13. What Followed the Tea

@Bandarawela, Uva Province, Sri Lanka.

This was what came after the tea; what followed the wonderful journey through the tea plantations of a lovely Nuwara Eliya and watching the preparation of the wonderful drink at a tea factory as well as tasting some of it for free. As it came after the tea, the soul or the essence of life was working so well; it kept me going and the journey didn’t remain too tiresome any more. It is a wonderful thing to be energized by tea at a time when you most needed it. Almost everybody in the bus almost thought the same too; they also needed it; some of them wanted it even more than I did. They were also the people of the tea; the tea drinkers who kept their faith; stayed loyal to the drink even when new tasty things were introduced in liquid form. They had faith in the legacy of tea just as I was gaining my faith in the way of the world. My faith kept coming back, but once you leave your faith, belief and hope in something like tea, it is hard to come back; but the good people never do; they are the soldiers of a Tea revolution which is always running, as they slowly become part of the Legend of good tea.

Sri Lankan tea always remained superior; from the coastal area to the higher lands, it stayed with a strong taste; it was surely costlier compared to India, may be because tea and coffee never really interested the common people of the island nation; not anywhere near Kerala where it is almost like an official drink of the masses. As the journey was so tiresome, tea was necessary; Welimada was somewhere we stopped in the middle; Divurumpola Temple is supposed to be where Sita Devi did her Agni Pariksha. The place also had a Buddhist side, with their own temple and pagoda. The Ravana Falls and Ravana Ella Cave also lies not too far away; this was where Ravana is supposed to have hidden Sita Devi for a long time. This was a very important part of the Ramayana tour, but the cave was too far inside the vegetation and climbing a hill was also part of it. As I am not used to climbing anywhere, I was limited to taking photos from down and in the case of the waterfall too, I kept the distance as it was no different than any others I have seen before, but it certainly had it’s own beauty. Actually it paled in comparison to another waterfall which I had seen earlier from a restaurant when having lunch, and it contributed to my slight lack of interest.

Where the true interest lied was surely in the tea and the spirituality; the intellect part of mine was kind of left behind and thus Bandarawela wasn’t supposed to be that awesome considering the less number of tourist attractions listed in the travel itinerary and the lack of Ramayana tour spots in the immediate area. But by just a walk through the town, the situation changed. The temperature felt somewhat like Kandy, warmer than Nuwara Eliya, but still kind of cool. It was almost a hill station, but I would consider it a gateway to hill; something like a security guard who keeps an eye on you; the type which doesn’t really sleep and illegally helps you to pass through. Being at the second largest city of Badulla District didn’t give that kind of feeling and being about 200 km away from Colombo and about 125 km away from Kandy wasn’t really a factor in deciding my mood or creating an impression. The big journey which was to follow wasn’t really ringing any bells in my mind; never did it switch on any tube lights in my brain. There was some spare time in the city and this was the time to move away from the tour and follow a different route for as much as possible; there was near half-day left in a city which we never heard much about.

Right in front of the hotel we stayed, there was a mosque; not just any mosque but quite a big structure which was being built at that time. Even as it looked an unfinished future masterpiece at that moment, the dome looked great and combined with the sun and the clouds, it made a beautiful picture. A few minutes of walk lead to the discovery of a church which was in the name of St. Antony. It was not that huge, but was beautiful and certainly quite old. After spending some time inside in prayers, I had a look around, but could not find anyone; not even the parish priest. It was as if everyone had gone somewhere; they couldn’t have ran away from me; as I was not going to ask them even tea. I did have tea later, more than once; but that was unrelated. Actually, the best thing about the place was certainly the Buddhist temple there. At a place where even the hotel looked marvellous due to it’s colonial architecture, this temple made it’s presence felt even with such a simple structure. It was not first noticed, but the different looking gate was what gave me the impression that it was something unavoidable. The presence of Buddhist monks in the entrance also re-affirmed the fact.

The temple was special; not only because it was just the third Buddhist temple I ever visited; it was simple and beautifully crafted in such a rare combination. I always had the right adjective to use in case of temples and churches, but this one was actually beyond my vocabulary. This small, simple temple building had pagodas, other buildings and small statues of Sri Buddha all around. There was also the big tree in the centre and a few small Buddhist flags as you would see at most of the similar places. People were praying with full faith and also doing performing some traditional customs which I failed to understand. There was nothing in English around and it was nearly impossible to understand what was going on and what it was all about. Bandarawela, for some reason didn’t seem to have that much love for English; may be it is not among the first choices of Westeners. It was kind of not that developed city and could equal most of the developed towns of Kerala, but it still had it’s peace and calmness without the hectic and mental horror created by people who can’t wait or make way for others.

Being in a Sinhalese majority area, it was difficult to see other languages, but the time at the temple was made worth loving by some friendly monks around. They were pleasing and so happy to help, but the language problem was still there until a monk came with good knowledge of English; with a special accent, but mine was also special. He opened the closed doors of the temple and it was incredibly beautiful inside. It was small, but it had lots of statues and artworks inside which would have been difficult to guess from the outside. He explained each and everything in the temple and also came up with many interesting facts about Sri Buddha. He was extremely pleasing and never hesitated to answer any doubt about The Enlightened one. He also brought up an invitation for their prayers which was to happen later. But there were some plans about the next day which was to be made in the hotel, it was not to be. The price of tea in the menu of the hotel was so shocking that life without tea was the better option that night. But it was to come back to me on the very next day and with so many packets of Sri Lankan tea in the bags, how can I not be satisfied? If I am not yet happy about a successful tea adventure within the walls of spirituality, that would have been so wrong.

Diving out —>

TeNy