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31st October,  2004  Volume 11, Issue 16

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Review

Our mother came home on Wednesday...

By Ranee Mohamed

Procedure at the Bandaranaike International Airport takes time. But all that is welcome because of the happiness associated with travel and the affluence.... 

More......


Review more articles

> Jumbo trip from Jaffna to Dehiwala

> On the streets in search of food...

> A closer look at 'club  drugs'

> My youngest son...


 Our mother came home on Wednesday...

By Ranee Mohamed

Procedure at the Bandaranaike International Airport takes time. But all that is welcome because of the happiness associated with travel and the affluence thereafter. But for 32 year old Roshantha Fernando waiting for his wife on Wednesday was not only long but heartbreaking. He got nothing from the duty free but a heavy heart and tears.

When he went home to Panadura, his children were waiting, they did not get chocolates and toys, but wails, heartaches and tears as their mother's coffin was tilted through the small doorway.

"I went to the airport on Wednesday, October 27, at 7.30 a.m. At 2 p.m. I was handed over the coffin of my wife," he said. There were tell-a-tale marks of trauma in the emaciated young man's face. His children, son Rashindu Hashan (5) and daughter Rasmeshika Hashani (10) were scrambling all over him. "They have no idea that the coffin in the middle of the house contains the body of their mother," said Roshantha in tears.

His wife Thilakshi died on October 17, on the way to Riyadh when she was traveling in a bus with 40 others to the King Dhalid International Airport to come back home to Sri Lanka after three years of employment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The bus had been involved in an accident with an oiltanker

Twenty nine year old Thilakshi Priyadharshani had decided to leave Sri Lanka to Riyadh hoping to come back and buy a piece of land. "We had many financial problems. I am a carpenter and the children were hungry all the time. When she left on October 14, 2001 the youngest child was being breast-fed," said Roshantha.

Recollections

"I still remember the day she left. It was early morning. We had to pull the sleeping child off her breast as the time came for her to leave home. The children did not stop crying, especially the youngest child. I tried to console the two children but they could not bear the sight of their mother leaving," said Thilakshi's mother Princy Pieris.

Princy was in tears, they were the tears that a mother sheds for a child, however old or young she may be. "I have only three daughters and Thilakshi was such a happy child. She always wanted to be happy. She told me that she will somehow hide some money, about Rs. 50,000 to give me a grand funeral someday. If you die I do not even have any money to bury you, she told me," recalled Princy.

"She loved her children so much. Before leaving too she came and begged of me to look after her children. During all the telephone conversations that she had with her children, she kept on telling them about the toys that she had bought for them," said the grandmother sobbing uncontrollably.

The children have not received any toys and they keep expecting their mother to come back home. They do not know that there will be no telephone calls, no toys and no assurances that they are being loved, all the way from Riyadh.

Thilakshi Priyadarshani, though described by her mother as a happy child, had not known a moment of happiness in Riyadh. "Each time I saw her she was in tears. All she did was talk about her children," said 23 year old Nishani, her younger sister who was in the same bus as Thilakshi.

"She worked in a hospital. Though we were working together it was difficult to see her. In the three years I was there, I met her six times and that too after crying and begging my project officer to let me meet her. Each time I met her she was in tears. All she did was talk about her children. Every telephone call to her home was about her children," said sister Nishani.

Tragic journey

"As our three years ended on November 4, we were to travel to Nagran where our financial remittances were to be sorted out. All the employees working in distant places were gathered together at a hostel and some of us boarded this bus which was to take us to Riyadh. I was seated in the furthermost corner of the rear seat and my sister Thilakshi was seated on the other corner. I offered her my seat because it was sunny on her side. I tried to joke with her but she was not in a jovial mood.

She asked me not to fool around and she slept in that corner. The bus broke down at about 3 p.m. on the way and we stood on the road for about 45 minutes till they repaired the bus. But Thilakshi remained in the bus. She was fast asleep," recalled Nishani.

When the bus got into a huge collision, few of the women knew about it, for many of them were fast asleep. They were tired and hungry and after having stood outside till the repairs were attended too, they were exhausted.

