The Inclusive Flowers by Rajarathnem Sivatharshan

A small oil lamp was glowing at the chairman’s office of Inclusive Flowers.  Arun was late.  The alms giving at the kovil took longer than he expected.  As previous years, he went straight to his room and closed the door.  The rest of his employees seem to be busy pretending they didn’t know what day it was.  Arun closed his office door. He removed his shoes.  He knelt on the floor, stretched out in front of Megha’s picture hanging on the wall, closed his eyes, and a tear rolled down his cheek.

Arun and Megha had studied at a secondary mixed school for 10 years and were good friends. They planned to go to Mullai town for their high school studies, but their plans were denied because the school did not want to admit them because of their low caste.

“Arun, What shall we do?” Megha asked towards him.

“What about private school?” He replied.

“Private school!  Do you know how much money you need for that? It would be like a nightmare for people like us.  So, just give up that matter.”  Megha dashed the clothes against a rock as if it was the principal of the high school between her hands. Her elbows were covered with soap and her homemade dress was tucked between her legs to prevent it from getting wet.  Arun stood next to her in the water washing another set of laundry.

“Megha, I have decided to work?”

“Work? Can you? You are only 16.”

“Yes. I met Anwar Bai yesterday and requested him to give me a job.  He said ok.  So, I am going to join his place and wash vehicles and he will pay me 800 rupees a day and I will pay for your class fees from next month.  You can go to private school.”

“Why do you need to pay my education for me?”, asked Megha.

“Because you are my friend beyond that you are…” Arun stopped.

“What tell me Arun?” Megha joked.

“You are my better-half.”

Megha stared at Arun seriously.  She stopped her washing.  “Don’t joke Arun.”

Arun shook his head. “No. I’m serious. You are my angel. I can no longer be without you.”

“Sorry Arun.  This is not a time for talking these matters.  Come to our Pilliyar kovil tomorrow evening at six.”  Megha stopped her work and tied all the clothes together with a bed sheet and put the bundle on her head.

She called out to her younger sister, “Chooty, hurry up. You have to go your science class.” Megha took her sister with one hand and held the pail in the other hand and walked hurriedly towards the shelter.

When, she reached home.  Her mother Parvathi’s voice rose up from the sleeping mat.

“Makal, Can you give my tablets.  I felt my stomach is burning”.

“No Amma. The doctor said you should take those tablets only at night.  So please wait, I will give you a milk-tea soon,” while the tears were pouring out of Megha’s eyes she walked towards the kitchen which was outside their shelter made of cadjan leaves.

Parvathi had been suffering from chronic cancer for the last five years and when Megha was six, her father was kidnaped by an unknown armed group.  Ten years have now passed, and there was still no news about him. Their only monthly income was the 4,000 rupees given by the Government for the widowed mother.  Their hearth was lit only once a day.

The next day, after Megha had finished her work she walked hastily towards the Pilliyar kovil. She was almost two hours late.

“Hi! Arun, sorry I am late. Ok tell me what you want” said Megha in her usual abrupt way.

“Don’t say sorry.  You have been with me all this time.  We have just had a good chat in my dream about our wedding.“

“Are you mad?  What happened to you Arun in the last few days?  Forget about it and come to reality.

“Yes. I am mad because of you. I can’t enjoy my life without you. I need you Megha. I need you,” Arun cried hitting his head on the kovil wall.  “Arun, please don’t cry. You are very close to my family.

“Ok Megha, Thanks.  Just take my request into account?” Arun’s face gradually lightened.

“Megha will you please accept my support for your studies.  Please Megha, please….”

But Megha left saying nothing and Arun sat alone there throughout the night.

After a few days Megha was with a better thought, and she agreed with his second request. Then, Arun joined Anwer Bai’s shop near Mullai. 

Megha joined the private school for higher studies in Rampoor, 120km away from Bharathipuram.  Arun promised to look after Megha’s family when she was in the hostel.  The High School, where Megha got admission, was managed by a group of Christian priests.  She chose bio stream.  The School had strict rules within its premises.  Arun could meet Megha once a month as her guardian.  When Megha met him she would ask about her family and Amma Parvathi’s health.  As she knew about Arun’s additional chores at the poultry farm as a night watchman to sustain the livelihood of her family, she never asked about her Amma’s medicine and daily meals.  Instead, she asked about her sister’s studies. The last five minutes of each and every visit, they would be speechless and share their feelings to each other longing for would be visit.

As the days rolled by, the time came for the A/L exam. Arun hardly spent any time with Megha now and sometimes he sent the class fees through one of Megha’s friends. After two months Arun received a call from the school giving him permission to take Megha to home because A Level exam was over.

Megha was wearing the red shalwar Arun gave on her last birthday.  He went towards her and she hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek with tears.  He was surprised.

“Please forgive me Arun… Forgive me,” Megha said lovingly.

While tears rolled down from Arun eyes, he took her home.

When they reached her home, her sister ran towards her.  Megha lifted her and placed her on her waist and gave her some candies.

“Amma I am here,” she said with a radiant smile. Megha went towards Parvati.

“Makal you are looking like a bride now,” Parvati said.  Arun glanced at Megha and she replied with a smile.

Megha went back to her laundry work as usual.  Arun and Magha met once a week at the river bank of Bharathipuram.  They frequently talked about the nature and future of their village youth and children.

Arun asked Megha, “Why can’t we use our village land for farming, rather than wasting it to bush jungle?”

Megha smiled. “I think, it wouldn’t be an easy task.”

Arun said hopefully, “This is one of my ambitions. I hope I will achieve it in due course” “We will meet and talk again in this regards,” Megha said hurriedly and rushed towards home to give medicines to her mother.

