If you have grown up in Chennai or Tamil nadu, in the 80’s, chances are you would have heard quite a bit about Sri Lanka. Mostly stuff that are horrific and tumultuous.
My earliest hearsay about this place is when my fathers family discussed about two of my dad’s brothers who worked there in Colombo, in the 50’s and 60’s. Only one of them returned and the other married a Lankan lady and decided to settle there with no contacts with family back in Kerala. Have heard dad lament about his long lost brother, Jacob.
There is yet another memory of Sri Lanka. Much more vivid and clear. 1985, when the Sri Lankan Civil war caused by the LTTE, and its atrocities were at its peak, as an adolescent, had watched another young girl few years older than me, come over to my neighbors house in Chennai. She must have stayed for around 3 months or so with them, or longer, using Chennai as a safe transit before moving to one of the European countries, which I now fail to recall. Could be France.
This girl was a catholic, though the family hosting her were protestants and they used to send her with me to church every Sunday, which was a good 2 km walk. I have listened with fear and heartache, the turmoil that her family had to go through in Colombo and how her house was razed to the ground in one night. She had 9 siblings and each of them had to struggle to get out of Colombo and get parked in safe havens across Tamil nadu, before they moved to one of the wealthier countries. Their family could afford it and they were many others in Colombo, who couldn’t and were struggling with the devastation around. She spoke in length about how war can tear families apart and create unimaginable loss of lives and resources. It stuck in my young mind and has never left me.
As the flight took off from Chennai and moved towards Ceylon, that’s another name I am used to, the map that I had looked at all these years in hard copy and soft copies, came alive and the excitement of the holiday set in. Although we are going to spend only a few hours in Sri Lanka, I was looking forward to it.
From up above in the skies, Point Calimere, Vedharanyam, Dhanushkodi and Rameshwaram, just like how they were in the maps ( how else did I expect it to be?). J was also relating to the road trip he made to these places few months ago on his own and I could relate to all the photographs taken from the land and here I was getting a bird’s eye view of the Island. Sri Lanka as a country is so close, just like Bangalore may be.
|Sri Lankan Greeting|
We get off from the aircraft to the greetings of Ayubowan, and it makes as much sense as Vanakkam. Reminiscent of a time when my uncle would tune into Rupavahini, Srilankan TV channel and get to see a grainy screen to watch movies, and have heard anchors using this term to greet 😊
Welcomed by a huge Buddha statue at the airport, we quickly moved onto our waiting cab and guide Chamika. I liked that name, traditionally Sri Lankan. isn’t it? Young boy who took us around. Colombo looked much like Kochi and its difficult to believe we were in a different country.
|The large Buddha Statue, Serene, that welcomes guests at the Airport|
|Dutch Hospital, Sri Lanka, Colombo|
|Granite tiled floors of Dutch Hospital|
The thick walls, the door, windows and rafters made of teak reeks of history. I spent some quiet time here with J, on the granite seating area thinking about this place as a hospital and looking at the flight of pigeons. Dutch hospital was a soothing place, in spite of the hot sun. Must have been designed that way.
|Inner Courtyard of Dutch Hospital now an expensive Dining and shopping arcade|
|One of the Buddha Statues at Gangarmaya temple, Colombo|
|Few Giant sized Buddha at the sanctum sanctorium of Gangaramaya Temple|
Buddha always reminds me of our girls trips and I must have bored J to death with our gals stories. Right in the middle of a busy city, stands Gangaramaya temple in all its majesty. Thankfully, like in all Buddhist temples, its calm and serene. Situated near Beira Lake, this temple was originally built many years ago, the temple gradually grew into the vast place with a monastery, pagoda, a building which is full of colorful Buddha statues, a Bodhi Tree and a Relic Chamber, as well as a library and a museum. At the far end of the courtyard are rows of elevating steps on which huge Buddha statues of the Thai style have been sequentially placed. Another of the many unique features about the temple is its museum. The collection ranges from small relics to large thrones and elephant tusks. Buddhist monks chanting is a common sight in all temples and I sat next to two huge burly dogs, who seemed comfortable with all the visitors here. I sat with them for a while, and had to leave as our time for peeking into Ceylon, was limited.
|Rows of Buddha statues in front of the temple|
|Some good company|