Many folk tales in Sri Lanka are connected to the daily lives of the people, where some of these stories go back to about 500 years. Most of the time, a folk tale is woven around a prominent figure such as the king, a wise man in a village or sometimes the “gamarala” (head farmer). The story described below explains an incident which happened in the gamarala’s (the farmer’s) house and how the popular Sri Lankan proverb “Kaluwa Maarapan giya wagei” (how Kaluwa went to Maarapana) was added in to the Sri Lankan vocabulary.
Once upon a time the gamarala (head farmer) lived with his gamamahage (the farmer’s wife), and they had a man servant named “Kaluwa” to do odd jobs around the house. The gamamahage’s relations lived in another village called “Maarapana” which was quite far away and since the only modes of transportation were by foot (how the common man travelled) or by bullock cart (this was how the rich travelled) those days, it took about a day to get to Maarapana.
One morning, the gamamahage called Kaluwa and said, “Kaluwa, tomorrow morning you have to go to Maarapana”. Kaluwa was preoccupied with something else and was only listening with one ear. As soon as gamamahage gave this order, he readily said, “Yes Madame, I’ll definitely go” and went back. Then, the gamamahage prepared some sweets, and collected fresh fruits and vegetables from their garden so that Kaluwa could take these with him to her relations next morning.
Early next morning, Kaluwa woke up and remembered that he had to go to Maarapana, so he got dressed and started off on his journey. He enjoyed meeting other folk on his way, spoke to them, breathed in the fresh air, listened to all kinds of birds chirping and was almost at his destination. However, then he started thinking “I remember Madame asking me to go to Maarapana, but why did she ask me to come here? I was thinking about something else while she was talking, so did I miss anything she said? Now, here I am at the outskirts of Maarapana after more than a half days’ journey on foot, but I do not know what to do here after coming! Why oh why didn’t I listen closely to what she said? Now, I do not have an alternative but to turn back and go home!” so the weary Kaluwa rested for some time and started off back home.
Meanwhile, during that morning, soon after Kaluwa had left without telling anyone, the gamamahage was looking for him frantically with the packed goodies to be given to her relations. Unfortunately Kaluwa was nowhere to be seen. She related this to the gamarala as well, and they were puzzled as to what happened and were clueless about Kaluwa’s whereabouts.
They stayed up till late night and finally saw someone coming down the road to see that it was Kaluwa! Kaluwa was tired and both the gamarala and gamamahage were curious to know where he had been.
Kaluwa said,”Well Madame, yesterday you called and asked me to go to Maarapana today, so I went”. Then the gamamahage said, “but, Kaluwa, I did not tell you what you were supposed to do once you go there. I was hoping to tell you this morning. But when I woke up, you were gone! What did you do after going there?” Kaluwa was really angry with himself and disappointed at his clumsiness. “ I did not do anything there, Kaluwa said.” I went and came back. Yesterday when you asked me to go, my mind was preoccupied with some other thoughts. So, I was not listening to you properly. It did not occur to me till I almost got to Maarapana that I did not know what to do after I got there. But I thought, while I was thinking about something else, you must have told me what the errand was Madame. But I could not recall it. So, I had a fruitless journey and here I am all tired and hungry”.
The gamamahage pitied their servant and immediately brought some food. “Kaluwa, I wanted you to visit my relations and give them the food that I prepared because I couldn’t visit them for a long time. But before I gave you these directions and explained everything, you were gone! What’s the result? All are in vain!”
The gamarala finally said, “Kaluwa, always listen carefully to what others say and act accordingly. Do not be clumsy or absent minded. Listening is a great virtue. Always listen and get the right facts, or else things might end up as how it happened today; fruitless no matter how much effort you put, because you did not get the right facts. Now, you’ll have to go again tomorrow.”
This was how Kaluwa went to Maarapan, and whenever someone don’t listen to advice or directions and then ends up doing the same task twice or does something wrong instead of what was asked, we say, “oh that’s just like how Kaluwa went to Maarapana”! (Inosha, Sri Lanka, 2015)