Hopes and dreams faded away like words in sand
By Cheranka Mendis and Dianne Silva
“I went overseas in search of a better life for my family, to build a two storyed house my daughter so desperately wanted and I came back to see them lying in two little houses of their own”
This is one of the hundreds of stories about women leaving their homes to build a better life for their families, only to return home and find that all their hopes and dreams, hard work and most precious belongings faded away like words in the sand.
Yasawathi Hewage Rathuwadu was propelled to leave home for Cyprus in search of more lucrative employment, by her daughters longing, at the age of three, to live in a two storied house. But what she encountered at the end of her four year stay is nothing but pure grief. Grief over the loss of the two most important people whom she wove her dreams around.
W. Douglas Rathuwadu (54) and Chammi Madushani (12) were found murdered at their home on the 6th of this month.
“Look at my rose, my child like a rose look how beautiful she was,” she wails today; “My innocent Golden Duggy” she cries, juddering the death notice in our faces, screaming the bitterness of her loss on that fateful day on the sixth of this month when the glue holding her world together dissolved into the nothingness that she feels now. For two naïve young women this was an eye opening lesson on grief. We realised how pain was like the ocean dark and deep able to swallow one whole. This grief was more poignant to us when she identified one of us with her daughter and wailed about the fact that she would never be fortunate enough to be called mother by someone of our age. Yasawathi was so engulfed within this darkness that she had no tears left to cry, just a murmuring that was both seemingly quiet and yet earth shatteringly loud at the same time, which calls for justice.
Yasawathi left her family four years ago due to the many financial difficulties that her family faced. Her husband being let go from the position of Post Master General and the foreclosure on her land compelled her to travel overseas and be the bread winner of her family. She left her daughter at the age of nine in the care of her husband. Begging her “Golden Duggy , please don’t drink, watch out for our (their) daughter,” she said. Yasawathi went to great lengths to protect their precious child; whereby she even called up the teacher and the principal at the school and commissioned them to watch out for Chammi.
Yasawathi also tells how her elder sister had checked Chammi’s horoscope and found that the month of November was an inauspicious time for her. She had then warned her husband and a few other close relatives to keep both eyes opened and be vigilant about her whereabouts.
Many talk of a mother’s intuition Yasawathi experienced the accuracy of this instinct first hand the day her family passed away. Yasawathi dreamt of a man in a uniform taking hold of her hand and threatening her at gun point with the words; “You must leave Cyprus tomorrow. You have to go home tomorrow.”
The bodies of her precious daughter and husband were found the next morning around 7 by Yasawathi’s brother who came to deliver a message from her (Yasawathi’s) mother. Yasawathi’s mother had attempted to contact the family but had failed .Therefore ,she sent over one of her sons to check on them. He had gone to the room behind their ‘Lassana Tailors’ shop and since there had been no reply when he called out for ‘Chammi duwa’ he had stepped inside the house only to witness W. Douglas Rathuwadu lying in a pool of blood on the floor. He was found at the doorstep of his meagre tailor shop, hacked to death. His daughter Chammi Madushani (12) was found a few feet away in a jungle, suffocated, foaming at the mouth with her hands forced over her head.
Yasawathi soon received a call from Sri Lanka making her worst nightmare come true. Her sister, a resident of Colombo asked her to come back immediately stating that her husband and daughter had met with an accident. Her immediate response was to ask her sister to take every step to get them on the road to recovery. “Send them abroad ,if you have to, spend all the money you can but save their breath until I come there,” she pleaded. It truly is a tragedy that she was unaware that her precious loved ones had breathed their last within the confines of their home just minutes ago.
Once Yasawathi landed in the country she was informed that she would travel to Karapitiya under the guise that they were receiving treatment at the hospital there; “I was so happy because I thought they were at the Karapitiya Hospital receiving treatment. I was praising and thanking the Lord”. However, the sight that greeted her eyes, shattering her universe. . “All I could see were white flags right down the lane, and when I reached my home there were people everywhere. And I couldn’t bear it.”
Yasawathi recalls the last conversation she had with her treasured daughter, where Chammi Madushani expressed her fear of death; “I can’t come to Colombo, there are so many bombs going off, I am scared of dying”. It is truly cruel that fate dealt such an innocent child a death so gruesome. Evidence suggests that she had been dragged outside the apartment, the broken flower pots indicated and the dishelmed trail leading to the jungle suggested this fact.
Male hairs on the victims chest indicates that there was a struggle. The question tormenting Yasawathi and all those who hear this horrific story is; why no one heard Chammi when she cried for help while she was being dragged outside. Surly she would have attempted to shout, defend herself or call out for help. Why is it then that no one in the vicinity claims to have not heard it?
