The Road from Elephant Pass
Nihal de Silva
Not only did the late Nihal de Silva win the Gratiaen Prize for The Road from Elephant Pass but also the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2005. He was a keen amateur naturalist with a special interest in avifauna, which is reflected in his book, now adapted into a film.
The woman was late!
I’d been waiting at the checkpoint near Pallai, on the main road from Elephant Pass to Jaffna. A wooden barrier had been thrown across the road with barbed wire fencing on either side. A crude hut stood on the side for the troops to shelter from the sun. Sandbags, piled up around the hut, gave the illusion of security.
The checkpoint was in a grove of coconut palms, many of them with their crowns blow off by cannon fire in bygone battles. I had been standing by the barrier for nearly an hour. The late afternoon heat was oppressive, harsh and dry. The baked countryside, and the road running through it, seemed to shimmer and dance in the heat. I tried, without success, to stifle my irritation.
An elderly man dressed in a white verti walked up to the barrier, had his papers scrutinized and was allowed to pass. Two men on bicycles rode up. Three elderly woman with two children came from the other direction. All movement, by the villagers at any rate would cease after dark.
Still no sign of the woman!