70. Thank You Ceylon

@Katunayake, Western Province, Sri Lanka.

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Officially, Katunayake was the place where were I first set foot on Sri Lankan soil, as it is where Bandaranaike International Airport or the Colombo Airport is situated. Even as I couldn’t really consider it apart from Negombo or even Colombo during my visit, its significance is of a higher plane. The provider of the primary international air gateway to the beautiful island shall not go unattended in my blog, especially at a time when I could recollect the need to thank the island which proved to be an experience which brought the change and set my mood back to something readable. Wordsworth felt poetry was “the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility”; and I would feel the same in its absence in verses, but I would rather not question its existence as Ceylon, for it was that inspiring poetry of my Dark Ages; which set the pace for a number of journeys which came later, the most significant one being that long walk through England and Scotland; with the rime of this traveller who belonged neither to modernity nor to the legends of the ancient world. The same thing would be recollected in Lake District in the same year, but just to be forgotten and to be remembered now. For that, thank you Katunayake, for being the land which welcomed me to that world.

From here, this story takes that not-so-wrong turn. Before that, this journey is to be explained on the basis of one major thing. To support the same, this is what I found on google after searching for news on that particular day, the day I could have died, but still remained quite far away from its messenger. “On 26 July 2010, Kingfisher Airlines Flight IT 2482, detected smoke. Leakage from packets of boric acid powder & liquid detergent, packed together, resulted in the chemical reactions causing heavy smoke. It was found that there was a security lapse among the cargo security staff. There were 36 passengers on board”. Going further deep, I would say that this might have been a sign of the Grim Reaper who was absent throughout my visit later though. I could feel the delay on that day and the world outside was looking a little foggy from the inside of the flight, but this was not a thing I expected even with all those Gothic stuff in the mind – may be only supernatural could have evoked that feeling, for death was so natural; Louis de Pointe du Lac wished for it in “Interview With the Vampire”, and he got more than what he wished for – that was supernatural. In my case, there was nothing of both type; neither natural or supernatural was happening in my life, and it could not be more dead – there was no life at all. What was there for Sir Death to take? That would be a serious question if asked to Death in a quiz.

What would have Death gained by taking me then? My failures and my confusion were there for him to take; but what would he do with it? He surely can’t eat them; neither can he claim them as his own – if he was Johny Blaze and could do a worthlessness stare instead of a penance stare, he would have been the world’s most depressed supernatural agent. He might have known that and he should have surely known that I never really cared at time and I wasn’t really afraid of his power of the undesired dimension. That would have been what caused a change of mind in him; for he might have looking for souls which had something in them, a power which might be equivalent to the nuclear energy in this world – mine was just too dull; depressing enough to take the hope out of the most optimistic Dark Knight of Gotham City. I had felt in life more like a crocodile in Jurassic Park or a dinosaur in the Lake Placid, not really supposed to be at both places, and I do wonder what Death would have felt with such a feeling. Then how would Death make the living dead? What would happen to a world with no death? May be they would turn directly into the undead and Resident Evil series would never end. Then all the zombies will turn into pale Twilight vampires and go to school for Plus Two, or graduate multiple times for Vampirology or Vampire Studies (future possible courses). In India, they would choose Mawsynram or Cherrapunji as home with a holiday trip to Kerala during monsoon. If it is still not enough, there would be the Himalayas and the other mountain ranges.

But as I would hate such a thing to happen, I would hope for the end of such a craze which perverts the Vampire Legend, and I would never say “Welcome to India, nice to meet you”, and on this, one got to be on Death’s side. So there has been enough talk about Death, and less about life, and moving towards positive side of hope, belief and faith, there is the fact that this thing was not found out when the flight was in the air, might be more of a sign of the fact that the opposites are already at work. Thus reaching Sri Lanka itself was by God’s grace; it was not just any journey, it was spiritual; it had only the best of intentions and thus it had to go right. From the moment I saw the Lord Buddha statue in the airport, I wondered if this sojourn would have anything other than spirituality in the list. In case someone is wondering if this was a Final Destination moment, I would have to disagree as I am still alive after two years with the only loss being that of hair. If asked about the other people in the flight, I don’t know – I knew the name of most of the travellers, and nothing more; how they might have seen it is also another thing I might never know, they were all elder people of good spirits, that I know; all of them between the age of fifty and eighty from what my eyes told me, and this list surely doesn’t include the airplane staff.

