Wanderers in Eternity – Chapter 3


Table of Contents: Preface | Life Cycle | Chapter 01 | Chapter 02 | Chapter 03 | Chapter 04 | Chapter 05 | Chapter 06 | Chapter 07 | Chapter 08 | Chapter 09



Lionel, Anula and Visaka

1969 – 1971

Anula met Lionel for the first time at the Peradeniya University. They had both arrived there as undergraduates in the arts faculty. Lionel had come from Nugegoda while Anula was a girl from a village called Nadun Oya which was some distance away from Anuradhapura. It would be accurate to say that from the moment they set eyes on each other that there was an attraction between them.

The first day that they arrived in the campus they faced the unavoidable ragging from the second year students. The girls who took Anula away for the hazing made her drink a whole lot of tea and then prevented her from going to the toilet for a long time. Within this time frame, they rubbed cow dung all over her face and her arms. Some girl spat on her face. Anula accepted all this with great patience. All this took place in a room in a boarding house. Several others who were brought there for hazing were locked in that room. Two of the girls’ braided hair was tied together and they were made to perform a dance this way.

When one new student talked back she got slapped. She was led out of the room. For a very long time, Anula did not find out as to what happened to that girl. She suffered through all this abuse hoping that all this would end sometime somehow. At times she wondered whether she studied so many hours sleeplessly to face such indignities. She wiped away her tears remembering her poor helpless mother and two younger brothers.

Lionel faced a worse fate than Anula. After filling out all the necessary forms to enter the university, he was captured by some second year students. He was led away along with some other newcomers like a herd of cattle. They crossed the bridge over the Mahaveli river and were taken under the boiling sun towards the Akbar Hall. Forced to carry their paper work and application papers on top of their heads, they were not allowed to utter a word or to smile.

If a newcomer made the vaguest attempt at smiling, he was given the command to “Cut the smile and put it in his pocket” and was asked the question “Hey devil, why are you sniggering?” Lionel faced this situation once. He covered his mouth with his hand and then put his hand in his pocket as he was told to do.

The group thus crossing the bridge like a procession were taken into a room in the Akbar Hall. Here, Lionel and three other new students were stripped naked and they became prisoners of the torturers. They faced many revolting situations. They were bathed with the urine of the abusers, and were forced to drink this bitter stinking liquid. Then they were made to swim in the same filth.

Lionel hid his anger with the intention of taking revenge from all of his abusers one day. Did he study his books so hard and come here for such mockery and disrespect? This was an abuse he could not avoid.

One guy snipped off Lionel’s hair in places and rubbed toothpaste all over his face and his head. Another boy’s penis was rubbed with chili powder. When he screamed in pain, his mouth was stuffed with old rags. Lionel later found out that this newcomer’s name was Athula.

In reality, because of this ragging Lionel became closer to the other new students. There was a silent bondage between them as if they were all in a raging storm in the same boat.

The hazing did not stop in one day. Lionel did not get a room at the Akbar Hall. He found a small room in a boarding house some distance away from the campus. There were another dozen students in the same premises.

That night, a few second year students who came in search of newcomers, took them outdoors. Awakened this way in the middle of the night, the boys were stripped naked and made to march along the road. Near the bridge they were given another command. This was to open a “Milk Factory”. The newcomers had no clue as to what was meant by this. They were made to stand in a circle, and each one had to grab hold of the penis of the person to the right of them. Then followed a chain of masturbation. Lionel did not understand what satisfaction the raggers were getting by watching all this milking action. Everything happened very mechanically. In a little while the moans and groans were heard.

Lionel ambled back to his room as if walking in a dream. After this for about a week, Lionel had to face a variety of such abuses at the hands of the hazing second year students.

It was during this week that Lionel first saw Anula in the cafeteria known as the WUS canteen. As she was climbing the steps to the canteen with two other girls, Anula turned around and looked at Lionel who was walking up behind her. Both of them felt the attraction towards each other at that very moment.

Next day, they listened to the same lecture in the same room. Without a second thought, Lionel went and sat next to Anula, then they started to talk.

That noon they had their lunch together. Lionel came to know Anula’s friends – Mirana and Vinodani. Lionel also introduced his new friend Athula to the girls.