"I did not know what happened. I was fast asleep when I felt my head sway violently. I felt the blood pouring down my nose and my face hurting unbearably. I tried to open my eyes but I could not. I cried and asked what was happening to us. Then I heard the voice of one of our relatives who was also in the bus. She said that Akka's head was missing. She begged me to help her to find Akka's head. I leaned back and I thought I had died," said Nishani.

And on Thursday, October 28, Thilakshi's mangled remains were locked in the coffin in the middle of their poor home. The family had borrowed money for her funeral. They had not received a cent that is owed to Thilakshi. Her bags which she so badly wanted to bring home to her children have not reached them.

The family was poor three years ago, but they are poorer now. They have no money and no mother.

No 'top official'

"I begged my daughter not to go overseas. I told her that I will do whatever possible for them. But she did not listen to me. Today, we have her body at home. Not a single official visited us. We got nothing of her earnings. I do not want a cent of my daughter, but her children have to be looked after," said Thilakshi's father Newson Perera.

Poor helpless people kept filing in to their small house. There was no one in authority, no 'top official' or anybody powerful here. There were a countless worn out rubber slippers at their doorway and tears inside.

So who is responsible for looking into the affairs of this poor family living at 10/1 Susantha Mawatha, Panadura? Who will ensure that the earnings of three years of hardwork will reach the children? Who will see that compensation is given to replace a mother who left her land of birth to bring back happiness, laughter and comfort to her children?

Thilakshi's story is sad. It ought to spur those in authority to get the poor family what they deserve, for now they have not only a lifetime of heartache and tears but the additional debt - of repaying the money they borrowed to bury their mother.


Jumbo trip from Jaffna to Dehiwala

Loading Menika at KKS and Menika at the zoo with the army mahout

By Risidra Mendis

It is not very often that we hear of an elephant being transported all the way from Jaffna to Colombo. But considering the importance of the Sri Lankan elephant and its fast dwindling population in the country, the army, navy and zoo officials took it upon themselves to save the life of the young female elephant, Menika when it was stranded in Jaffna after the Rivirasa operation in 1995.

Source of entertainment

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Zoo Director, Brigadier H. A. N. T. Perera said that the elephant was kept in the Kittu Park close to the Jaffna town and used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to entertain the children.

"The Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) then took charge of the elephant. As time went by and the elephant grew bigger, the SLLI found it difficult to feed the animal. Meanwhile animal rights organisations requested the elephant to be brought to Colombo," said Brigadier Perera.

According to him, for the last two years, there were discussions with the army and the navy to bring down the elephant. But bringing the elephant to Colombo was easier said than done. Their attempts to bring the elephant on a ship called Muditha failed. However, the Brigadier then got a call a few days ago from Jaffna Commander, Major General Laurence Fernando requesting him to bring the elephant as soon as possible to Colombo.

"I contacted Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri to request permission for a vessel to bring down the elephant. I spoke to Vice Admiral for only five minutes. The Vice Admiral said: "You let me know when you are ready and I will make all the necessary arrangements," said Brigadier Perera.

Tough task

Then a team of 10 zoo officials consisting of veterinary surgeons, curators, mahouts and administrative officials were sent by Lion Air to Jaffna and thus began the difficult operation of transporting Menika to Colombo.

On October 18 Menika was transported from Jaffna to Palaly. Menika was then taken to Kankasanthurai on October 19 and loaded on to the vessel in the afternoon on the same day. "Northern Naval Commander, Rear Admiral Dharmapriya helped in loading Menika on to the vessel," the Brigadier recalled. Menika arrived in Trincomalee on October 20 at 8.30 am.

"We kept Menika in Trincomalee for the day as she needed to rest," said Brigadier Perera. On October 21 in the morning Menika began her journey from Trincomalee to Colombo by road. Right throughout the long journey Menika was accompanied by zoo veterinary surgeons, her army mahout Corporal Akuretiye Gamage Priyantha and other army and navy officials. Menika arrived safely at the Dehiwala zoo at 8.45 p.m. on October 21," said Brigadier Perera.