My thanks to Sri Lanka is not just on these thoughts on air; that was just the sign for the beginning. I have to say that I never felt away from home in Sri Lanka. It was another nation about which I was aware of, and it was surely not a carbon copy. But there was so much of Kerala throughout. There were many moments when I felt not away from home and instead I felt at home, and I felt good. I felt the three thousand years of Sri Lankan history, not as documented, but as part of my own land’s history. I felt I was part of that spirituality; I visited not only churches and Hindu temples, but also the Buddhist temples, and could find the time to talk to a few Buddhist monks. That was also a first time for me, even as I could have found the opportunity to do the same with a visit to Dharamsala, Bodh Gaya or Kushalnagar, all three of these places I knew about and wished to go, but never really did. This might come back to me if I make a visit to these places or to Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand and Nepal all of which I have listed in my future destinations, but about which I can only have an unclear picture. For now, Ceylon has given me what was needed, even if a hundred people might have suggested to me that I never knew what I wanted. If they wonder so, that is a strange thing indeed.

I was officially introduced to Buddhism at Ceylon, and it is an experience which I would go through once again, and this one thing I assure myself. To add to it, I was there in that nation which is the world’s third or fourth largest producer of tea and the second largest exporter of the same. There was tea and there was spirituality, and how they are related, is more of a thing of the soul. I have had a refreshing experience with both there, and even if I would find no specific incident suitable to explain it, the whole thing was complete with these two. Ceylon’s combination of both had made an everlasting mixture, which created another world, strengthened by the tea’s fountain of youth and supported by the spirituality which powered the mind. The pure Ceylon tea bought from Sri Lanka enriched the life for almost an year, and the feeling of being abroad and being at home – that time of having both spiritual and physical unity; I felt it; I felt it in the food, I felt it in the climate, I felt it in the world which was far away, but still too close to the heart. For the first time, I was more than the hopeless me; that sparked a beginning, with the desire not to be back in India that quick, but with the need to start living according to the soul. For that, thank you Ceylon; for those days were few, but they were surely worth it. As I left Katunayake, I remembered that I am not Arnold Schwarzenegger, but still, there was something I know and I still know the same, that I will be back – and then, I will be back again multiple times.

Diving out —>

TeNy

26. A City for Gems

@Ratnapura, Sabaragamuwa Province, Sri Lanka

Ratnapura is exactly what it’s name suggests; the land of gems, the famous gem-mining town of Sri Lanka located about a hundred kilometers from Colombo. As “ratna” means gem and “pura” means city, there is not much doubt about what the city would be, other than being the city of gems. If it was named in Malayalam, the name would have been Ratnapuram, not much different except for the last letter addition. Not very often can you guess what a city is about, just by it’s name; as Ramapuram doesn’t have that much importance as a hallowed place of Sri Rama and Mudickal is not an obliterated place; Kottayam is not situated in a “Kotta” or fort; Ernakulam and Thiruvairanikulam are not ponds and doesn’t have that many “ponds” as it’s name suggests except for the occasional gutters which has started to make them look so; the places ending with “kad” meaning forest are not really dense jungles and those ending with “puzha” or river are not islands in the middle of a water body, and thus the names seems to suit the wrong locations, but it does work with a few places and one of the is surely Ratnapura.

Even as Rapadura is the Portuguese name for a form of sugarcane juice, used as a sweetener, common in Latin American countries and the Caribbean, and as the Portuguese domination had a big influence on the island, the possibility of the name being derived from that word is less; seeing what the city is about, it has to be from the two words meaning gem and city. The place is the centre, the most important industry of precious stone mining including rubies, sapphires, and other sparkling gems. Apart from that, the town is a place of natural beauty and lots of cultivation. Not only fruits and rubber, tea is also grown in this place, even as the place is located kind of lower compared to the other places of tea plantations. Tea itself would be a gem if you would ask me; having tea growing at your town is something to boast about, even as gems will be the thing most people would be looking for. Sri Lanka has the highest density of gem deposits compared to its landmass and Ratnapura has the most of it; the island nation has always been known for it’s gems for centuries; the colonisers always had specific interest in it.

