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How Anna Luxmi found a small smile

I would like to tell you a small story that sounds like a fairytale. There is a poor girl, a bad mother, a “witch” and many people without heart and …
Because this story is happening in Sri Lanka we will call this girl Anna Luxmi.

Mountain of Tears
There is a poor hut on a mountain top without any trees. There you can find only stones, no water, and no bush or plant can survive there. This hopeless spot belongs to the poor, because nobody else will have it. But even among these poor people, the will of the strongest rules. For Anna Luxmi and her little sister, all that's left is the poorest place with an old, bad woman. This old woman receives money for hiding children wanted by the police for theft and begging.
Life with this “witch” is not better than living on the street. She beats the children often without remorse, and if a child runs away she asks some men to catch and return the child. Without money these children do not have a chance to escape. They have to repay everything they got through theft or begging. Anyone who tries to escape can expect a special punishment: marks from a burning branch. These burns are made on the legs, near the backside, where they cannot be seen but hurt the most. For many weeks after, the children cannot sit without pain.

Meeting Loku Sudu Minha
A man is climbing the mountain. He looks quite different compared to other people here. He is very tall, with white skin and blond hair. Some of the children have seen this man once before. They know he will go to a hut at the end of this mountain where lives an old man with his blind woman. These old people would have died a long time ago if they had not been getting food items 3 times per week. Very often this strange man watches them. Nobody knows where he comes from, but all are careful when he is around. Also the witch, who does not fear anybody else, seems to fear this man. The children call him “Loku sudu minha” – the tall white man.
But today loku sudu minha is not leaving right after his visit to the old people. The children can see him very clearly because the mud walls of their small hut, where they have to hide themselves if this man is nearby, have many holes.
He is coming to the hut of the children, is stopping, is talking to a small dark woman who came with him and is pointing to the wall with the holes. The children are becoming afraid and crouching down on the ground without breathing.
The witch is going up to the strangers, waving her arms and trying to get rid of them. They must not see the children in the hut in any case. How small the old woman looks beside the white man, how weak and helpless she appears to the children. Anna Luxmi is mustering all her courage- at 11 years she is the oldest in the hut. Behind the old woman she slips out of the hut and is waves to Sudu Minha. She does not understand the language of this tall man whose eyes seem to have the colour of the sky. Anna Luxmi does not want to go back on the street, not to those men whose breath stinks and whom she has to touch again and again. Anna Luxmi wants to leave the witch, run away from the beast, but where?
Anna has an idea. Sometimes she is able to soften even hard people through her songs. She also wants to sing for sudu minha, like on the streets of the big city. She wants to enchant him with this song about a girl and her younger sister, two lonely children in the big world, just like her and her sister.
The eyes of the old woman are sparkling maliciously and rain is falling on the roof with its many holes, and quickly all have become wet. Suddenly and very quickly dark clouds and rain have come over this small mountain.
But this strange man does not run away from the rain. He comes inside the hut, water running down from his hair and over his face. Anna Luxmi can feel that she has softened the heart of this man by her song. She can see it in his blue eyes. She does not have any more fear, not in front of the old woman or because of tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Anna Luxmi is singing and beating her small drum for her life. “Podi Nangi Adanna Epa” small sister you don’t have to cry. “Oyatath Tharuwak Thiyenawa Suwargaye” also for you a star is shining on the sky.