Most evenings after classes Lionel and Anula walked along the Lovers’ Lane. This ran along the Mahaveli River at a level below the Senate Building grounds. The two of them would sit under a shady tree, and look at the flowing muddy water of the river and talk to each other while holding each other’s hands.

Anula talked about her parents and about the village she came from. Her father who was a farmer had died three years ago. Anula was the eldest in the family. She revealed that her mother and her two younger brothers survived by growing vegetables and selling them. The tears that came to her eyes while she explained all this, was wiped away by Lionel.

He also told about his family. He was also the eldest in his family. Anula could feel the anger in his voice as he talked about how he lost his parents’ affection and love after his younger brother was born.

“It is best for me to stay away from that family,” Lionel said.

Their love grew and desires blossomed. But they controlled their emotions with a respect for each other. They dreamt about getting their degrees and living happily together in some far away village. Lionel revealed how he hated Colombo. When he said how he loved to live in Anula’s village and do farming, she was elated.

But by next year, Lionel turned into a completely different person. Most evenings he did not have enough time to be alone with Anula. He told her that he was attending some special classes.

But the love between them never waned. Yet Anula felt as if Lionel was hiding something from her. She was beginning to wonder whether he had other girl friends. But there was not even a scent of such another person in Lionel’s life.

He attended the special evening classes with Athula. One day Anula met a third person that came along with Athula and Lionel. He had a fully grown beard and his name was Rohana.

A few days after this meeting, Lionel also started to grow a beard.

“Why are you growing all that fuzz on your face” Anula asked him.

“I am not growing it. It is growing on its own,” was his reply. “Women don’t know anything about men’s beards.”

“That beard doesn’t suit you.”

“What can I do when it grows on its own, Anu? Not only that, it helps me save the money that I would otherwise spend on blades.”

“What would you do with all that money saved?”

“I can help the suffering masses with that money.”

‘Are you going to save the country with the money you save by not buying a blade?”

“Didn’t you know, Anu, that the ocean is filled by little drops of water. If each one of us saved a little bit that way, then it will become a large amount. With that we will be able to do something useful for the country.”

“How many are there that think like you?”

“There are more people than you can imagine that think like that, Anu.”

“I can’t argue with you, Lionel. All I can say is that the beard doesn’t suit you.”

“I always wondered why the men grew beards.”


“From a long time ago, it was the men who went out hunting. The women lived inside the caves. They did not burn in the sun and they did not get wet in the rain. That was how the womenfolk became fair and soft. The men burned in the sun and got soaked in the rain. To protect ourselves from such elements, the hair grew on our faces and our bodies.”

“Your argument could be correct. But I still say that the beard does not suit you.”

“I survive because of my beard,” Lionel said jokingly. “You will be able to see a lot of bearded people very soon.”

After sometime Anula began to see certain things that she had not seen before. On walls appeared a whole lot of new posters. On large white paper were messages such as “LIBERATION”, “DEATH”, “CAPITALISTS GO TO HELL”, “FREEDOM TO MOTHER LAND”, written in red and black letters. There messages became more and more prominent. “LIVING MEANS NOT DYING LIKE A SLAVE BUY DYING IN THE STRUGGLE.”


When Anula saw such writings on the walls, a new kind of fear was born within her. In her heart she felt the forewarning of a great change.

Recently Lionel had been distancing himself from her. He would tell her that he was going to his parents’ house in Colombo, and would return to Peradeniya after several days. Once she had sent him a letter to his Nugegoda address and Lionel claimed that he never received it. Then he changed his story and said that he had spent his time at a friend’s house and not with his parents.

“To me, friends are better than my parents. My mother nor my father could ever see anything good about me,” Lionel said once. “I was born into that family because of a previous bad Karma.”

Lately, Lionel often talked with a frustration. At times, he was in deep thought. Once Anula inquired from Lionel about a “Liberation” poster on a wall. He did not answer. There was a strong belief within Anula that Lionel could never ever join such a cause. He did not show any great interest in his studies. “What can we do with an arts degree, Anu? In the end we will have to get into the fields and wallow in the mud.”

“So didn’t you say once that we will go to my village and work in the fields?”

“We should be able to do something more than that…We have only one life, Anu.”

“According to Buddhism, aren’t we born more than one lifetime? Lionel, don’t we die and are born again and again?”

“I don’t believe in all that nonsense. We have to do whatever while we can, right now.”