We can say that the town depend on gem trade, the most productive method of earning money and a little on the agricultural industry which is far less profitable which is even lessened by the possibility of floods in the Kalu river. But one has to wonder when profit becomes really what it stands for; as sometimes it is vain. A good number of well-known people have taught, written books and stood for agriculture; still the easier way will always look better for people. The global demand for diamonds, gold and other precious metals hasn’t done anybody any good. It can glitter and it can look good to you, but it will depend on how you view life; as none of the precious metals interested me so far, and it didn’t really mattered how much I tried to make it look extra special to my eyes and how much I kept looking at it with a heavy amount of concentration. It doesn’t mean anything to my aesthetic sense and it fails to invoke any feeling of beauty in my mind and it seems to have a complete lack of soul in it. It seems more and more like the dead man’s metals, the stones of the deceased; the more I look at them, the more dislike I feel about it; to me they are depressing.

I would like to consider Sri Lanka, not thinking about the gems; Ratnapura as the gem land, but not of just those stones which has only that external beauty; for me, it would be that land of spirituality, that land of Buddhism which is not of this unreal world. It would be that land of Ramayana and that land of beautiful churches on the coast. For me, it is the land of that gem of goodness which is valued further more than any random metal or stone; it is the land of humanity; it is the land of truth, wisdom and love where peace has settled down with all it’s might. The true gem is that heart, which is unaltered in it’s quest for truth, peace and non-violence; the true value of a gem is not based on how good it looks and how much it sparkles; it is something which is far beyond this world and long beyond all means of understanding. The price of all these can go up; the gold price can continue and reach the top of the world; but none of these are forever and it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you have to leave all these here; what you take with you is your soul which carries it’s stories.

You can be anybody; from the current situation of the materialistic world, you can be King Midas or you can be Doctor Faustus; achieving both options have never been easier. You can have all the gold in the world or you can have Mephistopheles’ service in return for your soul which would be damned for all eternity with Lucifer, but both options are leading to you to that pandemonium, that hell which has that eternal pain awaiting you. It is the exact place where the unnecessary ambition and desire leads one to. Even in my lands, it is ridiculous to see the attraction towards gold. At least Faustus still had that desire for knowledge and a side inside him which wanted to repent; Midas also understood his mistake, but some people never change. Even after the watch Elizabrth Hurley giving Brendan Fraser those wishes in ‘Bedazzled’, they are still so interested in selling their souls for all that wealth and glory which they can’t even keep after death. At the end of they day, they are dead and they not only split from their precious thing, but also from their body itself which will completely cease to exist.

This is exactly why my only interest while visiting the gem stores of Sri Lanka was to capture the beauty of the lands from the window of that store too. There was also the need for tea; for me the drink had much more value at that time. It was about having my gem of a drink which lived far beyond all nations; the drink which was simple and had a soul. As the gems were to die, tea was to live and Ratnapura for me was my land of tea; Sri Lanka was my island for having great tea. The gems will play their part and will be sold and bought, but tea will be drunk; it is internal and it within you. Here the bottomline is that I was at Ratnapura, and there was tea and spirituality. Gems were there and they might have attracted many, from the West as well as the North, but I was not to be among them. I shall proudly fail to understand the need for gems and gold, according to them; and be extremely happy about it, for it proves that I am different and far away from any possible sin of wordly desire.

Diving out —>

TeNy

25. The End of Days

@Kelaniya, Western Province, Sri Lanka.

It was our last day at Sri Lanka on that Ramayana tour and just like any other final day at any foreign country, it was over so fast. This was immediately after the Colombo city trip which was quicker, and there was also a Hanuman temple to visit on the way which made Kelaniya too far an attraction for a few minutes, but fortunately, the journey speeded up. Kelaniya is actually a small town near Colombo, in the Gampaha District of Sri Lanka; a place which I didn’t check in the maps before I visited. It is blessed by the Kelani river, but the water body does face the same problems as any other in the world, in the developing countries. Even recent tests have indicated that the purity level of the water is diminishing; a comparison to some of the rivers of India would make this situation look okay, but considering the beauty of the river and it’s surroundings as well as the beautiful temple which lies close to it, there is need for a better situation, but still nothing from it did affect our journey as we had to go to Kelaniya and then to the Bandaranaike International Airport.