"Menika, 11 years old was in good health and did not have even a chain mark on her legs when she arrived at the zoo. The army has looked after her very well," added Brigadier Perera. He went on to say that when Menika arrived at her new home she was given a warm welcom by the other elephants, especially Devi and Indu who accepted her as one of their own.

"On her way from Jaffna to Colombo Menika was given top priority. All army checkpoints on the way were alerted that an elephant was on its way from Trincomalee. From Trincomalee to Habarana Menika was given an army escort," explained Brigadier Perera.

Similarly Brigadier Perera noted that if not for the prompt action and decisions taken by Vice Admiral Sandagiri, Northern Naval Commander, Rear Admiral Dharmapriya, the Jaffna army security force head quarters and the Jaffna Five One Division Commander General, Fernando and the other officials involved, this operation would not have been a success.

Hidden

When The Sunday Leader spoke to Corporal Priyantha at the Dehiwala zoo, he said after the completion of the Rivirasa operation while in the process of clearing the area, the army came across a hole covered with a board in Chavakachcheri. On inspection the army found Menika inside the hole. "We believe the LTTE had hidden Menika hoping to come back for her later," said Corporal Priyantha.

According to Corporal Priyantha, Menika was given to his care in 1997. "I have always loved elephants," said Corporal Priyantha who gladly took over Menika.

According to Corporal Priyantha, he did not know the elephant language and had no experience in looking after elephants. But today, the Corporal is an experienced mahout, who has mastered the elephant language. He is expected to stay a few days with Menika until she gets use to her new mahouts and life at the zoo.


On the streets in search of food...

By Dhananjani Silva

It is poverty by the side of the road, but even more painful is the hunger that exists on the side walks. They are poor, they are starving and that is why they wait for hours and hours under the scorching sun. For them, it is a battle of survival.

Step by step we move forward and observe the misery of those starving - we sense their craving and their needs.

T. Piyasena is 86 years old and his eyesight is week. The fact that he is deprived of good health is the reason why he happened to make his way to Borella junction. He has been doing this for almost three years now.

Without means

"For 40 years I have been driving a vehicle, then my sight weakened," he recalls. "It grew worse during the past three years and made me the poor drifter that I am today," said Piyasena. "When my wife was alive she somehow managed to find money to pay for the surgery on one eye. But my wife passed away three years back and now I have no money to get my other eye operated. My son is married and cannot look after me," he sighed.

However, he said that at the end of the day he somehow manages to take back home about Rs. 100-150 and if it is a good day, a packet of rice too.

Thus ended the story of Piyasena and began the story of Selavathee, who was seated next to him, for her turn to speak to us.

"Madam, please listen to me, I too am suffering from an eye problem. I am here to collect money for the operation," she said.

"I have three daughters and three sons, but they do not look after me. After waiting here from morning to evening I get only Rs. 75-80 a day. Of that little money, I have to pay for food and there seldom is anything left for me to collect for the surgery," she grieved.

Asked how old she is, she muttered to herself: "I think.nearly 80 years."

A. G. Rajika was in a similar plight. She has made it a habit to come near the Town Hall everyday. "We come here because we get food from those who pass by Madam," she said while trying to console her three kids who happened to give her a hard time - restless because they were hungry. The dust and the hunger and the heat was hard on the children too.

"Very often the police harass us. They scold us for begging on the streets with our children and once they arrested my elder son. We are scared to keep our children because we do not know where they will end up if they get caught to the police, she complained, saying "We beg only because we are poor madam."

Further said Rajika: "My husband is a labourer and with the little money he earns we cannot provide three meals to our little ones and we have to give them clothes as well. Even I cannot get more that Rs.100-125 per day although I spend the whole day here," she said.

Stress

These people struggle for hours and hours but they confess that they hardly get any money. Then why are they still eager to do this? Answer is obvious from Nanda's words.

"I wait here from 10 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. to collect the few packets of rice we receive. Apart from food we can collect lot of clothes as well. In this way we can solve our food problem. This is the only way I can ease the burden of my husband," said Nanda.