“By that do you mean it’s all right to murder someone?”

“I am not talking about murder! I am talking about things that will help mankind. If someone dies in the process I don’t think of that as a fault.”

“Then, you don’t believe in Karma – Pala, cause and effect?”

“I don’t know anything about that. Buddha said that we do not have anything called a soul. To be liberated we have to give up the selfish desires.”

“You are not talking about the Liberation that the Buddha talked about.”

Anula said this in hope of drawing Lionel into a lengthy conversation. But he went quiet.

Now Lionel and Anula did not walk together along the Lovers’ Lane, nor did they sit under a shady tree by the Mahaveli river holding hands. Lionel did not have the time for that anymore. Everyday he was attending classes. Special classes. Anula felt as if he had become an enigma.

A few days after this, they received the news of a cashier at a bank in Kandy disappearing with a large amount of money. When they talked about this, Lionel’s comment was that there was nothing wrong in some poor person stealing that way. He also added that under a capitalist system, this was all a down-trodden person could do to survive.

‘That man had a job. So how could he be poor?”

“A man doesn’t become rich just because he has a job, Anu.”

“You have no idea what poor is, Lionel. If you knew how we grew up, you wouldn’t say such things. There were days that we had nothing to eat.”

“Whose fault is that? Isn’t it the fault of the social system that destroyed us?”

“The social system maybe wrong. It can be changed only by ourselves. We have to get an education and serve our country.”

“The education we get now is just a part of that same capitalist system, Anu. You cannot build up the country with that system.”

“How else?”

“I can’t talk all this with you. You don’t understand these things.”

Every time, Lionel would stop abruptly in his conversations and fall into a deep reverie. Or else he would suddenly get up and leave Anula.

Anula was boarded at a campus clerk’s house in Penideniya. She shared one room with another student named Renuka. There was a separate door on one side for them to go in and out. This way they did not disturb the owners of the house.

Sometimes Lionel came to see Anula in this room. When this happened, Renuka would leave them alone and go out either to the garden or some other part of the house. But lately Anula did not enjoy these meetings with her boyfriend. The cause for this was how Lionel distanced himself. Some days their conversations turned into bitter arguments. But the following day Lionel would come back and ask for forgiveness.

Anula felt that there was an unquenched hatred and an anger within Lionel’s heart.

When she asked him about this one day, Lionel started to cry and blabber.

“I have always been an outsider. My mother and father both scolded me for no reason at all. And they both beat me. Everyday they pointed out my faults. I always thought about taking revenge from them. Anu, I was born to that family because of a previous bad karma. It was my mother and my father who made me hate my younger sister and brother. It is not that I don’t have love in my heart.”

Lionel hid his head in Anula’s lap and cried. With a maternal affection, Anula stroked his hair.

“Remember how they ragged us when we first came to the campus? When they were torturing me, I had an urge to kill them all and kill myself. Why do people hurt and torture other people, Anu? Why?”

“Some people are like animals, Lionel. Though some live comfortably, within their hearts are brewing feelings of hatred and jealousy. It is like embers under the ashes. When they get the opportunity to act out these animal emotions, these awful feelings flow out effortlessly.” Most of what Anula went on saying was not heard by Lionel. On her lap he felt a comfort he had never felt before. He was so relaxed by her warmth and her scent. It was like a comfort that a child would get from his mother. While he was consoled this way for a long time, Anula stroked his head. The last red rays of the evening sun seeped in through the iron bars of the window above the bed and fell on the opposite wall. In this light, Lionel lifted his head and saw Anula’s head with a halo of sunlight around it. She had become a mother of kindness. But at this moment, he did not have the courage to reveal the deepest secret in his heart to her.

Anula felt that Lionel had become close to her once more. But how temporary was that feeling!

A few days later, on the first of April 1971, the police found a stack of bombs hidden in a room in the campus. These bombs were very crudely made. Gun powder mixed in with nails and shards of glass had been filled into small clay pots. The uncovering of this ammunition took place because one of the bombs had accidentally exploded. In the mishap one student lost one of his arms. Two other students were taken into custody.

After this incident many students were seen gathering in clusters and talking in hush hush. Everyone was acting suspiciously. No one seemed to know which among the students were the revolutionary Che Guverists.

That evening in her room, Anula discussed this matter with Lionel.

