By Ranee Mohamed – Photos by Asoka Fernando
When dogs in the neigbourhood began to howl at the break of dawn on Sunday, August 1, the residents in and around Block C15 of the Soysapura Housing Scheme in Ratmalana were uneasy. Refusing however to let superstition cause a change in their emotions each one of them continued with their chosen task – some turned aside and slept, yet others continued to cook breakfast in order to be in time for mass.
Little did they know that there indeed was a truth in this superstition, for their howling was a prologue to a heartbreak that was not easy for any parent to bear. As the day progressed, Soysapura bustled as people hustled making their way to buy the fresh fruits and tender vegetables as the fish lay gleaming in their own blood in the stalls nearby.
And on this Sunday, on the first day of August too, there was much shouting. The different aromas of various Sunday lunches filled the air and as fathers got ready for their siesta the little ones were excited about the long fiesta that lay ahead from afternoon to evening. The piercing shrills and shrieks of little children were all a part of the magic at this densely populated housing complex.
The voices of children — children running about in the playground, little ones skipping up and down staircases – Soysapura was all about children.
When the sun began to set and the cool winds breezed through the concrete structures, swaying the curtains in the air, gasping for breath the little ones began to trek to their comfortable little homes – compact, secure abodes wherein a warm meal awaited each one of them.
For Chandrini Tirzah Thambirajah (7) and her 11 year old sister, it had been a evening of play in the home of their grandmother’s flat nearby for their parents had gone to Church on that Sunday evening.
The determined duo however had decided to go to their own home. “Let us shower and do our homework,” the older sister had told Chandrini with a sense of responsibility.
So when the duo reached their home, they had removed their clothes to get ready to shower. Little Chandrini, the active child she is had gone and jumped on a table they had placed near one of their unprotected windows and hung onto a mosquito mesh there. It was approximately 6.30 p.m. when the neighbours heard the jolting thud. To them it was not just another noise, for they sensed a human pain, a moan, a whimper and an uncried agony.
“I looked out of my window and I saw the little child being carried away. She was limp and I did not see any clothes on her body,” said a neighbour.
“It broke my heart to see her. She was such a bundle of joy, a bundle of mischief, such an active child who spoke all three languages fluently and had an excellent rapport with the neighbours,” she said in tears.
“This is sad, very sad. All the houses on that staircase had grills, except this house and sadly this is the only house that had children on that flight of stairs,” said the neighbour. “I feel so sorry for this child. The fate that befell her is so sad. She was so innocent. She should have been protected from meeting with such a fate,” she lamented.
As shocked residents left their dinners untouched, that fateful thud replayed in their hearts and minds in the silence of the night.
“We were trying to contact the parents who had gone to church, but their telephones were switched off,” said residents around the block.
And when the parents of these two little girls did come home from church at about 7.45 p.m., the hardest task was to break the news to them, that their little girl had fallen off the top most floor and that there was nothing and nobody to break that fall, causing her to land heavily on the concrete down below.
Swaying, shocked and in a faint, Chandrini’s mother was helped up the staircase, while little Chandrini lay battling for her life at the Colombo South Teaching Hospital. Thereafter she was rushed to the National Hospital.
There was fear everywhere, the 40 foot fall, the thud of her fragile being on the concrete slab that covered the drainage system were the hard facts that caused both doubt and anguish in the minds of the neighbours who heard and saw what had happened.
“I saw her that morning. She was dressed in a beautiful frock and she came down and smiled with me. She was such an innocent, beautiful girl – so active, so full of life. I cannot imagine that she is no more,” said a resident of the block. “She was a singing, dancing beautiful doll,” he said.
Life has two sides; this was the black side. She was dressed in her best as the white morning dawned and disappeared in the most sudden and ghastly way into a state of unconsciousness as darkness began to creep in.
Little Chandrini never saw the whiteness of the morning again. For her battle for life was lost the next day, August 2.
Friends, relatives and neigbours walked into Mahinda Florists, Mount Lavinia wherein the remains of little Chandrini were kept in a sealed coffin.
As her anguished parents sit in their flat on the topmost floor , the table from which Chandrini fell is yet around. There is renewed heartache with every breath and each sigh.
It is but a sad turn of fate that while they were praying in church on that Sunday evening, the angels had taken their precious little daughter away.
‘Let Us Treat Them All As Our Children’
Rowan Gerreyn, long time resident and welfare activist of the Soysapura Housing Scheme, when contacted said that it is time that every resident treat each child as their own and look after them as they would their very own.
“This is a respectable housing complex and parents are involved in different occupations and are sometimes away from home. Thus it is imperative that all of us look after every child and keep a keen eye on each one of them,” said Gerreyn.