According to her, there are days that her children starve. "Things get worse on rainy days," she lamented.

Indrani is another woman who struggles for survival. Being a mother of two daughters aged eight and 10, Indrani's plight is distressing, as she has to not only look after her two daughters but also her bedridden husband.

"As my husband is sick we have no income. That is why I come here to collect the packets of rice leaving my two kids with their grandmother. We even manage to keep the food for dinner," she said and went on to say that these packets of food are a great source of comfort to her suffering family.

No shelter

Sixty two year old W. Gurusinghe had a different story to tell. "As I have been robbed off all my wealth by my three brothers, I have no place to stay. I have no family to look after me either. So, I live in a nearby temple. Like others, I too am here to get food. But I somehow collect around Rs. 40- 50 per day," he said adding that although he has the courage to do an odd job to earn an extra buck, nobody is willing to offer him a job. "Nobody is willing to give me a job as I am old and probably ,being a beggar is not a qualification," he moaned.

Life seems to be a one big struggle for them as each individual is deprived of something - be it health, wealth or shelter. They have no hopes or aspirations either. Nevertheless their dreams are realised each day as they find a little money to live for that day along with the much awaited buth packet, which they yearn for.

A better life for street children

Those human figures in tattered clothes, those who are being used and abused very often - is a common sight in this country today. They are the street children who are being robed of their childhood, not due to the cruelty of their parents but via a sad twist of fate. Nevertheless, with the attempts made by the concerned departments and welfare organisations, their safety and hope for a better future is assured. The Sarvodaya Street Children Project is one such move that offers a better life for these so-called `waifs.'

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Pre School None Formal Education Teacher, Sarvodaya Street Children Project, Anula Kahanda Gamage said they assist the street children with necessary funding to carry out their education without hindrance. They are being provided with uniforms, books and other items that are needed for their education.

Said Gamage: "Other than that we even send applications to schools and train parents to go for interviews when their children are being admitted to schools. Also, we assist them when it comes to making their identity cards, birth certificates and other necessary documents."

As some of these children come from the families of prostitutes, thieves and drug addicts, Sarvodaya is faced with the additional task of rehabilitating not only the children but also their parents as well. "Our priority is for the children. However, we carry out counselling programmes for parents while helping them out with income generating activities. We even give loans for them to do small scale industries," she added.

"These children are being safeguarded by day-care units until their parents comeback from work," she said.

In addition to that, Sarvodaya is engaged in skills development programmes for older children such as welding, carpentry, dress making etc., while being given access to take part in other activities such as music, dancing, sports, little friends movements. These children are being taken on observation tours.

Gamage said that they carry out medical clinics very often to help solve children's health problems. "Creating a healthy family is our main intention," she concluded while noting that today there is a 'decrease' in the number of street children when compared with the past.

Meanwhile speaking to The Sunday Leader, Communication Officer, UNICEF, Jeffory Keele said that UNICEF is working with various authorities to provide the street children with education and also help police when dealing with street children.


Children being used to earn a 'fast buck'

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, OIC, Women and Children's Bureau, Manoj Samarasekera said it is an offense to use children, even by their parents, in order to earn a `fast buck.'

"Very often such children are the victims of sexual abuse and therefore we take action against those who exploit these child beggars, be it even their parents," he said.

OIC Samarasekera also said that the bureau has come across instances in which children were being used in this beggar trade. They are used either by their parents or sometimes by organised gangs. "Often it is the children who are being exploited in these instances and not the adults," pointed out the OIC. 


A closer look at 'club  drugs'

It is sad to say that alcoholism is a major  problem the world over and especially in poorer countries. In Sri Lanka the local brewed alcohol called kassippu and arrack is in abundance. There have been sporadic newspaper reports where whole batches have been admitted to local hospitals after consuming the local alcohol and some have even paid with their lives.

Although alcohol remains the so called primary 'social lubricant,' it has been joined by many newer psychoactive drugs that are used to intensify the social experience.