“Nobody that I know,” was Lionel’s nonchalant answer.

The next day, Anula did not see Lionel. He was nowhere to be found.

On the third day evening he came to her room and acted restlessly.

“Where’s your rooma?” Lionel inquired about Anula’s roommate.

“Renu has gone to her village. She got a message that her mother was sick.”

“Really?” Lionel sniggered. Anula understood the meaning of this much later.

“Shall I make a cup of tea for you?”


Anula boiled the kettle on the hot plate in the room and made some tea. Lionel sipped the hot brew and commented how tasty it was. All of a sudden there was an unusually loving tone in his voice. “When I marry you, would you make tea for me everyday?”

“I will also show you how to make tea.”

“What a thing to say? Why do I have to make tea as long as you are there? Come here, my girl.” Placing the cup of tea aside, he pulled her towards him. Their lips joined. The warmth of the tea was still upon his lips. She could feel this warmth right in her heart.

Outside the darkness spread gradually. The twittering of the birds could be heard amidst the branches and the leaves.

“I am going to Colombo tomorrow, ” Lionel whispered. “Some work pertaining to my younger sister.”

“You can stay the night here. if you wanto to.”

“How about dinner then?”

“Let us go to the store and bring some.”

“You stay here. I will go and bring something for both of us.”

“I will come along with you.”

“No, Anu, you stay here. By the time you get ready, I can run to the store and be back.”

While Lionel went to bring dinner, Anula took a shower. She felt an unusual awakening within her from the renewed love of Lionel as well as from the cool water. Everything will be all right from now on, she thought.

By the time Lionel returned with two packets of rice, she was waiting with the bedside lamp lit. The two of them ate the rice and curry while sitting at the small study table. They fed each other with their fingers. There was something beautiful about this act. It awakened them. Every time his fingers touched her lips, she felt this awakening.

After dinner, Lionel took a shower. When he came out perfumed by the scented soap, Anula was sitting on the bed with her hair undone.

After this everything happened very quickly. Lionel behaved in some animated rush, In his heart was the last glimmer of a dying lamp. Anula also gave in to all his whims and desires. The actions that started not to hurt her in any manner, ended with her losing her virginity.

A soft drizzle started to fall. Tears gathered in Anula’s eyes. These tears held all her happiness, sorrow, regret, pain and desires. Lionel who was above her, turned out the light. Only the faint glow from the outside was now left in the room.

Later Anula thought how crazily Lionel acted that night. Did he act that way to release all the anger and pain that was stored in his heart all these years? Whatever reason it was, she felt that she was giving him comfort and solace by allowing him to do whatever he wanted to do. She thought that he was being liberated by her sacrifices.

The drizzle continued on. While his body was covering with a fine sweat, Lionel let out a long sigh and laid down next to Anula. Even though he fell asleep very soon, she stayed awake deep in her thoughts. Why did she give in to him like that? What strong emotions were desire and lust? Though one controlled the mind, when the senses of the body awakened, it was not an easy task to control them. Though she felt a certain amount of discomfort in her groin, there was a certain enjoyment in that pain as well.

How temporary is the comfort one gets by scratching a wound?

Anula was so sure of Lionel not leaving her. But she thought about the situations she would have to face in the near future. As a woman, she did not have the luxury of falling asleep like Lionel.

Eventually by the time she did get some sleep it was past mid night. The rain fell on.

By the time she awoke next morning, Lionel was gone. Near her pillow was a note from him along with a white plumeria flower he had plucked from the garden.

“My darling Anu, I am leaving without waking you up. I hope that you received the same liberation that I received. We will meet again as soon as I return. Yours forever and unchanging,

Your ever loving,


This scented flower is a reminder of our love.

Tears welled in Anula’s eyes not just from physical pain. A mixed myriad of emotions and thoughts were born within her heart. Love, affection, pain, sacrifice, separation, the passion that overflowed last night, all this bubbled within her and came out of her eyes as tears.

After this day, Anula never saw Lionel again. From the fighting that erupted all over the country by the restless actions of the revolutionaries, on the fifth of April, many many people lost their lives. Not only the revolutionaries, but many who were in the army and the police and many innocent victims lost their lives that day.

Lionel died while he was under custody. A long time later Anula found out that he was taken to an army camp where he was either brutally tortured and murdered or was shot. All the news received was unclear and buried in a quagmire.

