, just minding his business and walking along happily, when all of a sudden something came crashing down on him. It was one of the workers from the building site immediately above him. The man dropped from the topmost floor, three storeys up, right onto Bandula. They crumpled in a tangled heap onto the road. In a few seconds a crowd gathered, gazing aghast at the two bodies lying there in a bloody mess. Someone put them into a three-wheeler and took them to the hospital.
Bandula was in a bad state when they reached the hospital. Naturally. He was the fallee. The man fallen upon. Moreover, he was a man who looked more like a skeleton. His body was sparsely covered with flesh and skin. When he moved you could almost hear his bones rattle. On the other hand, Indoris, the faller, possessed the proportions of a baby elephant. He weighed as much and looked like one too, what with his enormous pot belly and big round shoulders. So Bandula didn’t have a chance. Right from the moment Indoris took that faulty step out of the third floor and plummeted through the air, Bandula, who had taken that fateful step forward directly in alignment with the hunk from space, was a dead man. The noise was terrible. Bandula screamed- a sharp short piercing yell before he was snuffed out. Indoris’ cry was longer. It lasted from the third floor right to the time he crashed down on his unfortunate victim. The thud with which he landed created reverberations similar to an earthquake.
Indoris was full of bumps and bruises and a few broken bones, but Bandula was literally crushed to death. At the hospital they couldn’t even do a proper post-mortem, as was the custom for patients brought in dead on admission. His bones had been broken into countless fragments and the rest of him was just a messy hotch-potch. Indoris was in a terrible state of shock, for now they did not know whether he had committed murder, manslaughter – or whether it was just a case of accidental death.
In the usual manner, Bandula’s wife and family were duly informed about his untimely demise. At three o’clock in the afternoon just as Menike was about to make herself a cup of tea she spotted some policemen at her gate. They showed her Bandula’s identity card which they had retrieved from his pocket and told her the bad news. Poor Menike was stunned. She always knew that Bandula was a bit of a fool, but did he have to die like this? Imagine her plight if the neighbours got to know.
Within minutes they were at her doorstep to find out what the police were doing there.
“Aiyo” wailed Menike, “my poor Bandula, met with an – er- accident and died. Aney what am I going to do -with these two children also to look after?” she continued to cry.
She managed to have a quiet word with her friend Kusuma from nextdoor.
“What aney if he was knocked down by a car it would have been much better.Aiyo what a shame for me to have to live with this – imagine my husband dying because a man fell on top of him? If it was a rock or something like that even it wouldn’t have mattered – but a workman? Such a disgrace for us. His brother also fell into a drain and died and his mother tripped over a flower pot and cracked her head and died. Aiyo, what kind of a moosala family I have married into I don’t know!” she lamented.
She had to stop the truth from coming out.
Fortunately the coffin was sealed so that the neighbours couldn’t ask too many questions.
By the time the funeral came around the story was that Bandula was walking down some road when a car came out from nowhere and knocked him dead. By the end of the funeral, it was a broad road and a brand new Mercedes Benz car. A few days later the road was in Colombo 7 and the car was owned by TilakMudalali – the richest car Mudalali around. Menike had retrieved her dignity and respect. In fact, it almost seemed like an honour to be killed in such a manner.
Bandula, meanwhile, had taken leave of this unkind world and arrived at the Underworld – not where gangsters and crooks gathered, but more the Homeric Underworld where the dead spent their time wandering around forever and ever and ever. To his great joy he met many of his old friends and family in this unfamiliar place. His brother who had fallen in the drain was also there and greeted him with open arms. So was his mother, the flower-pot tripper. Even she was shocked at what had happened to him.
“Aneyputha, you should have found some other way to die no?” she stated.
“So machang, what are you doing now?” Bandula asked his brother.
“Haunting, haunting.” he replied.
“Haunting?” Bandula was puzzled.
“Yes – every night we all go and haunt all sorts of places and people – my we have such a lot of fun!”
“Can I also come with you?” Bandula asked eagerly. He was waiting to go and haunt the kademudalaliand his boss at the workshop – they were always nagging and threatening him. He hated them and now had his chance to take revenge on them.
“Yes yes.” replied his brother.
That night he and two others visited the kademudali.Arnolis was asleep on his mat when he heard a tapping on the window. He woke up to find the dead Bandula making faces at him through the window pane. Arnolis gave such an unearthly yell that his entire household woke up screaming. Bandula and his colleagues did their vanishing trick, so that when Arnolis’ family rushed outside to investigate there was absolutely nothing to be found.
HendrikBaas ran the garage where Bandula used to work. Bandula couldn’t wait to give him a shock. Just a mild one – not to kill him, otherwise he would also land in the Underworld and the thought of having him around all the time was just too much for Bandula!
Hendrik was having a drink with his friends, sitting under the jak tree in his garden. Suddenly he heard a rustling of the leaves and couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked up and saw Bandula who had died a few days before, grinning at him from one of the branches.
“Aiyoaiyo –Bandula!” he screamed and promptly fainted.
His friends who did not see any of this were clearly upset at Hendrik’s strange behaviour.
Bandula and his new comrades disappeared as quickly as they could. But their shrill cackles were heard by those below and sent them scuttling in different directions.
Bandula was pleased with his new surroundings. He didn’t have to work, nor did he have to put up with his wife’s scoldings and Hendrik’s constant threats. He spent his time writing lists of people he was going to haunt. He looked forward to his midnight adventures with great eagerness and was happier dead than he had ever been alive!
(From “Dancing with the Dogs & Other Stories” self published 2002)