I am going to tell you about the these psychoactive drugs, as there have been sporadic reports in newspapers and some readers have even queried about heir chemical content. These drugs may be bought at pharmacies, over the counter or on prescription by certain drug addict friendly doctors; and may be bought through contacts.

I collectively call these 'club drugs' because of their prevalence at dance parties, raves and night clubs.

MDMA

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) was first developed in 1914 as an appetite suppressant. At the same time animal studies were done but not impressive - therefore never used in human beings. In 1962 psychiatrists started prescribing the drug as an "empathy agent." By 1985 illegal manufacturers were producing the drug for recreational purposes and was classified under schedule I controlled substances.

MDMA is found in 70% of raves and night clubs in the USA. MDMA is usually sold as small tablets or toffees (candy) of variable colours imprinted with icons and words. This drug also came to be known as the 'hug drug' as it can be planted in the mouth of a person while kissing.

Most of these tablets are adulterated with various chemicals far too numerous to mention here. Many of these substances - 'designer drugs' - are illicitly manufactured variants of pharmaceuticals and have intentional or unintentional effects. Eg. MDEA (eve) and PMA (death) are substituted amphetamines and have hallucinogenic and often unpleasant effects.

Onset of action is usually 60 minutes and may last up to eight hours. Inhalation of the crushed tablet may bring about a quicker action. Action: Initial feeling of agitation, distorted sense of time and diminished hunger and thirst. Later, euphoria with a sense of profound insight, intimacy and well being.

Side effects include trismus and bruxism which may be reduced by sucking on a pacifier or a lollipop. Adverse effects - These may range from mild diaphoresis, tremor and urine retention to more serious ones such as arrhythmias and organ damage. Due to " serotonin syndrome," hyperthermia is markedly noted such as arrhythmias and end organ damage. Due to "serotonin syndrome" hyperthermia is markedly noted. Neurological effects include confusion, delirium, paranoia, irritability and nystagmus, which may continue for several weeks.

Compared with alcohol withdrawal, patients withdrawing from MDMA are more depressed, irritable and unsociable with cognitive deficits with potential permanent memory impairment.

A number of products are sold legally in the US as 'herbal ectacy.' These products are found in health stores or on the internet and contain stimulants such as ephedra, caffeine and guarana with variable additions of vitamins. Users of these may believe they are safe alternatives to MDMA, but several cases of toxic overdose have been reported due to these stimulants.

GHB

GHB is a derivative of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gammaaminobut-yricacid. It is believed that this natural precursor occurs in the central nervous system. Its functions are believed to be the following:

*Mediate sleep cycles

*Body temperature

*Cerebral glucose metabolism

*Memory

First synthesis of GHB came into being in 1960 in France as an anaesthetic. It later achieved popularity as a recreational drug and nutritional supplement to body builders. In 1990 it was banned in the USA due to its adverse effects such as uncontrolled movements, depression of the respiratory and central nervous system. In the year 2000 alone, 60 deaths were reported from overdoes and came to be known as the "date rape drug."

The salty powder, tasting salty to soapy, is sold at high rates ranging from US$ 5 to $ 10 per dose. This powder can be mixed with food or beverages and the action appears in 15 to 30 minutes of oral ingestion and reaches a peak in 20 to 60 minutes. This may be delayed if mixed with food but potentiated if mixed with CNS depressants such as alcohol.

In mild doses, it causes euphoria and a little higher dose will cause dizziness, hypersalivation, hypotonia and even amnesia. Still higher doses may cause respiratory distress, coma and even death. Over dosage is very common as the strength of the solution is often unknown.

Chronic users of GHB may produce dependence and a withdrawal syndrome that includes anxiety, insomnia, tremor and in severe cases, treatment resistant psychoses. So next time you go to party or a social event be careful of the drinks and the food you eat.

Rohypnol

This is a potent benzodiazepine marketed in over 60 countries, manufactured by Roche laboratories. Rohypnol came to prominence in 1990, as 'date rape drug.' In Sri Lanka a tablet costs between Rs. 20 to 30 and is available in certain pharmacies and drug retailers.

