“Simon Dias? The Simon Dias, is your grand uncle?” the gentleman sitting opposite him asked obviously intrigued.
“Shhh! Not so loud, we are in a library for goodness sake!” whispered Shehan, regretting having blurted his ancestor's name out by mistake.
“My word! I can't believe I am sitting with the grand nephew of Simon Dias!” replied the man.
“Oh! Gosh here we go again, why couldn't you just keep your big mouth shut, you are such a blabber mouth!” Shehan thought to himself, cursing silently.
“Yes, Simon Dias is my grand uncle!” Shehan confirmed feeling embarrassed.
“Unfortunately” he added.
“Putha, your grand uncle is somewhat of a legend in this part of the city!” declared the gentleman sitting opposite him. “He was known as “The Casa……..!”
“‘The Casanova of Kandy’ Yeah, I know" Shehan cut in before the man could finish. “Believe me uncle, I know. I have heard all about it, from my parents my grand parents and neighbours!” he concluded.
“You know what? Now that I think of it, you look just like him! The resemblance is uncanny. It's as if he is sitting there right in front of me!” the old man said in wonderment.
“Yeah, so I have been told, many a times, my entire life! Everywhere I go, people stop dead in their tracks and stare at me like I am some circus freak, while others crack jokes, laugh or hoot at me!”
“Oh! Look, it's Simon Dias, come back from the dead to kiss all the girls in town. We better hide our daughters in the closet or lock them up in their rooms!” Shehan said mimicking his taunters.
“I won't be surprised, if one of these days, the neighbours get together with one of the local councils and organize open top bus tours down our street, just so they could laugh and taunt us even more!” he concluded with a sarcastic chuckle, as he got up to leave.
“Wait, putha, don't you want to listen to some of the stories?” the gentleman asked smiling up at him.
“Oh! No thank you uncle, I am sure I have heard it all. I have been hearing these stories ever since I could remember!” Shehan said wanting desperately to avoid another embarrassing stroll down ‘nausea lane.'
He quickly exited the public library, covering his face with the books he had borrowed, hoping and praying that no one overheard the conversation and that no one recognized him.
The stories of his grand uncle has always bothered him, especially when he was a boy growing up. He had been the butt of everyone's jokes at school and neighborhood. Even now he can't seem to escape his family's embarrassing past and avoid being ridiculed because of his resemblance to his infamous ancestor.
As Shehan got onto the bus and settled himself in a seat, his mind wandered back to the stories he had heard as a boy.
Simon Dias had been a well read, well educated man. Poetry and Shakespeare had been his forte, greatly influenced by his paternal grandfather. He regarded himself as a passionate and romantic individual, living under the delusion that he could woo any woman he came across. His family had always joked saying that maybe, all that education and reading would have messed up his head somehow making his brain go all ‘wonky!'
Now, he was no ‘Clark Gable' or ‘Errol Flynn,’ on the contrary, he looked and behaved like one of the ‘Three Stooges.’ He was pudgy with a receding hair line and a ‘toothbrush' mustache, and dressed like ‘Charlie Chaplin.' Which earned him a second nickname, ‘Charlie Casanova.’ Simon had always been chubby even as a boy, with a voracious appetite.
It all started when he was eight years old. He was accustomed to spending time with his paternal grandmother after school, who was a fan of old Hollywood movies. She regaled young Simon of all the movies she had seen on the big screen as a young girl, and of all the stories of the glamorous actors and actresses.
From that day on he was hooked. When he became a teenager he started to imitate the local movie stars often breaking into song and dance on his way home from school which made his friends and all who witnessed his impromptu performances, to cackle with laughter, because he looked rather silly and sounded hilarious as he was neither a good singer nor a dancer. He imagined himself as a handsome strapping young movie star sought after by countless women to everyone's amazement and sometimes annoyance.
It was during his later years in school that things got a little peculiar. His parents were summoned by the headmaster. Simon had been leaving romantic poems and love letters written by him, on his teacher's desk every now and then declaring his undying love for her. The teacher being a young lady of just twenty five had found this charming and sweet but slightly disconcerting at the same time.
Since the teacher didn't find his act offensive and didn't report him at first, he had taken it as an encouragement and had kissed her one day after school while helping to tidy the class room. He was expelled and sent home that very day much to the embarrassment of his parents. And that was the day Simon Dias gained his now popular nickname ‘The Casanova of Kandy.’
He got into the habit of leaving love poems and letters at neighbouring houses where ladies older or younger lived. At this point everyone agreed his behavior was becoming more bizarre by the second and didn't find it amusing anymore.
He even paid special attention to the vicar's wife, who's name was Bhoomika. His love letter to her was discovered by the vicar himself. It read:
My darling dollop,
I fell in love with you the first time I heard you singing, that glorious Sunday in Church. Bhoomika, the way your booming voice reverberated off the pristine walls and bounced straight in to my beating heart was so magical, so romantic, so lovely! It made my heart go ‘boomboody….boomboody….booboom…....boom! I felt like you were singing just for me, my darling poppet, my pot of honey, my sweet lassi.