Speaking about her child, Yasawathi has no more tears left to cry just questions rhetorical, unanswerable, pointless questions; “I wish all three of us died together. How can I live without them? I didn’t buy anything for my self when I was in Cyprus. I saved everything I had for my little daughter. And now who am I to give these to?”
She had saved money to buy Chammi a car and to give her away in a good marriage. Her plans extended beyond generations “I even brought clothes and such things for her children.” But she saw her little daughter, preciously dressed as a beautiful bride; but not to be given away in marriage but to be buried in the deep earth, crushing her innocent childhood and all her dreams.
For the two of us this is the greatest tragedy; the fact that all the plans and hopes centred around Chammi are now buried six feet under. Yasawathi recalls how little Chammi loved dressing up as a bride. She herself a bridal dresser, prior to her stint as a dress maker, left her saris and other items used for bridal dressing when she sought employment overseas. These items were hounded by Chammi who used these accessories for her own entertainment. She was fond of modelling her Bridal creations in front of the mirror.
Eleven year old Chammi stopped going to school for a while due to a slightly embarrassing situation she had to face at school. However, she was self studying from home. Yasawathi had plans to find her a better school and help her with classes to ensure that she receives proper education. When she was at school, Yasawathi regularly called her teachers and followed up and inquired on her progress at school. “I told her teachers and principals as well to keep an eye open for her. She is the most precious thing I had in my life”
Chammi dotingly kept a photograph of her mother on her desk, to remember the care and love she was showered with so generously when in the arms of her mother. The back of the photograph reads; “I love my mother” “I love you as much as the sky”. Yasawathi wails today that she was unable to hear these words from her little Chammi’s lips.
“Find me another daughter with the same face and height, and then maybe I will survive. If not, I will kill my self,” she bemoans. “I have everything ready to build her her dream house”. Yasawathi had collected everything, from drapes to furniture, and these were all safely hidden at her sister’s home in Colombo. Only her husband and sister knew about this. She even hid it from Chammi because she was afraid, that awareness of such wealth would cause her many problems and threaten her safety.
She always told Douglas to make sure her daughter was ‘fully covered up’ because she did not want the village boys looking at her. She also did not send down gold jewellery for the simple reason that she feared boys would be interested in her Chammi for the sake of her money nor did she want the villages to know about her salary. “I always told Duggi to cover her up well because her body had matured beyond her age.” She had also warned her daughter of this and she remembers Chammi saying that she will never overstep her boundaries till her mother comes back and that she will protect her dignity in the village.
She is at a loss as to what she should do with the material comforts she had stacked upto put in Chammi’s room in their two storied dream house. She hopes she could find another, closely resembling her late daughter to give her these comforts and to bring up as her own.
Her husband, W. D.Rathuwadu fondly known as ‘Duggi’ or ‘Golden Duggi’ by Yasawathi is remembered as a mild and innocent person. His only blemish was his excessive drinking. But according to her he had not caused trouble anywhere. She also proclaimed that her love for him never ceased even though he drank. Their love story starts in the hallways of Pitigala Ananda Vidyalaya, while they were studying for their Advanced Levels, the same school their daughter attended years after.
Regardless of his short comings he had taken great pains in bringing up their only child. He had promised Yasawathi that he will bring their daughter up in a manner that one day she would bring great honour to her mother. But these are now just haunting memories of the past.
This incident is one that rocked an entire family and left would deep and sore, that nothing is ever likely to be ‘Normal’ in their lives again. The Grandmother of Chammi reels with guilt over the fact that she never was able to cook the meal she had intended for the family. Yasawathi explains that her mother was to cook a meal of Jak Fruit for Chammi since that was her favourite meal. The guilt further seeps into the skin of this ailing woman due to the fact that on that fateful night she was not there to protect her beloved granddaughter. Yasawathi explains “My mother who usually stays with my husband and daughter stayed with my sister that night because of her ailments.” To this day her mother refuses to consume anything and lies in bed idly meditating on that she could have done differently.
The root cause for this murder is still unknown. Given that no valuables were missing from the house or the shop and with no evidence of sexual abuse towards Chammi Madushani, one is stuck at the crossroads trying to figure out the root cause behind this double murder.
‘I promised my husband and my daughter that I would not rest until I find out who did this to them. I want to hear it from the murderer’s own mouth why he killed my innocent child and my golden Duggy,’ she says.
The Pitigala police stated that investigations are still being conducted on this case. The wind will carry this story on but hopefully the murderers will be found and punished for their actions soon.
“Cruel with guilt, and daring with despair, the midnight murderer bursts the faithless bar; invades the sacred hour of silent rest and leaves, unseen, a dagger in your breast.” Said Samuel Johnson; just as he said the murderers have invaded the silence of the happy family and replaced it with sighs of longings and despair.
(Additional reporting by Yasas Mendis)