A voice from the hills
The professor had to burn the midnight oil to draft the lecture on
Mahagama Sekara. He took great pains to talk President into grant
permission to hold the lecture at the Presidential Secretariat. His
pleas were duly granted, as he was once a politician. When he delivered
the lecture, it had a large gathering. The President too graced the
“As a university don, I always encouraged him to write more creative.
He was not academic. I did not want him to be academic either. I
single-handedly tried to sharpen his talents as much as possible.
Sekara, as I know, is a wonderful human being. His poetry, I don’t
think, we will ever see anything similar in many centuries to come.”
The professor’s speech was impeccable, the critics remarked – it had
such a great applause. The president formed a Mahagama Sekara Trust Fund
and appointed professor as its chairperson. The professor was heavily
garlanded and offered a special residence too. His speech was aired on
almost every national media channel.
However, little did the professor know he was being stalked.
After a hectic day, a happy professor came back to his residence.
Everything was ready for the banquet. His wife was at the doorstep to
welcome him with a glass of milk. His grown up children stood behind
their mother, with smiles cast on faces. All his friends deserved a
grand party. It was well past midnight when the party was over.
The ageing citizen, all the same, was not in a mood to sleep. He was
reflecting the day’s happenings.
“Everything went all right, didn’t it, professor?” A voice hissed.
The professor turned to trace the voice. But he couldn’t.
“Looking for me, eh?”
“Who is this?”
“Does it really matter?”
“Who is this,” the professor pointed up.
The voice was like a caress, yet his heart ached horribly. He went
cold at once – the voice sounded quite familiar! He wanted to give a
shout of surprise, but the sight maddened him with a pang of guilt. It
sent a shudder through his body. He was in some kind of daze, no doubt.
Mahagama Sekara stood perfectly still, but his old supervisor could
not. He was shivering. The professor prayed it to be a bad dream, or
some alcoholic hallucination. But it was not. He had to stand still,
feigning to be calm, but actually a caged wolf. He tried to summon
“Don’t play hide and seek with me.”
“It is you, professor, who is playing hide and seek.”
The professor was stunned to hear the depth of that familiar voice. He
heard his own voice, scarily meek.
“Don’t talk as if you don’t know anything. I don’t like it.”
The ageing professor became quiet. He remembered incidents one by
Mahagama Sekara already had academic qualifications, but he never
cared to stick to academic criteria. His creative world had a wider
scope, and of course he was recognized for that. The subject he chose
for his PhD was rhythmic characteristics of Sinhala music. The professor
was given to supervise the thesis. But he was quite strict to make sure
the thesis is written according to academic norms.
“Why can’t you just pass my thesis?”
“How can I? I cannot pass it unless it is academically written, you
“No, I don’t know.” Sekara said quite easily.
“You have to know.”
“What do I have to know?”
“You have to know that you should follow academic criteria when you
write a thesis. You can’t just write whatever comes to your mind. You
have to quote others who have also commented on the subject. Add their
names as footnotes.”
“I feel this whole universe is but one rhythm. I have so many things
to say to support that theory. There may be others who have commented.
But then why should I add their names as footnotes, when I can well
include their names too in the body text?”
“That’s not the academic way of thinking.”
“When I say universe is but one rhythm, I don’t see anything academic in
“That may be right. But you have to support it.”
“Then I won’t have to write a PhD!”
The professor was alarmed to hear that. He would not easily let go of
that chance: to have supervised the PhD thesis of a national icon. No,
he cannot afford to do that.
“I didn’t mean you to give up PhD studies. There are certain
conditions, you see.”
“No, I don’t see.”
Sekara had to write the thesis a number of times. But the professor
didn’t just let him be done. And at last the doctorate was conferred on
the poet, but posthumously. The poet could never see the doctorate
“You remember everything, my friend.”
The professor nodded.
“I came here to remind you all that.”
“Where do you live now, Sekara?”
“I still live in the hills. You cannot claim to have spoken to or seen
me. They won’t believe you.”
“I’m really sorry, Sekara.”
Sekara burst into laughter. The professor was silent again.
“Anyway, my old friend, I forgive you. You did such things because
you did not know what you do. So I forgive you.”
“I won’t forget this, Sekara.”
“You cannot. Enjoy the luxuries. I will watch for you from the hills.”
But the professor could not calm down. Nor did his heart ache less.
As he watched the spirit fade out, the professor sat down with a piece
of paper and a pen.
Once he was done rewriting the Mahagama Sekara episode anew,
professor felt quite unperturbed.