The Little Train in Bringing Tony Home - Part I

This post is consisted of the detailed analytical summary of the last segment of the novel Bringing Tony Home by Tissa Abeysekara. As the post it a bit lengthy, the post will be published as two posts. This post is consisted of Tissa’s life as a teenage school boy as a developing character under the haunting memories of his beloved dog Tony.

You may read:

The detailed analytical summary of part I – The Sunset

The detailed analytical summary of part II – Tony (part I)

The detailed analytical summary of part II – Tony (part II)

Train is a chain of boxes connected together running on rails making metallic clanking and whooshing including its unique honk. The sound of the train mentioned in the novel brings back Tissa’s past memories into his mind. Though everything around the country has been changed with the passing time, the train remained unchanged: it’s sound, appearance, even the sound of the honk has been the same since the childhood of Tissa. Whenever Tissa hears the sound of the train, it evokes the stream of consciousness of Tissa taking him to the childhood memories he had with Tony in their old village Depanama.

The segment, The Little Train is about Tissa’s life as a teenage school boy and the final phase of the section is about Tissa’s journey to Depanama to observe the changes in the background and smelling the traces of his childhood memories. The portion is filled with the feeling of remorse, nostalgia and the lost warmth of a companionship.

The section begins with Tissa’s journey to school by train. The train always reminds him of the fateful day of leaving Tony behind and the adventurous journey they had together few years ago. Whenever he is heard of the sound of the train or when he is reminded of a person at Depanama, the memory of Tony comes gushing into his mind. With the passing time, the memory of Tony comes to his mind as a blurred vision but the sound of the yelping is sharp as ever as it has the similarity with the sound of the train:

“Tony’s image was blurred and faded like an old snapshot, but I heard the bark, sharp and clear, whenever there was a mist over Church Street and I heard it high above the sad whistle of the little train…”

Their family moves again to a new house which is old like their house at Depanama and closer to the paddy field where Tony and Tissa rested near ‘Pita Ela.’ In this new setting, Tissa cannot escape from his past memories, hence they disgorge into his mind constantly: 

“…we could see the paddy field-the same field which began below the High Level Road in front of the Nawinna Railway Station, and where Tony dragged me to drink water from ‘Pita-ela’ and the sound of the little train came floating all the time – far away, but quite sharp and clear.”

It has been three years since they had left Depanama. As Tissa and friend started schooling, his new gang soon drifts apart making Tissa isolated once again. He loses his best friend Ranal as well. His isolation makes him to be drawn into his old memories; the new setting and the recurrent sound of the little train enhances its influence:

“The train whistled in a long held note as it emerged between the two embankments and looking out of the train window I could see the mist thick over the town and I was sure I would hear that bark as I walked up Church Street.”

Because of the new house, Tissa has to travel to school on bus. Fatefully, his bus journey falls through the road where Tony and Tissa had had their journey on foot. Every day he has to encounter Depanama which rubbed salt into his old wound:

“…all this time I had very carefully avoided any contact with Depanama which lay on the other side of the High Level Road, but each morning and afternoon I was on the same route I had taken with Tony six years ago…”  

The bus journey seems to be a painful struggle to Tissa but he becomes addicted to that because it allowed him to be with Tony alongside with the moments of sweet memories:

“It had become a secret addiction, something I wished to keep to myself, and boarding the bus each morning and afternoon was like the moment when you go to sleep and wait for the lights to go off so that you could retreat into your private world of fantasy and it becomes something you look forward to…”

The memories of Tony only haunt him when he is in isolation; at school he was ‘quite active and outgoing’ but inside the bus he withdraws into himself like a snail recoiling into its shell. In his isolation, he withdraws into the sweetest memories of them like they walking through rubber yards and brave Tony barking to an iguana – they enjoying the nature and their companionship and so on.

Tissa grows into pre-adolescence as a teenager and displays his attraction to a girl with pigtails called Padmini. He experiences his brimming youthful sensations while exploring the nape of her neck and tresses. He demonstrates his boyish mischievous nature by teasing Padmini by tying her hair into the desk making her falls while trying to stand up to answer a question asked by the teacher. As a punishment he gets slapped by the teacher and he juxtaposes the incident with one of his memories with Tony. It is an evidence to show how much Tony’s memories have haunted his life.

Tissa’s life as a teenage school boy ends here. As a growing person, Tissa shows a development in his character. He displayed his development in his social relationships by joining to the boys’ gang and in this phase he acts as an active and quite mischievous student at school.

You may read: The Little Train in Bringing Tony Home - Part II here. 

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