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Drama

“It crept up on us out of nowhere, this deadly monster! which spread across the globe, wreaking havoc in it's wake. Ruining businesses, ruining lives disrupting our peaceful existence. This small island has had it's share of tragedies in the past. A civil war that raged on for nearly thirty years. A Tsunami that ravaged almost the entire island amidst of it, and just last year, the deadly terrorist bombings which claimed innocent lives. Just as we were beginning to think that the worst was behind us, just as we were beginning to recover from that awful nightmare, bam! It came out of nowhere and punched us right in the gut! This virus, this pandemic!”


These thoughts were going through Ravin's mind as he sat in the bus on his way to work one morning. He was employed as a steward at one of Colombo's reputed hotels. The hospitality industry was suffering due to the lockdown since mid March. Most people were getting laid off as a result of businesses going bust.


He had started work only a few months ago. Just out of hotel school. Wide eyed and fresh faced with big ideas and big dreams in his heart, of someday reaching to the top in the industry, of making his parents and siblings proud as he was the first in his family to be starting a job as the eldest child. He wanted to lift the burden by helping his father with the expenses around the house, maybe help his younger brother and sister with their education by providing for their needs.


As he got off the bus, a few moments later, he couldn't help but feel a little apprehensive as he made his way towards the hotel, unsure of his fate. “Will I lose my job today? Will they send me home?” This dreaded question had been on his mind for quite sometime now, even though the lockdown had been lifted and life resumed to some semblance of normalcy, no one was safe.


Ravin entered the hotel through the staff entrance. As he made his way towards the locker room to change into his uniform, he was met by his manager who bid him good morning and said, “Ravin, once you are done getting dressed, could you come and see me in my office? I need to have a chat with you.”


Ravin felt as if his heart had stopped beating as he stood there, rooted to the spot unable to move, he suddenly found it difficult to speak as he stammered, “y...yes....sir! I....will b...be there in f...five minutes!” 


“Good, I will be waiting” the manager said with a sad expression on his face as he turned around and walked towards his office.


Ravin hurried towards the locker room and quickly changed into his uniform, he was unable keep his hands steady as they shook when he buttoned his jacket. He was a bundle of nerves as he made his way towards the manger's office and knocked on the door.


“Come in!” the manager called out from behind the door. 


He took a deep breath, opened the door and walked in and stood in front of the desk with his hands behind his back as the manager looked up from his writing and smiled. Ravin smiled back nervously.


The manger put his writing aside cleared his throat and began,“Ravin, I am afraid I have some bad news. We have decided to let some of the staff go, as we are finding it difficult to keep things going during these troubled times. As you are well aware, we haven't been making a profit for the last few months, as a result, the management has decided to lay off some of the new recruits. 


The manager paused for a moment and continued.


“I am extremely sorry to have to do this to you. You have proven yourself to be a loyal, trustworthy, hardworking young man during the short time that you worked here and I, personally, am sad to see you go. I had no choice. I hope you understand, he concluded smiling nervously.


Ravin stood there dumbstruck, and nodded.


The manager went on, “You can finish your shift, collect your dues and leave in the evening or you can collect it now, if you want to leave immediately. It's entirely up to you.”


“I will f...finish my shift and l will l...leave sir!” Ravin stammered.


“Okay, then, you better get to work now,” the manager said as he resumed his writing, indicating that the conversation has come to an end.


Ravin exited the room without uttering a word.


As he made his way down the passageway, he ran into one of the senior chefs, who greeted him and said, “ machan, Ravin, what's wrong? You are looking pale today, are you unwell?”


“I got laid off!” was all that he could say as he continued on his way to perform his duties for the last time.


At the end of his shift he reported back to his manager's office to collect his pay cheque and the letter of recommendation and left after bidding farewell to his colleagues.


It was around five in the evening as he made his way towards ‘Galle Face Green’ with a beautiful view of the Indian ocean, to sit for a while and clear his head before heading home.


He sat himself down on the green grass and removed his backpack and kept it between his legs. The sun was beating down on him as he made himself as comfortable as he can.


There were hardly any people around, in a place usually bustling with tourists and locals alike. There were only a handful of people and one or two street food vendors busy getting their kiosks set up. 


On his left, he saw a man maybe around sixty years old busy setting up his canvas. “Must be an artist” Ravin thought to himself as he studied the man going about his business, getting his easel in place, keeping the canvas on it and adjusting it.


The old man suddenly glanced to his right and caught Ravin, looking at him. He quickly looked the other way embarrassed, focusing his gaze on the far horizon instead.


A moment later he heard a voice saying, “Hello!” 