Before getting further into the best thing, the wonderful temple of Kelaniya, it has to be said that it is another symbol of religious tolerance. It is a Buddhist temple and it might be one of the most sacred Buddhist sites, but it also has a small temple to Vibhishana, the noble and good natured brother of the demon king Ravana of Ramayana, who later became the king of the island of Lanka and he was supposed to have shifted the capital to Kelaniya. Vibhishana still continues to be worshipped by some adherents, mainly in the Kelaniya area as well as the tourists from the north. It is actually a small part of the large temple area. The god-king is depicted with a blue coloured body wearing gold crown with ornaments and as holding a sword in his right hand. He has two teeth protruding when the mouth is closed, which seems to be peeking out like the vampire teeth, but smaller and he certainly is a good-looking god-king according to the picture inside the temple. There are other Hindu deities around and there are beautiful curtains which makes the place look nice even if it is a simple abode for the legendary king.

Moving back to the Buddhist temple, it is a great structure, not the biggest or as imposing as the Temple of the Tooth of Kandy, but still something which is special and something which catches the attention especially as we move towards it. There is a gopuram-like structure on one side and there is a big tree which resembles the Bodhi tree, something which I have noticed near almost all of the Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. Both looked significantly old and the only thing which might look older might be the temple itself. The temple coloured dark yellow just like the gopuram was located right on the side of a big white stupa which seemed to compete with the temple in it’s looks. It is said that the Portuguese destroyed all those sculptures and the paintings of antiquity during their conquest of Kelaniya, but still inside that temple, it is a wonderful world awaiting us. We can still see lots of paintings and carvings relating to Sri Buddha and his stories. There is also a quite big golden coloured statue of Lord Buddha lying on the bed. There are also other statues of the Enlightened one as well as a number of incidents related to Buddhism, most of them depicted as paintings which are beautiful, but still kind of simple in nature.

After seeing those paintings on the walls, roofs and everywhere around that wonderful world inside the temple, the huge white stupa structure awaited me. It was just like the same things I had seen all around Sri Lanka, but this one was surely bigger and more captivating and it was surrounded by statues and it matched the sky in colour. This mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics was like the centre of spirituality and the temple seemed to pale in comparison. So many people were praying in front of it with such a devotion which made the retreats look like a common daily prayer. It didn’t lose any of it’s spiritual content even as it was a heavy tourist centre visited by so many people. The temple procession held on the pre-full moon day of the month of January every year is huge and famous thing, but we were not to stay there till then, and there will be other people from all around the world to witness it; and it shall be crowded, there will be so much people around, considering it was already enough crowded during the time we visited; there was still silence and peace, but still taking photos was not easy with so many interruptions in the form of people walking all around.

As it is located 10km east of Colombo in Colombo-Kandy Road and still quite close enough to the airport, it should be a favourite destination of all those tourists who wander around Colombo and Negombo. Sri Lankan Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha visited Kelaniya in order to quell a quarrel between two Naga leaders who fought over a priceless throne, and later converted to Buddhism. The sculptures on the outside include those of nagas and apsaras, as well as that of Vibhisana being crowned the king of Lanka by Sri Rama. There are also other Hindu gods and godesses around as the Buddhist flags fly in the yard. The University of Kelaniya is also situated at Kelaniya near the Colombo-Kandy Road and their Faculty of Humanities which provided the courses of Master of Arts in Drama and Theater as well as Linguistics did catch my attention a lot, as it was the first time I saw Literature divided and studied; the same can be said about their Faculty of Social Sciences; it was different and it looked good from the outside, and I would have loved to have studied there for a change, but I am not to be certain about myself or anything.