Anula who waited for Lionel’s return could almost sense his fate. Through friends and informants she received bits and pieces of news which his parents also received. Since the campus was closed for a long period of time, she went back to Nadun Oya like a snail crawling back into its shell. She no longer had the desire to go to a university and get a higher education.

She told her mother that several of her friends had been taken into custody as revolutionaries and that she herself had been questioned by the police and then sent home. There was some truth to what she said. Renuka, the girl who shared the room with Anula, got killed in Kataragama. Only later did Anula find out that her roommate was also a revolutionary. How cunningly did Renuka and Lionel both hide their true identities? Why didn’t Lionel reveal to her his true self? Did he really love her? Or did he love only his liberation struggle? When he acted with such a passion that last night with her, didn’t he know everything about the disaster that was to happen later? When he left that night after behaving with such emotions, didn’t he leave a memento with her?

Very soon afterwards, Anula could feel the change and churning within her womb. How long could she keep this a secret from her dear mother? As the fetus gradually grew it would be impossible to hide it from anyone.

Often when her poor mother saw Anula in deep reverie, she thought that her daughter was feeling sad about her disrupted education. How little even a mother who gives birth to a child would know about its offspring?

After this, Anula went back to working in the rice fields. It was at a harvest time that she became friendly with Siripala. He was a rustic young man from the Yan Oya Valley. Anula found his dark muscular body and the appealing smile that exposed a pair of perfectly white teeth very attractive.

Though Anula still thought about Lionel, her heart was gradually being pulled towards Siripala. Before the world around could really notice her pregnancy, she became involved with him because of true loving feelings.

Very soon, she seduced him. Siripala felt a pride that a girl who had attended a university was coming on to him. He also bore loving feelings towards her.

After their first meeting they saw each other quite often. Anula’s mother was relieved that her daughter was smiling once again.

Many times Anula heard her mother comment “What a good man Siripala was.”

A few days later Anula and Siripala were alone in an isolated wooded area. It was not clear which one succumbed to the other. Both of them behaved with bodies heated by extreme passion.

A week later Anula informed Siripala that she was pregnant.

After listening to her news, Siripala picked up a blade of grass from near where he was squatting and chewed on it and contemplated for a while before replying. “What can we do, Menike? Let us get married then.” Tasting the milky flavor of the grass, he spat and stood up as if he had made a final decision. “Let us tell your mother. I will take care of you the best I can.”

“Mother likes you very much, Siri.”

Siripala smiled innocently.

“If she found out what I did to you, your mother won’t like me very much, Menike.”

“Mother likes you. We don’t have to tell all that to her.”

“I will be getting three acres of land in Yan Oya. I have sent all the forms all filled up. New villages are being built up there.”

“I am coming with you then.”

“I won’t go there without you, Menike.” About him was a very childlike innocent quality. Siripala did not have the know how or the anger that Lionel had.

Duly, Anula received her mother’s blessing as well. Siripala’s only family was an older sister and his old father who lived in Vavuniya. Siripala had left home after an argument with his brother-in-law.

“That man would pull out a knife when he got drunk. I am not used to that kind of behavior,” one day he told Anula. “I must have drifted this way because of my luck, to meet you.”

“I also came here because of my luck,” Anula replied.

“If you went to the university, how could someone like me ever grab such a big branch like you!”

“After I’d finished my studies I would have come back to the village anyway.” Remembering a discussion she had once with Lionel, she sighed. “We don’t need to talk about all that now. I am in the village anyhow.”

Their marriage took place in a simple ceremony. Finding an auspices time one morning, they went to the registrar’s office and registered their marriage. Mother cooked a special milk rice. The neighbours got together and made lunch for everyone. There was no one from Siripala’s family attending this ceremony.

Anula’s younger brothers lit some firecrackers and four village women played the large Raban drum.

Towards evening the house was sans company again. The mother, extremely tired, fell asleep. The two younger brothers went out to roam about the village. Anula and Siripala were alone in their room.

Anula remembered the last time she was alone with Lionel and a tear rose in her eye. Siripala who was sitting next to her on the rope bed stroked her back and asked “Why are you crying, my Menike?”

“No, it’s O.K.”

