The Little Train in Bringing Tony Home - Part II


The part I of this post was about Tissa as a teenage school boy. The final phase of the novel is about Tissa’s journey to Depanama as a mature filmmaker after 46 years.

You mayread: The Little Train in Bringing Tony Home - Part I here.

Throughout his journey, he had to strain hard to identify the landmarks of his childhood as urbanization has transformed Colombo suburbia which had been quite rural in early eighties:

“…today I went through the site of the now vanished village of Egodawatta looking for places I could recognize – they were few and far between and every nook and corner was covered with ugly box-like structures…”

He describes about the transformation of Pamunuwa into a centre of selling garments and how Nawinna and Egodawatta has casted away their rural look. He seems to be critical about the ill-effects of urbanization and industrialization which killed the natural beauty of the area:

“…the effluence from Arpico factory at Nawinna has killed all the fish-and I reached Maharagama-Dehiwala road, turned left, and skirting the Boralasgomuwa Tank-only a mud hole now where buffaloes wallow at all times of the day…”

He sees that cities have become lifeless among brick stone buildings dressed their heads with skeletons like T.V. antennas:

“…now there were hundreds of flat roof tops bristled TV antennae like trees in a dead forest and box-like concrete houses sitting behind high walls in narrow enclosures looked dead too, cold and lifeless…”

He is reminded of the journeys he had with Tony through Weragala Estate and how he rowed rafts made out of the trunks of plantain trees while Tony barking furiously on the shore near Kandahena and the quarry which would be flooded after a rain making the area like a tank.

He can only find the Co-op store and the pylon as the old land marks of his childhood. All the area again has been transformed into the same lifeless form with concrete structures. He sees one of their servant girls called ‘Chutti.’ Though he wanted to speak with her, something inside him forbids him to do that:

“I wanted to stop the car and talk to her and ask her whether she knew who I am but felt inhibited; there was something forced about the situation like something from a bad piece of fiction…”

He is unable to make a conversation with anybody may be he knows that he had not had a deep connection with the villagers; therefore, he might be suspecting whether they would recognize him or not.

He sees the old big house where Tony came to him like ‘a roly-poly-fluffy pup’ and his memories of his beloved pet come gushing into his mind; he remembers how his father brought Tony to him. It is quite notable that they had lived a luxurious life then.

Again, when he sees one of his neighbours Edmund, the same fear lurks into his mind:

“I slowed down and grinned through the closed shutter and he bent down slightly to look at me and I think he thought I was going to speak to him and almost took a step forward but there came within me that inhibition now almost like a fear – it was a strange feeling that held me back from making contact with these people from the past…”

He seems to fear to renew a connection with the past. He prefers the way things are now: to live with the memories of Tony. He fears to make new memories by creation associations with the livings in the past.

Throughout the last passage of the novel, the memories of Tony and Tissa walking through Weragala Estate picking pod shells and how Gira Atha brings bottles of milk mentioned. They must be the clear and sharp memories existed in his mind about Tony and the village.

He sees the fateful spot where he left Tony for the last time. He makes an evaluation about his predicament. He understands that nothing would bring the past that has already gone into the vile dust. It is a realization of the emptiness to find the lost roots because some lost things cannot be given life again. However, he still seems to be suffering from the guilty feeling.

He finally understands what by gone 46 years had done to his life. His memory has been completely erased from the soil of Depanama. When he meets one of the three brothers – Jayasena, he cannot recognize him at all:

“…he just stared at me blankly…but there was no recognition in those eyes…he does not remember me nor any of the things I described…”

Therefore, he comes to the conclusion that now he has no connection with the village at all, so, it is no point in trying to bridge a connection as it is a long gone history. The time has made him an obscure character to the village:

“…may be if I spoke to Chutti and Edmund earlier on the road I would have had a similar response and I was feeling empty and for the first time having serious doubts about many things.”

Hence he feels that he should shrug away his memories about the village like a bad dream:

“I felt everything which happened after we left the Big House by the fir trees and with that sculpted heron on the crest of the portico roof was only a bad dream…”

He leaves his past village leaving everything behind. However, he can never leave behind the warm memories of Tony he had and whenever the sound of the train rustles, Tony comes to his heart pinching it with guilt and warming it with happy memories. He seems he does not like to let those memories run away; it has become a part of his life:

“The hoarse metallic whistle sounded again and the train was pulling out and the roly-poly-fluffy pup continued to yap yap yap from somewhere but now it was nothing mischievous or joyous; it was the plaintive cry of a chained dog trying desperately to be free.”

The novel ends with the feeling of lost. As Michael Ondaatje said: ‘Each word and sentence in this one carried me into arms I’d been in before. No other book brings me as close to my lost self.’ Almost everyone has a lost story which keep on haunting throughout their lives. To myself, it is the same. Tissa Abeysekara captures this universal feeling in his masterful writing with his rich language full of imagery. 

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)


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