It was where we had the last Sri Lankan local tea; it was at a small shop in front of the temple and it was found by one of the uncles who had great love for tea; almost the same love I had, as if he also knew that tea was forever and even had a perfect time table for drinking it. It is always good to have tea finders with you; saves you a lot of time to find the right tea shop and the perfect source of tea. It was the cheapest tea I ever had, priced at five Sri Lankan rupees or so, which would be less than three Indian rupees after conversion and it was still good tea, just like being at any tea shop in Sri Lanka. It was also the smallest shop explored there by me, and anything smaller was far beyond my tea radar and also impossible to find when on a journey; but being at bigger shops was preferred by the guide considering it her responsiblity to keep everyone away from stomach upsets. But as it was the last day and the worst thing would only happen after we are left at the airport or inside a flying machine, on that day it was fine. After the temple visit, we also had the opportunity to do a little shopping, but it was kind of low level shopping and I guess it should have stopped with the temple and the tea.

Diving out —>

TeNy

20. To Forgive is Divine

@Welimada, Uva Province, Sri Lanka.

When the first idea was to finish this place as a random location on the way to Bandarawela adding the Divurumpola Temple as a part of it, that was a wrong idea from my side. Not just because it is holy site for two parties; not just because it had heavy tourist value added to it. There are many sides to it, two of them visible in the first look itself and a few other sides which most of the common men doesn’t see. One of them is the Agni Pariksha of Sita, which stands for purification; in this universe of evil, it’s significance is high; the evil which eats the brain of people has gained so much power that there is the need for that purification, especially of the soul. It is always the good people who suffer; the goodness in man always works against him as evil is any day more able on Earth as it got no morals or that conscience, a feeling which I gained as a kid when watching Spider-man who was my favourite superhero of that time. Every good person suffers some kind of Agni Pariksha in his life; but the evil ones always avoid it, may be until they rot in hell. The worst thing to suffer shall be their tongue for their foul language, for all the bad words they used; and for they lack respect for their fellow human beings and thinks with a bag of selfishness attached to the back of their spinal chord which feeds them their daily dose of impure words and actions.

The other side of the temple is of course the Buddhist side of peace and non-violence. More than that, the Four Noble Truths have always been in out History text books from the school days itself, but what have we learned from them? It was for exams for most of them, but then I wouldn’t consider than as education, it would be the prerequisite for a future job, or may just something you want to boast about. Any education that doesn’t change man in a good way wouldn’t be fit to be called by that name. But unfortunately, that continues to happen and people goes on to be monsters of pleasure. When one knows that desire is the root cause of suffering, there should have been a need to stop the madness, but people are so much into getting caught in the evil way of the world when they should aim out of it. One should be good, one should be oneself; one should be a good oneself and abstain from evil; otherwise what is the point of being educated and civilized? If being selfish is what living in a society happens to be, whats the point of the whole thing? If one person can’t see from the perspective of another person, it is his failure; not considering others as the same as himself with flesh, blood and feelings is his clear failure.

Welimada was a peaceful place and the Noble Eightfold Path was more needed back in India. Forget the new religious intolerance and terrorism which has risen in some parts of the nation as it is not wide spread; what about the exact meaning of commitment to non-violence or harmlessness towards other living beings? Do people really think that they gain anything by individiual violence? That too in the nation of Mahathma Gandhi? The father of our nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi might be more respected and followed outside the nation; what do we do instead of his teaching of truth and non-violence? What happens these days is just crystal clear nonsense, as we can see that himself, Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ, they all taught that peace which is non-existant for now. It is as if we should burn the daily news papers rather than read it. There is no tolerance; not religious, political or anything. I have been thinking about importing news papers from Sri Lanka; it would have that essence of peace; even on the road, there are those slow moving, careful vehicles and the lack of foul mouthed people. I have never had a more peaceful and safer journey.