Ravin glanced in the direction of the voice and saw the old man bent down looking at him with a big smile across his face as he pulled his face mask down so that Ravin could get a good look at him.


“Do you come here often?” the old man asked.


“No! I don't come here often” Ravin snapped back, fearing the man is trying to engage him in conversation as he was not in a conversing mood.


“Oh! A visitor, then?” he asked intrigued.


“No!....well, yes kind of. My home town is Galle. I stay at a boarding house in Mt. Lavinia as I work in Colombo.”


“Oh! Really, and where do you work young man?” the old man inquired further.


“What's it to you? why do you care where I work? I don't know you, I don't have to tell you anything Mister!” Ravin said getting annoyed by the old man's questions.


“That's Mr. Amith......Amith Perera, nice to meet you, Mister....?” he asked extending a hand, still smiling broadly.


Something in his eyes, his smile and his friendly manner was so reassuring, it calmed Ravin down, finally, he pulled his face mask down as he extended his hand in return and shook his, saying, “My name is Ravin De Silva, nice to meet you sir!”


“Please, you can drop the ‘sir' and call me Amith or uncle, as I am old enough to be your father!” Amith said grinning.


“Okay, Amith, to answer your question earlier, I was laid off from my employment at the hotel. Today was my last day,” Ravin said sadly.


“I am so sorry to hear that putha, how long were you working there and which hotel is it?” Amith inquired with a concerned look in his eye as he sat down beside Ravin.


“Hilton, just four months!” replied Ravin.


“That's a very short time. Well, it is to be expected considering the situation, the country is facing now, with this pandemic” he replied. 


“I can understand your frustration. You would have started this job with so much expectations and dreams of making it to the top one day, am I right?” Amith queried further.


Ravin could only nod as he was feeling emotional all of a sudden.


“I remember when I was your age. I was just like you, when I first started working. I felt the same way. I was young, ambitious with a zest for life.


“Have you been an artist all your life?” asked Ravin.


“Good heavens! No, my parents, especially my father didn't encourage my love of art, as he felt it wasn't a sturdy enough profession.” replied Amith feeling rather nostalgic.


He paused for a moment before he continued.


“He wanted me to be a doctor, and so I became a doctor!” Amith said finally, looking towards the horizon, where the sun was beginning to set.


“But, I never gave up on my art, I still continued with it during what little spare time I got. I am retired now, so I have plenty of time to spare for it. I recently enrolled myself in an art class. That's why I come here every so often to capture the sunset. Although I still haven't been able to do so, he said grinning.


“Why haven't you been able to capture it?” asked Ravin.


“Putha, this is God's canvas,” he said pointing towards the horizon. He is the true artist, I am just trying to copy his handiwork. I need to get it right, to do justice to his artistry!” Amith exclaimed excitedly.


“Ravin regarded him with a quizzical look in his eye and asked, “are you a Christian?"  


“Yes, I am!” replied Amith.


“I am sorry, I am making you miss out on God's glorious sunset”, said Ravin apologetically.


“That's okay, He will paint another one tomorrow, you can count on that!” he declared enthusiastically.


“Ravin, smiled, probably for the first time that day, “Yes, you are right, the sun always comes up, it always shines whatever happens, it always has, and it always will, he said gazing up at the brightly coloured, large ‘Lion Flag' flapping away in the breeze in the middle of ‘Galle Face Green.’


They sat there for a while gazing at the setting sun, totally mesmerized by the brilliance of it, as neither one spoke.


After sometime, Amith stood up suddenly as he dusted himself and walked over to his easel and canvas and started packing up.


Ravin watching him asked, “Are you leaving?” as he too, got up and picked up his backpack slinging it on his shoulder.


“Yes, I am supposed to be somewhere." Amith replied.


“Putha, why don't you join me for a cup of coffee?” Amith asked as he finished packing up his equipment. 


“As Ravin was feeling reluctant, he quickly replied. “Don't worry it will be my treat!”


Ravin smiled and nodded, feeling slightly embarrassed as he said, “Amith, I am sorry for snapping at you earlier. I was upset and wanted to be left alone. I hope you can forgive my outburst.” 


“Don't worry putha, I understand, I would have reacted the same way, if I was in your shoes." Amith said smiling.


“Come, my car is parked right over there” he said pointing in the direction of the car park as Ravin helped him carry his equipment towards it.


After about a fifteen minutes’ drive Amith pulled into the car park of a fancy restaurant. He got out and jogged to the entrance with Ravin following closely behind, as Amith held the door open for him to walk through.


Ravin walked in looking around and admiring the tastefully decorated interior of the empty restaurant, as he sat opposite Amith who was looking at him with a smile on his face.