“I know you had to give up your education because of me. If you want to, go back to the university, my Menike. I will take care of the fields.”

Feeling the gratitude towards Siripala’s trust and love for her, Anula wiped away the tears and smiled. “That’s nice. My Menike is smiling.”

As Siripala bent towards her, she hugged him. She thought how much better Siripala is than Lionel. Lionel thought only about his revolution and liberation. Didn’t he die because of those selfish ideals?

Perhaps he lost his life by the erroneous actions of the group he joined in the hope of helping others. But that last night he behaved in such a ferocious selfish manner. Did he behave that way because he knew that was going to be the very last time that they would be together? Was that the reason he left a memento with her? Anula felt as if the fetus was stirring within her womb. When Siripala pulled her and laid her on the bed she told him to be careful.

As if understanding why she said so, Siripala stroked her belly with his fingers and embraced her.

After a while covered with sweat, Siripala fell asleep. Anula could not sleep. In the stifling heat, an eye-fly hummed around her eyes. Where did that come from? What a bother! Unable to bear the annoyance, she got up and went to the table at the end of the room.

Sitting in a chair nearby, she could see a box filled with books underneath the table. These were books from here university days, books that she did not have the heart to throw away. Pulling the box slowly towards herself, she opened the lid. A silverfish ran amidst the musty smell. She took out the top most Economics book. Turning to the last page she saw a pressed plumeria flower there.

She picked it up and smelled it. The flower held a faint fading smell of decay. The petals that were once brilliant with white and yellow were now brown in color. The folded flower had no beauty in it. It only had a sweet memory.

Remembering Lionel she thought of that memorable night and pressed the flower to her bosom.

Siripala groaned lightly and turned the other way on the bed. Anula panicked and hid the faded flower once again among the pages of the book. Siripala slightly opened his eyes.


“Why, Siri?” Putting the book back in the box she stood up.

“You are still reading books.”

“No, no I just turned the pages.”

“You are still thinking about the university.”

“No, Siri.” Saying this, Anula sat next to Siripala and stroked his head. One of his hands rested on her stomach. Till he fell asleep once more, she sat in that manner.

She got up only when she heard the voices of her brothers walking back towards the house through the shrubbery.

After this for a very long time she forgot the faded flower hiding among the pages of her economics book.

Seven months hence, she gave birth to a baby girl. She delivered the child while laying on the rope bed in her room. A midwife was there to aid her.

Siripala who came running back from the fields paced up and down outside the room with great impatience. Every time that Anula moaned he would stop and look towards the room. The window of the room was shut.

As the sun reached its zenith, Anula’s screaming also increased. Unable to bear anymore, Siripala came to the door and talked to the mother. She told him to stay outside. Unable to tolerate his wife’s moans and groans, Siripala walked to the arecanut tree grove and squatted in the shade and covered his ears. A crow cawed up on a tree.

“Are you crying too, little black crow?” Looking up, Siripala talked to the bird. “Oh, little bird, I hope Menike will deliver the baby without any mishap. If that happens I will offer you some food as well – an almsgiving to the crows.”

Heen Ethana who had come to assist in the delivery room, came running in search of Siripala. “Come on in, Siripala. She delivered the baby.”

“She had the baby?”

“Yes, yes, a little baby girl…looks just like you.”

Elated, Siripala ran in to the room. He picked up the baby that still smelled of fresh blood with a great loving feeling.

The little girl wriggled with clenched fists. “Just like a worm,” Siripala muttered.

Anula chuckled.

“I made a promise to the crows that if you delivered the baby without any mishap that I would offer them some food,” sitting by Anula, Siripala said.

The very next day this offering was prepared. The food placed in the arecanut grove was a feast to the ever hungry crows. Their crowing could be heard late into the day.

Anula named her daughter Visaka. Siripala handed the decision making on that matter entirely to his wife. “Your baby looks just like you,” he said.

Anula also felt that Visaka looked just like herself. But doesn’t the baby’s lips resembled those of Lionel? Her eyes were exactly like Anula’s. But mother said that the little girl looked just like Siripala.

Hearing this Siripala smiled without any comments.


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Table of Contents: Preface | Life Cycle | Chapter 01 | Chapter 02 | Chapter 03 | Chapter 04 | Chapter 05 | Chapter 06 | Chapter 07 | Chapter 08 | Chapter 09