What people has the most need to import is The Right speech; as these people who go around calling people names and using bad words anywhere needs it. They abuse, they refrain from truth and they deceive with their foul tongue. This is non-violence in speech which has cursed our lands. You go around with your vehicle and people can always make enough mistakes to jump in front of you with or without their pathetic transportation which they can’t drive. But they will always blame you as they are too evil to be happy and thank God that they survived; they are selfish and can’t even accept half or a quarter of it as their mistake. They lack the gift of forgiveness; they can’t move on and they have to run their mouth, may be it is in their blood, but still one has to be another entity separate from his ancestors. They are the satanic ones; they are anti-social; depending on every bad word they used, they should be rated less or more evil. At the end of the day, they are the people who do circus on road and they are the ones who are not careful at all. They are the ones causing their own accidents too. These people need a new kind of tooth paste and brush which could clean their mouths. I would go to Sri Lanka just to escape from these demons in human form.

Back to the temple, they had beautiful statues of Lord Buddha in there, all put there in a line as if they were to be sold to devotees or other small temples. These statues of stone looked so enchanting and reminded me of how sad the Enlightened one would be, if was with us at this moment, especially in India; and for Kerala, there would have been the need for so many people like him. It is a situation where the society has taken so many things from the West, but most of them not good or suiting India. Most of the bad things are always taken and the good things left behind; where has this got the society? A society infested by so many anti-social elements who are foul mouthed, always angry and cursing with a hand ready for punching even the elders, as well as those loafers who bother people, especially of the other sex. These groups can’t forgive and forget and they clearly doesn’t have the divine gift to forgive. They are forsaken by the higher being and their afterlife is surely damned. We have to feel for their parents though; but after they reach the other world, that would not be much of a problem as it is a different world and they will no longer be parents and sons; no damned soul deserves to be the off-spring of man, the blessed creature with reason.

The caves used by Ravana to hide Sita Devi are also near this place. All these caves were kind of unexplored as the tourist flow was just beginning. But it wasn’t that much of a cave for me compared to how it was back in my lands. After I returned from Sri Lanka, I was between some people who behaved like cavemen or even worse. These future Neanderthal men who are taking so much time to evolve, are clearly destroying our nation’s reputation, especially that of our state as they drive like The Flintstones or even much worse and uses random abuse which would ashame some real cavemen. As much as I do hope and pray for change in them, I wish they never go to Sri Lanka and affect that wonderful island nation which their evil. Ceylon has always been a paradise, no matter how much it is torn by the Civil Wars. It will surely come back and be restored to it’s former glory. But when I look at my own lands, we are blessed with so many things and advantages of being at the right place, but it is ruined by people; their selfishness and I would most of all, their inability to forgive. There should be peace; there should be non-violence; for these to exist there is the need for forgiveness especially for unintentional mistakes. Just one perspective is never enough. But with the online world getting stronger and also spreading it’s own share of hatres and violence, the hope for peace is kind of low.

Diving out —>

TeNy

18. Kochi’s Twin Brother

@Negombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka.

This town 37 km north of Colombo and closeer to the Bandaranaike International Airport than Colombo was where we had our lunch after having another lunch in the airplane. It was the first place where we felt Sri Lanka and it’s taste. As it was the time when I was clearly or purely non vegetarian, I found a wonderful world in it’s taste. Chicken was what I concentrated in; it has been so on most of the occasions at home upto an extent that KFC would have bowed down and worshipped me if I hadn’t turned vegetarian. I always hated Chicking though; it didn’t even have Krushers and they gave the feeling of inferior chicken to me. But where we had our lunch at Negombo was a simple, but still a good resort with almost all the facilities including a swimming pool and extremely clean beach on it’s side. The beach was so tidy that I wondered how they managed that; may be they had that sense of goodness and that love for keeping their country clean which automatically comes into their soul. Or may be this was an exception, but this beach was so clean and not crowded; it started our journey on a positive note with the wonderful body of salt water which made us wonder about the geography of Sri Lanka.

It was not any Koh Phi Phi, where Leonardo DiCaprio and Virginie Ledoyen wandered around away from the regular lands of civilization in what they called the parallel world; even as a trip to Thailand would always interest me; to be frank, there is rarely a foreign trip which wouldn’t interest me, even being in the middle of a war has it’s own advantage other than being declared suicidal; there has to be a meaning for everything, even as something happens for no reason at all, and that is left for us to find out. If I was a free bird, an eagle which I would prefer to be, I would have been everywhere now; if I was not bound my restrictions, I would have made my presence felt at every corner of Earth and my hard disc would have been full with photos taken by camer which would have died by that time due to overuse. But other than the few countries I visited, I would let that desire to rest and think about Negombo as well as do the right thing before the world ends. The one beach I was talking about is more of the absence of a few loathed things than the presence of something. The beach remained the perfect structure of sand and salt water. What became more interesting at that moment was people in matrimony dresses at the beach. It seemed as if they came after the wedding; it was as if they were taking videos for a future wedding disc. That would add to the similarities we noticed.