The distributors who import the drug in Sri Lanka do not have the drug presently, but they claim it will come back to shelves after registration formalities are over. In the USA the street price fetches between $ 0.20 and $ 5 per tablet.

The potency is 10 times that of Diazepam (Valium) also manufactured by Roche, Switzerland. A single 1 to 2 milligrams dose reduces anxiety, inhibition and muscular tension. Effects occur within 30 minutes of ingestion with peak action in two hours. The effect may last up to eight to 12 hours.

Diazepam and Phenobarbitone

The latter two drugs in the list before codeine are Diazepam and Phenobarbitone usually sought by drug addicts to get the kicks or to avoid a dose when they are short of money. Diazepam and Valium belong to the benzodiazepine group like Rohypnol. Diazepam is a tranquiliser which exerts anxiolytic, sedative, muscle relaxant and anticonvulsant effects.

Phenobarbitone is also an anti-convulsant used for generalised epilepsy. This drug should not be sold over the counter like other drugs mentioned above, but sad to say drug addicts in Sri Lanka prescribe it themselves somehow.

Ketamine

We use ketamine hydrochloride as an anaesthetic. It came to being in 1960, derived from phencyclidine, and used as a dissociative anaesthetic.

This drug can cause anaesthesia with our respiratory depression and can cause bizarre hallucination and ideation which prompted recreational users to use this drug. When prisoners are not talking some have tried this drug to extract information as well.

Ketamine is found in a liquid form which can be injected or ingested but in clubs a dry form is available. The dry powder can be smoked or inhaled with marijuana or tobacco. It can be snuffed in intra-nasally. In the USA 'bullet' or 'bumper' is used as nasal inhaler with trail mixes of methamphetamine, cocaine, sildenafil (viagra) or heroin.

Even days after ingestion or even a few weeks after - some patients still experience flashes - visual disturbances, palpitations, confusion, hypertension, respiratory depression leading even to apnea.

- Dr. Nalin Kumudu Ashubodha

Below is a table which summarises the prominent club drugs with their chemical names and street names

Chemical name

Street name

Ectasy, X,M,E,Xtc, Rolls, Beans, Clarity,Adam, Lover's Speed, Hug Drug.

G, Liquid Ectasy, Grievous Bodily Harm, Gib, Soap, Scoop, Nitro

Blue Nitro, Cleaner, Serenity, Thunder Nectar, Revitalize Plus

Resto, Roche, La Roache, Mexican Valium, Circles, Roofies, Rophies, R2, Rope, Forget Me Pill

K, Special K, Vitamin K, Kit Kat, Keets, Super Acid, Jet, Cat, Valiums

Nilla Soya, Valium, Diazepam

Phenol Barbitone, Barbitone, Barbital Pb

Codeine Syfrup Marketed By Spc And Corex- D Syrup Actifed Dm (Glaxo) Now Does Not Have Codeine

MDMA (Methyllenedi-oxymethamphetamine) 

GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate)

GBL (Chemical precursors of GHB) 

Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol)

Ketamine(Ketalar) 
Diazepam (Valium) 
Phenobarbitone 
Codeine Phosphate


My youngest son...

The baby who brought me so much joy..." and Back to being a baby again

By Ranee Mohamed

Having four sons in the house is a source of  strength and comfort. And  to Anula Sandanayake whose husband has long left her, they were more than a source of strength, they were her very being. "Their father may have left me, but my four sons stood by me like pillars of strength," she said holding them close.

This woman who works in the agency post office opposite the St. Paul's Milagiriya Church in Colombo 4, however has been praying silently for a miracle. This is because the unspeakable has happened to her young son, the baby she held and cuddled - the most recent one whose cuddles and gurgles she remembers more clearly.

Back to infancy

Fourteen years after his birth, again today, she is holding and cuddling him, for he can barely speak. He is a teenager, but he can barely eat and again she is crushing his food like the way it used to be years ago. This young boy has gone back to infancy - this is what the cancer in his tongue has done to him.

Anula's youngest boy Indika, ought to be playing football and getting into mock fights with friends, but the only fight he is having right now is the fight for life.

