Ceylon Road trips


Over hearedmy parent’s talk with university pals of the good old days again. When Sri Lanka was Ceylon. When Prof Sarathchandra’s plays saw an audience for the first time at Peradeniya. Before end of the era when you actually could get a dormitory room to yourself. When seafood and a beer were a few rupees and every body knew everybody because there weren’t that many people around. Perhaps you’ve heard your own folks say similar things.

A time when offices closed predictably at around 5pm (not like the way it is for you young people these days). There was always time to order another round of drinks so that the soda won’t go to waste.

Pride of place in the reminiscing are the road trips. Involving an overloaded car that is coxed across the map (or off it) – performing miracles through Kadugannawa pass. There are stops (many) to look under the steaming bonnet and to eat cheap fried stuff (it was the world before cholesterol).

Inevitably there are the photographs. Brownish black and whites posing on some bridge. These always seem to be misfiled and flutter out when flipping through old family albums. All those aunties and uncles at my age looking hipper, hotter, slimmer and unserious than I can ever hope to be.

The aunties being feminist by wearing slacks. The uncles looking rebelliously. Thin cleaner versions of the Jack Kerouac. Dark slacks (perhaps they wore khakis😉 and billowing white shirts. There’s a picture of my father from the start of this period. In profile leaning relaxed against the railing of a bridge with a vague rural landscape in the background. A crew cut hairstyle and a profile that is a creepy resemblance of me (Its the nose everyone says).

Most of these travels seems to be the coast north of “Trinco” or the wilds west of Batticaloa. A few “down south” – Kataragama, Hambantota and beyond. Stories of white sand beaches. Fishing for dinner in the sea to celebrate roadside automotive miracles in the dry zone jungles. Learning the arts of cooking from the local fishing folk. Running with tripods from charging lone elephants (that was a close call but the pictures are worth it they say). The beauties of Jaffna (landscape I’m sure). Drinks in the car by some rural lagoon (because 2 flat tires wasn’t worth a night time walk through the jungle).

The friend (now old and getting shrivelled in cold wet England) who went on a impromptu night hunting trip and failed to hit anything (thankfully) even at point blank range. His excuses have immortalised him. I have never found out what they were – the recollections always crumble into an avalanche of laughter. Then move on to something else.

Things that cemented friendship older than me. Through the austerities of the 70s (sugar rationing gave a new awareness about the flavours of plain tea), the riots early 80s (no talk about the friends they sheltered a great risk) & the killings of the JVP 80s. The dismal early 90s – departures of children and other friends to far away. Now the prospects of cooing at grand children over Skype (which I will have to set up).

In the corner I sit. Mouth shut. Wondering how to blog all this and a life time of eavesdropping. I know the futility of trying to save all the details. Best I can do is try and capture a sliver or a whiff of flavour.

Hope I have.

12 comments

  1. Interesting.

    A lot has been lost – a certain carefree attitude, respect for protocol and procedure, respect for the law, the very framework of civilisation.

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  2. […] Roadside assistance is another big unknown. Most likely you’ll have to ask the help of friendly locals to haul your stalled chariot to the nearest “garage”. Perhaps someone who knows more on this will chip in. Ideally the best way to avoid roadside break downs is to making sure your chariot is in good working order. Otherwise postpone the trip, get it repaired or get another chariot. Something that was totally ignored on road trips in my parents’ generation. […]

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