The food was buffet and therefore we had the option of eating a lot, but I controlled myself to eat not that much, but the food was so tasty that I was attracted for more; I controlled that feeling by eating the tasty chicken which I can do no more. I was worried about having strange food in the initial stages, but the food there was just like tea; it was the same, but kind of tastier on most of the occasions. My feeling that foreign tourists would be limited to the major cities and hill stations took a back seat at Negombo as there were people of different ethnicities and they looked so pleased to be around. To be honest, Negombo looks more Indian, especially Keralite than any other place in Sri Lanka; the twist is that it is not with the greenery as there are so many places in Sri Lanka which looks like Kerala with it’s heavy greenery. Around the Negombo Lagoon, the place mostly looked like some inner areas of Cochin, with it’s old fishing boats and the beaches which seemed to invite the ball of fire, the fire-starter they called the sun, for a party. There was no rain as we feared; no trace of the monsoon in Kerala which would have made the place more of a twin of Cochin rather than being a distant relative which it proved to be.

Negombo, a name is said to have come from a much more difficult name for me to pronounce, Migamuva; it would clearly leave me clueless if they change back to that name and I am glad that it is still Negombo. The place actually showed more signs of a former Portuguese and Dutch colonialisation rather than British. There were so many churches around and most of them were not British; St. Sebastian’s Church being the one that caught the eyes the quickest. As the cinnamon industry in Negombo was started by the Portuguese, I would guess that was how it was to be; the Dutch only came later and finally the British. This history and the beaches seems to attract so many tourists; it becomes the next reason after being the closest and easiest place to stay so that one can reach the international airport very quickly. It can also be visited on the way to the airport on the journey to and from most of the bigger tourist centres of the island nation. Even as it was far away from the tea plantations, it still had the tea with good taste; seafood is not the only thing which will interest your stomach in a coastal town; if you think so, that would be like taking a bad guess when the right option is so clear; choosing ‘all of the above’ is a good option when you are in Sri Lanka.

I actually managed to choose the right option; it was about everything, the option which comes last or second last; ‘all of the above’ is what you get in Sri Lanka; it has something of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim tradition; it has both Sinhalese and Tamil influence, but the spirituality there has been beyond religion for me. Negombo being away from the spiritual and historic centres like Kandy and Anuradhapura, did seem a little less spiritual for me, but the soul remained the same, and it was proved when we saw a number of monks walking around; it was a festival and there were so many processions around with people in white dresses; it was mainly related to the full moon as the guide explained. As it was a Ramayana tour, Buddhist customs and practices were not that much explained to us except for some few facts. I loved the Buddhist flag; it looked special and I couldn’t really stop myself from buying one and also a model of the pagoda on my way back home. Collecting souvenirs was always among the major things to do, but in the case of Sri Lanka, it happened late; a problem which is much expected during a conducted tour. The journey through Negombo was not even something they really considered; the place just had the opportunity to grace my camera because of it’s proximity to the airport; not because of the beaches, churches or temples.

Negombo was supposed to be the first place to re-visit in a future trip to Sri Lanka which would be a voyage through the Indian ocean if that trip is supposed to happen. As I know about the trains and the roads which are so unlike our roads due to the absense of gutters and other varieties of deformities, the next one was to be a random tour whch was planned by me and not a conducted tour which always sticked to the plan. Whatever remained of the Dutch Fort and all those Portuguese and Dutch legacy had to be covered at some point of time, and that season would be quite far away for me as it stands now; as we all know “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”; my next season of Sri Lanka will come; it will arrive for sure, not like certainty of the Twilight vampires, but like the moon and the sun which never fails and the certainty of the tide; I would be the eagle, the bird of glory which would fly above the wrinkled sea; the water body shall crawl, but I shall fly above it as I am supposed to be; to my destination, the land which sent that invitation through my dreams; that land of beauty, that place where the heart is; as they say home is where the heart is; so I wonder where my home should be.