“Do you like the place?” Amith asked finally.


“It's beautiful! Do you come here often?” Ravin asked looking around again.


“As often as I like, they do a mean club sandwich and their coffee is to die for! Shall I order one for you?" asked Amith still smiling. 


“I don't mind, If it comes highly recommended" replied Ravin.


Amith signalled to a waiter who came rushing to their table and said, “Good evening sir! Have you finished painting for the day?”


To which Amith replied. “Yes Ramesh, I am done for the day, could you ask your brilliant chef to make us two club sandwiches and could you bring us some coffee please, in the meantime?”


“Yes sir, right away" Ramesh said as he dashed off to the kitchen after instructing another waiter about the coffee.


“Wow! They sure do give you VIP treatment here don't they?" said Ravin grinning.


“They have to, they have no choice, as my son is the owner and also the chef!” Amith replied chuckling. 


“What? Your son is the owner?” Ravin asked, surprised.


“Yes, but unfortunately, like many other establishments, we are also struggling to keep things going these days. But he manages for now with just two waiters, and a junior chef as we are not allowed to open the restaurant to the public yet, we take orders and deliver them. Ramesh and the other chap Nalin acts as our delivery boys at the moment. We had to lay off a few people too, I am afraid” Amith replied with a sad look on his face.


“Which brings me to the reason why I brought you here putha” Amith continued with a cheeky grin.


Ravin narrowed his eyes at him as he asked, “So you didn't bring me here just for sandwiches and coffee?”


“No, I brought you here to make you an offer. How would you like to come and work for the restaurant as a delivery guy, although, I have to warn you the pay won't be much but it will keep you going for the time being as we have been getting quite a lot of orders lately, poor Ramesh and Nalin finds it difficult to keep up. That is if you have a valid driver's license and if only you are willing." Amith concluded.


Ravin pondered on the offer for a moment and replied saying, “Yes, I do have a valid license and yes, I am willing, as he extended his hand which Amith took as they shook hands, laughing loudly.


After a few minutes as their coffee was brought to the table by Nalin they sat back and continued on with their chat. After another few minutes the owner and chef himself brought their order of sandwiches to the table. 


Amith stood up and greeted his son with a warm hug and turned towards Ravin and said, “Ravin, I would like to introduce you to your new boss Mr. Gihan Perera, Gihan, this is Mr. Ravin De Silva, your new delivery guy!”


As Ravin stood up to shake hands, Gihan said jokingly, “Did my father abduct you and bring you here, if so, I do apologize!” as they all broke out laughing.


After discussing the details of the new job with Ravin, Gihan excused himself and disappeared into the kitchen.

Ravin looked over at Amith and asked, “how come your son ended up a chef and not a doctor, like you?”


Amith let out a laugh before saying, “I didn't want to treat my son the way my father treated me. He told me he wanted to be a chef and I supported him right from the start."


“You wanted him to choose his own path!” said Ravin.


“That’s right! Amith said smiling and snapping his fingers.


“You are a good father!” Ravin said.


“Well, I try to be!" Amith said as he lifted his cup of coffee and made a toast, “to new beginnings and new friendships!”


Ravin joined in, lifting his cup and saying, “and to new opportunities!” as they broke out laughing again.



THE END
















‘Putha' – Son


‘Machan’ – Sri Lankan slang word for – Buddy/Pal/Chum


Here in Sri Lanka people are accustomed to addressing strangers who are older as ‘Uncle' or ‘Auntie' even though they are not related to each other. 


‘Galle Face Green' – Vast open area with a view of the Indian ocean.


As always your feedback is welcome!🙂


August 26, 2020 15:16

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9 comments

Madisson James
07:26 Sep 09, 2020

I really enjoyed reading this. A very heartfelt story.

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Melissa Hassan
08:02 Sep 09, 2020

Thank you Madisson!🙂

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Deborah Angevin
22:09 Aug 31, 2020

I can see this actually happens in real life (people in the hospitality and tourism industry getting out of a job). Well done, Melissa! P.S: would you mind checking my recent story out, "The Purple Sash"? Thank you :D

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Melissa Hassan
01:23 Sep 01, 2020

Thank you Deborah. I will read your story.

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K V Chidambaram
15:58 Aug 29, 2020

Nice story and apt in terms of the prompt and the pandemic as well. Best Wishes.

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Melissa Hassan
17:11 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you. 😊

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This was so good! A very creative and enjoyable read. Keep writing! ~Aerin P. S. I just posted a new story, if you wouldn’t mind checking it out!

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Melissa Hassan
01:23 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you Aerin, I am glad you enjoyed reading it. I will check your story out.🙂

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Thanks!

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