He was banished from the Church forthwith by a very angry vicar!
As the years progressed, so did his Casanova Complex.
As Shehan sat in the bus recalling all the stories, his mind drifted to a particular one which had been told and retold through the years by an eyewitness who was present during the incident.
After the ‘Bhoomika’ fiasco, Simon laid low for a while. That is, until young Daisy moved in to the neighbourhood with her parents. To Simon's delight they moved in to a two story house just down the street.
Daisy was a beautiful, well mannered and an accomplished young lady. In many ways she had taken after her equally beautiful mother, in looks and talent. Every young man in town wanted to court her. This started a frenzied competition between the lads in the neighbourhood.
Simon, however, was undeterred. He considered himself to be the one, above all of those other silly young men, to win Daisy's heart. In fact he believed deep down that she was already besotted with him. And so a week after she moved in, he decided that he would do the wooing in person instead of his usual poems and love letters. He waited for the perfect opportunity, and it presented itself.
Daisy's parents had left for Colombo, leaving her in the house with the two maids and the gardener. That night Simon sneaked in to her garden climbing over the wall with the greatest difficulty.
He was already huffing and puffing by the time he reached the balcony of her bedroom. He called out her name. As there was no reply, he picked up the biggest pebble he could find in the dark and hurled it at the window shattering it to pieces.
The lights went on inside her house, and inside the neighbouring houses as well. The sound of dogs barking could be heard from within. Daisy came rushing out onto the balcony with one of the maids and the gardener rushed out through the front door torch in hand to see what the commotion was about. When he saw Simon standing there he merely said, “Oh! It's you! What are you doing here at this late hour Master Simon?”
“I have come to see Daisy, I have come to woo her” he declared enthusiastically.
They all erupted with laughter at his declaration.
Simon took their reaction as an encouragement and broke in to a rendition of:
“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.
I am half crazy all for the love of you.
It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage.
But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.”
The laughter continued for sometime as by now he had quite an audience who had listened to him singing off key in a squeaky voice.
After composing herself, Daisy shouted saying, “Go away you crazy lunatic, before I release my father's Rottweilers on you!”
To which Simon replied shouting, “I will gladly be a Rottweiler and lay at your feet all day and all night my darling, my pumpkin, my half moon!”
“Ravan, release the dogs on him!” she called out to the gardener.
Ravan went back inside the house for a moment and came back with two ferocious looking Rottweilers on a leash as they started barking at the strangers.
“If you don't leave now, you will be sorry!” shouted Daisy getting annoyed. As Simon stood there, grinning up at her like an idiot. She realized he wasn't planning on leaving anytime soon.
“Release!” shouted Daisy.
Ravan let go of the leash and the two dogs dashed after Simon barking madly as he ran as fast as his pudgy legs could carry him and somehow managed to climb a tree with the greatest difficulty, huffing and puffing, totally out of breath.
The dogs stopped at the foot of the tree and continued barking as Ravan came running after them and stopped, looking up at the tree as he flashed his torch, he saw Simon all sweaty and terrified, who shouted saying, “Please take the dogs away, I will leave at once, just put them back in the house!”
“Do you promise? Do you swear never to come back here ever again? Because I guarantee, next time I will let them tear you to pieces!” shouted Ravan with a menacing look in his eye.
“I promise, I swear!” he cried.
Ravan whistled to the dogs and they obediently turned and ran back towards the house.
“You have exactly ten minutes to climb down from that tree and exit this property!” shouted Ravan maintaining his menacing stare.
“Yes…..yes, right away!” said Simon as he started to climb back down with even greater difficulty, sending the onlookers into fits of laughter as he struggled to get down.
A few moments later as he planted his feet firmly on the ground, he walked towards Ravan with a silly grin on his face and said, “can I just have a few minutes with Miss. Daisy?”
“Get out!!!” shouted Ravan flashing the torch right in Simon's face as he turned back and ran to the wall and climbed over it huffing and puffing again, as the onlookers continued to laugh watching the entire spectacle.
Simon abandoned all hope of wooing Daisy or any other woman ever again after that unforgettable night.
According Shehan's father, after several years, he ran away with one of Daisy's maids, Lakshmi and lived somewhere in Matale, Lakshmi's home town. He abandoned her, after a few months and ran away with her younger sister. That was the last time that anybody heard of him until his death was announced in the newspaper years later.
Simon Dias aka ‘Charlie Casanova’ died at the ripe old age of seventy five, and was finally laid to rest. “Leaving behind a lasting albeit an embarrassing legacy,” Shehan thought to himself as the bus he was on, sped along the road towards his destination.
Putha - Son
Bhoomika – means base of earth
Sweet Lassi – A blend of yoghurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit.
“Okay, this is my first attempt at writing a funny story. I hope I have done justice to the prompt. As always your feedback is welcome.”