Gunny Bags and Long Road Home

Southward Bound: A Family’s Story of Separation and Reunion

Denzil Jayasinghe
2 min readFeb 23, 2024

In the humid heat of Colombo, a thirty-eight-year-old Father toiled away for the Urban Council, dreaming of climbing the bureaucratic ladder. He passed his exams, securing the coveted position of Secretary — like a CEO in this small town! But the catch? Tissamaharama, a remote speck on the southern tip, 220 kilometers away.

Leaving us, his young children, behind in Dalugama was a wrenching choice. Mother, ever strong, held the fort, juggling errands with school runs. I, barely a sprout, became her grocery shopper, navigating the market with my meagre Sinhala and natural knack for numbers.

Father’s visits were like rare blooms in our lives. Every three to four weeks, he’d return, laden with love and fruits from Tissamaharama, bought straight from the farmers and shipped in gunny bags. We shared the bounty with our neighbours, forging a sense of community in our little lane, Mudiyansegewatta.

School holidays meant joining Father in Tissamaharama. Our council-provided quarters in Dabarawewa buzzed with life. We swam in the Kirindi Oya, befriending local boys who spoke a singsong Sinhala and wore sarongs instead of my shorts. One boy, sling in hand, shot birds with chilling accuracy — a stark contrast to my urbanised life.

Monkeys, our mischievous neighbours, put on daily shows for me. Weekends were filled with wonders: ancient stupas, Hindu pilgrims piercing their flesh in devotion, and even a movie shoot starring the legendary Gamini Fonseka, the number-one star in Ceylon. The smell of paddy fields and the thrill of spotting wild boar (and even trying it!) painted memories that still colour my world.

After a month, it was back to Dalugama, to our grandmother’s waiting embrace. Though she stayed behind, her spirit was ever-present. Tissamaharama, with its simplicity and raw beauty, ignited a yearning for connection that lingers to this day. The friendships, the adventures, the sacrifices — all woven into the tapestry of my childhood, a testament to the resilience of family and the enduring power of place.

Subscribe to my stories



Denzil Jayasinghe

Lifelong learner, tech enthusiast, photographer, occasional artist, servant leader, avid reader, storyteller and more recently a budding writer