A few months later Arun’s phone rang.  It was Megha’s high school principal, Father Stephan. He said the good news that according to Megha’s best performance in school and her interview with Oxford University previous year, she had been selected for a full time study scholarship programme in BSc Agriculture at Oxford University.

Arun was delighted.  He went directly to Megha’s house. Amma Parvathi was there alone. Megha had gone to the lakeside to wash clothes for tomorrow’s delivery.

Arun rushed to the lake.  Megha was still washing the clothes.  So he began to help her.  Then he broke the news.

“Is it really true, Arun? “ Megha asked earnestly standing still.

“Yes my lovely beauty. It is true.” Arun whispered gladly.

Mega was buzzing over the moon with delight!

Parvathi was even more proud. “Thank God for giving me Megha,” she said silently.

Megha had to leave soon and she needed a passport in a hurry. The one day service would cost Rs.8,000 but Arun didn’t have such a large sum with him. He felt sad that Megha might not be able to go because they couldn’t afford to get her passport in a hurry, as the university would not wait for long.

But Megha had a solution.  The money, Arun sent for her school fees, was used very frugally and Megha managed to save enough even not having evening tea.

When Arun heard this he remained silent for a few minutes.

A week later, Father Stephen brought university enrollment documents and the travel tickets. Megha would leave the next day.  She got blessings from her mother and traveled to the airport accompanied with Father Stephen, Arun and her little sister.  The entrance of the airport had turned sad, where Arun and her sister could no longer be with Megha hereinafter.  Megha kissed her sister’s cheek before she peeled herself away.  Then she waved to both of them watching her before she turned and walked away.

Megha began to settle into her life in London.  She spoke to Arun once a week.  She was offered a part time job in the university library as a library assistant.  Her salary was 1,500 pounds which was more than double a doctor’s payment back at home.  But Megha spent it with thrift, her whole salary was sent home.  Megha didn’t mind being alone, but she did miss Arun and her family.

One phone call made Arun very happy.  Megha was coming home. As she neared her house, she was astonished.  A two storey house was built fabulously with all utensils instead of mud shelter.  Parvathi looked better and she now could walk and do housework herself.  Megha hugged her mother with thankful tears in her eyes.  She knew that Arun had provided her mother’s comfortable life.

Megha’s next mission was to work on Arun’s ambition to turn the land into a fertile ground. Megha and Arun worked tirelessly on the project.  They got involved in having meetings gathering villagers late at night accumulating all of her new knowledge on agriculture.

The villagers were encouraged to work together on ecofriendly farming.  In months small scale integrated farms at Bharathipuram had come up.  She set up loans for them and added livestock farming as well.  They now did both laundry and farming.  Life was beginning to turn around in the village.  As time passed more and more people left the laundry work and turned towards farming.  Megha guided them a lot.

She explained the need for plants to have sun, how to make use of animal waste, to milk the cows and innovative ways to plough the fields.  Megha showed them how to reap honey and make use of earthworms in their work.

As the project became more successful the farmers made more money.  Then one year later, the project was a success, after a while the farmers earned more income.

Suddenly, a severe drought hit the region.  But the river didn’t dry up.  They used Megha’s sophisticated drip irrigation system, dug wells and mulched their plants. Megha and Arun were busy for weeks.

In the meantime, Megha’s intermittently felt some sort of pain in her abdomen.  But she kept it a secret.  The project had to go on.  Arun had to realize his dream.  The success of the project broke caste barriers.  The high caste people agreed to work jointly in the farm with the people of Bharathipuram.  Megha and Arun had nearly achieved their dream.

As Megha’s name became famous due to her innovative endeavor in Eco farming and social integration, she was invited for the Presidential Award at the capital of Sri Lanka.

The change of Bharathipuram village was a lesson for the whole Sri Lanka to eradicate the caste system.  Soon after, she received a human rights award from the British Government.

But Megha was growing worse in her health.  One day when she was alone, she began to vomit blood.  The next day, she went to see a doctor.

The news was bad.  The cancer had proliferated.  Her life was due to end.

On her return Arun met her and began chatting in his usual breezy manner.

“Hey, Honey. I’ve missed you today.  Why weren’t you at office?”

“I had to go to the doctor. “.

Oh really? Why?  Arun asked worriedly.

Intervening to his question, she said, “I too have a question”

“Ok, ask away,” Arun said.

“How much do you love me, Arun?”

“You know I love you more than anything in the world.  Why did you ask?” Arun asked.

She was benumbed.

“Is there anything wrong with you Megha?”

“No. Nothing at all.”  While talking she hugged Arun keeping her face in his shoulder.

“I love you so much Arun.  I am no longer with you.  But I need you,” she began to cry.

She began to cough and Arun’s white shirt turned red.

She fell down to the ground and Arun wrapped his arm around her.  Megha began to speak with a weak tone,

“I didn’t want to be this way but you are my everything please don’t forget the people of our village and surroundings and carry on with a new life.  I will be with you forever.”

Arun kissed her face and said, “Don’t be afraid Megha, everything will be all right.”  But it was too late; Megha’s heart was at peace.

The people were devastated at Megha’s death.  All castes and tribes came together.

The world cried for her.

A year passed.  The village began to grow a flower dedicated to Megha.  Soon the Bharathipuram village became a flower garden.  Everywhere, the smell of flowers reminded them of Megha’s life.  A commercial flower garden began.  Even after death Megha seemed to be with them.

The village began to export the flower named after Megha and that was the beginning of ‘Inclusive Flower’.  Today, the village of Bharathipuram is called flower village.  But every year on this day Arun confines himself to his office and remembers Megha’s sweet reminiscences. His childhood love who changed the world.

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