Diving out —>

TeNy

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

7. The Soul of Colombo

@Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka.

The largest city and the commerical capital of the beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka; this was the crystal clear description of the city. But as we were entering a nation destroyed by civil wars and ethnic conflicts the expectation was not that high. But the point we missed was that it was a city with a soul, with the power to regain it’s lost paradise; a nation which was slowly but steadily getting back to the track. Colombo was surely on the rise; it was a wonderful city with he right mixture of it’s colonial past and the booming present which could be seen from the roads, traffic and the upcoming tall buildings, some of them close to being future skyscrappers. The city was surely miles ahead in development compared to the other cities of Sri Lanka we visited.

Ever since the capital was shifted to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Colombo hasn’t been in our news papers much. But it’s significance as the first capital of the island nation after independence from the British will stay. Colombo has always been a grand port and is still majestic, as we can still see it from some of the hotels on the sea shore. The selection of Kandy as a capital for the former kings might have been only to prevent the destruction of royal palaces by some random invading power or raiders who might take over the port and have full control of the magnificient island. Kandy might be cooler, but Colombo has always been easily accessible and thus a favourite trade and commerce centre which would have boosted the controlling dynasty for centuries.

Now Colombo is back in the news with the resumption of the long lost ferry service connecting India and Sri Lanka. It is from Tuticorin to Colombo, but as Sri Lanka has stopped visa on arrival for Indians or is at least planning to do it, the journey would be through some troubled waters. The ship is quite a good one with affordable ticket costs, but considering the ethnic problems still got some roots in people’s mind, we have to wonder if it will cancelled too. When we travelled to Colombo, there was no ship at all; so it was an easy choice. The Kingfisher Airlines we boarded took us to Chennai from Kochi and then to Colombo and vice versa. The travel was awesome even before it started. A delayed flight and mysteries surrounded it.

On 26 July 2010, Kingfisher Airlines Flight IT 2482, detected smoke. Leakage from packets of boric acid powder & liquid detergent, packed together, resulted in the chemical reactions causing heavy smoke. It was found that there was a security lapse among the cargo security staff. There were 36 passengers on board. This explains our situation in that flight. It could have been found out when the flight was in the air, but it was not to be. Thus reaching Colombo itself was by God’s grace; it was not just any journey, it was spiritual; it had only the best of intentions and thus it had to go right. From the moment I saw the Lord Buddha statue in the airport, I knew this journey was going to be more spiritual than anything and this is the kind of statue we would see quite often.

The sad part is that there is a restriction on photography in most parts of Colombo. Even shops closed too early as if to show the effect of wars. Taking the photographs of most of the big buildings in the restricted area had to be avoided; the same had to happen with the port of Colombo. But the restricted area was limited; and we always had the option of taking pictures until a point. What is left by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English will always infatuate you. But our time at Colombo finished very quickly as we reached there late and their time table for the trip was so wrong. There were still some places uncovered and it calls for another trip of Sri Lanka. Who knows if Ceylon will be my destination again? I thought about that at the Bandaranaike International Airport and I told myself “I will be back”; not like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I had to be back there.

My desire to travel around Sri Lanka was never finished. I went to the island and was back quickly; my visit of Colombo was like Flash the Scarlet Speedster or may be I just teleported to that place and back like Nightcrawler or Azazel. I have my post cards and photos, but they soon became entities without much value. I even wanted to do Master of Arts in Drama and Theater at the University of Kelaniya which was the second option after the University of Colombo due to it’s proximity to the commercial capital. But it was not something which could be done easily; it had formalities and I didn’t know any. I could just wish that I was back in Sri Lanka this time with years to wander there, but it was left in my soul. But still I say that I am not finished and I shall be back. This is not going to be a tour; this is going to be an exploration, a journey which will be guided by my spirit and soul, not by any travel agency.

Diving out —>

TeNy