In his dark room, in their rented house near the statue of St. Anthony at 126/1 Kopiyawatte, Mahara, Kadawatha there is not only darkness, but despair too. There are tears and heartache in this house because everyone is worried for Indika who can barely talk now.

"It rips my very being to see my child this way. He sits on this sofa and watches the television holding a piece of cloth to his mouth. He says the cancer is painful. He says he wants to eat koththuroti and kiri hodi and I make it for him. Today, he wants kos and I made it for him. I will move heaven and earth for my son," said Anula.

Tough life

Life is not easy for Anula Sandanayake who wakes up at 4 a.m. everyday and cooks for her sons. "Then I make special food for my ailing son and I tuck him to bed and then leave home around 6.30 to get to Bambalapitiya on time. I reach home at about 6.45p.m. I want to be home and be close to my ailing child, but I cannot for if I do not go to work we cannot eat," she said.

Anula wants to work hard and get all the money she can. This is because she wants to give Indika everything he asks her for. Sometimes he asks for things but cannot eat because of his tongue.

Prasad Indika opens his mouth. His tongue is short and red and there are swellings everywhere inside. His cheeks are swollen too. We wish there was something we can do. But cancer is the unseen enemy that has no feelings to respond.

Anula had noticed a small difference in his tongue when he was born. "There was a small nerve, but it was so insignificant. When I showed him to a doctor he said that there was nothing to worry about," she recalled.

When Prasad was about 12 years there appeared a small boil in his tongue. A worried Anula had taken him to Colombo and she was sent to Peradeniya Hospital from Colombo. "We did a test at the Dental Insitute in Colombo and we were told that a post card will be mailed to us. I waited for one year and there was no postcard. I went to the Dental Institute recently to look for it but the nurse there told me that she cannot look for documents that are a year old. I was crying at this time because my son was suffering. He could barely eat because of this boil," she said.

Anula had then found a friend who promised to use some influence and look for the report.

"Then I went to the Peradeniya hospital and there Dr. Prasad Amaratunga who treated my son asked me not to worry - that he will do his best for my son. He gave us his hand phone number too. My son had to undergo X rays and scans. The doctor asked me about my family details and advised me to keep my son in Kandy. He consoled us and promised us his wholehearted support," recalled Anula.

A cancer

"Four days later they found the report. I took my son to collect it and was told that my son had a cancer in the tongue. I was devastated. I held my son and cried on the road. What was happening to my strong young boy? I asked the world.

"My only hope was the doctor in Peradeniya. I took my son by bus to Kandy. By this time my son could barely eat. We went in search of the doctor," she said.

In this way Anula Sandanayake found solace in a single doctor in Peradeniya. She took her ailing son by bus to Kandy as often as possible. She watched her little boy, her youngest child starve for four and a half months without food. He was so thin and dehydrated that even saline could not be administered. He existed on oral saline.

Today young Prasad Indika is receiving treatment from Peradeniya. Anula has been told that there is no 100% guarantee with this cancer. But she does not want to believe that.

This single mother rushes to work and back, her heart heavy with fear and unhappiness. She wants to give him the required injections but she cannot - Prasad required 90 injections each of which will cost her Rs.2,300.

Grief

Each day she watches her youngest son suffer. She shows us a computer - "A friend gifted this for my son. But he can barely use it. All he does is watch TV. He watches the commercials in which lively young boys play hide and seek. Recently he asked me when he will be able to run like that, What do I tell my child?" cried Anula.

As we try to leave the house Indika rises. He is crying. He opens his mouth and points a finger at his tongue and starts to cry again. He wants us to take the pain away, he wants us to do something for him. This is a desperate plea to the only visitors to this house. I wished there was something we could do for this boy. The heartless enemy, that is cancer has eaten into his tender years. Anula tries to comfort him, she holds him close and cries - in fear.

There are so many teardrops around us, so much heartache and fear. How different things will be if life held only happiness for us all - if only there were no heartache and no tears in this world, how different it would be for this single mother Anula Sandanayake and her frightened young sons who remain huddled and helpless.


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