Little Smile
Rain is druming on the roof, making a small flood. Everything seems extreme in this country- rain and heat, joy and tears? But even the hardest rain cannot enter this house. Anna Luxmi sits near the window, sits carefully on her left side unburned, side. She has pulled her thin legs into her body, placed her head on her knees. Anna loves this feeling of being stronger than the rain, even though she keeps an eye on the ceiling to see that no rain is entering. There's no rain, though, the roof of this house is stronger. The buildings here are completely different than all those numerous huts where Anna Luxmi lived before. Huge, bright, clean, with tables and cupboards. But the best things is that, for the first time in her life, Anna Luxmi has her own bed all to herself.
Anna Luxmi has lots of time when all the other children are in school. Not everyone, though, because also Walli Amma and small Niroshani are not attending the governmental school.
Yesterday Anna Luxmi came to this place for the first time. Very often this child has passed the big gate, watching from the small street and has seen the children. The old woman told her that these children are fed and cared for. When they are nicely round, healthy and clean than they will be sold to a foreign country where they will cut the heart out and give it to rich foreigners. At the beginning Anna Luxmi believed these stories and felt sorry for these smiling and playing children at this place. But there were also other stories. Although Anna Luxmi never was allowed to go to school, she knew a child from school. There many stories about this white man are told, the man who also constructed a drain line for the school and a temple for Hindus who are not normally helped in this area. This man also came with food for the old and sick people on the mountain.
Anna Luxmi also thought maybe it would not be that bad when they cut her heart out later-on, if it means she will have a nice life until then. After Anna Luxmi had been next to this man and heard his dark voice she could not believe what the old woman had told her earlier, plus she lied very often. And that's why Anna Luxmi did not have any fear yesterday when as she passed by the big green door together with the old woman. The evening before Anna wanted to die, when the old woman hurt her so much because she had left the hiding place and sung for that man. During the night she cried without making noise and without tears and decided to wait for death. She decided she would prefer to live a nice life for a few days or weeks, even though it would cost her heart.
In the morning the old woman gave a shirt and a skirt to Anna made of cloth that she was allowed to wear only for special occasions. What did that mean? The old woman would not give good cloth to her for another punishment because it would be too much work to wash it and to remove the blood. Also for begging in the city there were other cloths, which are strife-torn. So what would this day bring? Anna had a lot of fear as she walked down the mountain with the old woman. The wound on her leg was hurting with every step, especially where the cloth was touching her burned flesh. They passed the hospital and turned right at the big raining tree. The old woman needed a short rest so Anna Luxmi had time to study the big village for children. They were standing exactly on the road above this forbidden place. Anna Luxmi was thinking about running away again, but the old woman is quick, quicker than anybody would think, and Anna Luxmi had a painful wound. It was hopeless. Sadly the child watched the nice houses with the red and white roofs. Anna could not believe what happened next. The old woman turned right again and they stood in front of the big green gate, where big coloured letters were painted which looked funny and could not be read by Anna. The old woman rang the bell and it took some time and Anna Luxmi was afraid for the first time of waking up from this dream. But then a big woman appeared and smiled towards Anna. This woman had a round face, very big and crooked teeth. But the most impressive thing was her smile- it was so wide that even her fat round face seemed small in comparison. It seemed to the girl that the smile was getting bigger and bigger and reaching both ears. What Anna realised immediately was that this woman smelled like food, like good food.
As if reading her thoughts, the woman took Anna Luxmi's hand.
Together they went down the hill on a nicely surfaced road. There were signs guiding them, because the road divided after a few metres and on the left side could be seen a nice yellow house. But that small group continued straight down passing a big house with many white columns. And then they stopped in front of a yellow house with a nice picture of a mother with her child.
The door of the house was open and strange noises were coming from inside, like the sound a big bird makes running on a polished peace of wood. Tak! Tak! Tak!
The room had nice tables with TVs, which were showing only letters. In the back Anna Luxmi could see the tall white man behind a huge desk. He was smiling at Anna Luxmi and did not seem surprised. Then he said something to the fat woman in a foreign language. She answered immediately “Yes, Lokuthatha” and whisked Anna Luxmi away to her land of a thousand smells.
Anna Luxmi did not see the old woman again and did not miss her for one moment. After the girl filled her stomach, the dark woman who accompanied the white man yesterday on the mountain arrived. Her name is Shantamalar. Anna could feel immediately that Shantamalar was strong and it would be better not to fight with her but to listen to her. Shantamalar went with her to the big bright house. Shantamalar pulled a key out of a small pocket and Anna noticed that something special was happening because this young woman opened the door very solemnly. Inside it was dark and pleasantly cool. Everything here was so clean, as if the whole house had been polished for a big temple festival. From a huge cupboard, shiny like her beloved god Shiva in the main temple of the city, Shantalar selected from among the many cloths something that Anna Luxmi really liked: a red shirt, a colourful skirt, a colourful vest and a dress.
After that Shantamalar led the girl to a strange room, a room with shiny, blue stones with funny designs. Behind the wall there must have been a warm well, because when one opens the tap warm water comes pouring out. At first Anna was afraid, but the warm water was nice on her skin, even though the burn wound was hurting. Anna Luxmi did everything very slowly and carefully, because all the time she was afraid to wake up from this pleasant dream.