Us & Them – Sri Lanka

Who am I? I wonder. A pearl perhaps, in a necklace of history, woven by the oldies around me, who cease not, to boast of their past. Who am I, but just a tear drop, in an ocean of identities, of claims, of conflicts. But a dream, in a sea of confused realities. They called me ‘Serendib’, that which was discovered by chance! And I wonder, again. You could have been lost, traveller, but I have always been here. Forever, in temples that store a tooth of the Buddha, in the folklore of the tears of Sita, in the spirit of a legendary Ashoka’s Dhamma. I was always here, as a thought, a belief, a land in the legend of your legends, the pearl of an island, the keeper of a stories thousand.

Did you forget me traveller?

For I was here when you brought the Dharma to my fortress, dressed as Mahindra..


& I was still here till so late when those waves struck us together..


But did you forget me traveller? For I waited for you in those green hills..


..Waited to shower you with smiles, when all you wanted was just a glimpse


I stood here, while you painted my walls with colours of thee, Dutch somewhere, somewhere else Portuguese.


And colours I did have of my own, those splendid hues of blue, which men & fish alike, would day after day cling to.Image 

I was there In the taste of the cinnamon, sweet and savoury both, akin to that of a conversation with the family that grew this  ‘kurundu’  


I was there, in the sheer astonishment of my folks so humble at anything new..  


..In those headlines of a newspaper that’d soak the occasional morning dew


And also among those lines that divided my children..


But even today my friend, I continue to remain in those cricket-loving roars of  “I AM KUMARA SANGAKARRA!” that unite them!


Yet, I wonder, did you forget me traveller?


Have you been to Sri Lanka? What were your thoughts about the place?


This is a part of the writer’s series, Us & Them, documenting the people of the places he visits. Some of the earlier posts under this series are-

Us & Them – Rajasthan

Us & Them – Kashmir

Us & Them- Kids in Ladakh 

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Sun, Sand & Sri Lanka

5 Reasons you must go to Sri Lanka NOW!



A Sunset walk at the Unawatuna beach

Five reasons why you may consider visiting Sri Lanka NOW!

If you have had the opportunity to go through my earlier post on Sri Lanka – Sun, Sand & Sri Lanka!, you may perhaps not need many further reasons to visit the island paradise :). Nevertheless, for Indians who live right next to Lanka, I find it astonishing that it still doesn’t exist in some of our must visit lists. Here is my list of top five reasons why you should be visiting it ASAP –

1. Inexpensive Flight Tickets – Sri Lankan airlines is perhaps your best friend here with return airfare from Mumbai being as low as 11-12k INR (app. $200). The fares may drop even further if you fly out from some major cities in South India (Kochi, Chennai, Trivandrum & Bangalore). That may be close to airfares within India itself. Some food for thought.

2. Hassle – Free Visa process – The visa process is so hassle free, I’d rate it even better than the On-arrival ones. All you need to do is fill up a simple online form and fees and you’ll perhaps have the visa in your inbox in a few minutes/hours. Sounds incredible. Doesn’t it?

3. A favourable currency conversion – Scared of the hole the currency conversion will burn in your pocket while you are travelling abroad? Well, this one will come as a respite. The Lankan rupee has been depreciating for a while now, and though it’s a concern for the authorities there, it’s an opportunity for tourists. I mean it’s a deal clincher when you realise that the 1000 rupees being charged for a boat ride are actually equivalent to only 400 Indian rupees! You don’t get that luxury often. Do you?

4. Ideal for almost everyone – For cultural explorers (the cultural triangle in central SL) and adventure seekers ( a friend told me there are facilities for night diving as well) and for those who simply wish to relax on the beach and have a good time. ( Just sit at the Unawatuna beach and gulp down some ginger beer). Above all, they are just opening up to tourism. The sites, beaches, etc. are just perfect, with not too many tourists and yet good facilities available. (The acco can be good value for money). A Sunset walk at the Unawatuna beach

5. An ongoing Cricket World Cup and an in-form(??) Indian cricket team :)

Sun, Sand & Sri Lanka!

Sunset at the Hikkaduwa beach

I started this trip without a wishlist because when I was first told to go here, I didn’t exactly expect to find backwaters like Kerala and beaches like Andamans at the same place. But the more I explored it, the more it seemed that the waters were in love with this island! They swarm it with their glorious waves at Talpe, they charm it with all their splendour at Unawatuna and they soothe it with all their tranquillity at Koggala. Oh and yes, they do treat the island with all the deliciousness that thrives within them, the seafood. Those who ate it, swear by it. (Partly for its delectability and partly for setting their mouths on fire!) Blend this perfect setting of beautiful beaches, hidden lakes and wonderful food, with a bit of Hindu and Buddhist religious lore and then add to it a dash of a superb cricketing tradition. What you get in return is a pleasant surprise called Sri Lanka.

Quite delightfully, when you hail from India, the distances in other countries seem relatively smaller, as it proved in Lanka, where Colombo to Galle is just 2.5 hrs. It’s on the first expressway in SL. And there is another road from Colombo to Galle, which goes right around the coastline of the island to the south and has some of the most amazing beaches in SL beside it. Galle, in itself, is like Kochi’s next kin, only that there actually IS a FORT in the fort area :). The architecture, the dutch style fort area cafes, the presence of foreigners, all remind so much of Kochi. The Galle cricket stadium looks small but it is right besides the fort, which means that all matches are perhaps watched by hundreds of spectators from the ramparts of the fort apart from the ones in the stadium. Quite a location, for the fort I must say. :)

Just a few minutes further from Galle is Unawatuna, which looks like a beach in South Goa, only better. The waters are far clearer and with shacks lined all around. Talpe, a few more miles ahead is even more splendid, with several hues of blue visible in the sea. The waters are shallow and conjure up some beautiful waves. No wonder the place attracts several surfers year round.

The waters near Talpe

Further ahead is the Koggala Lake which gives you a feel of the backwaters in Kerala. The lake is vast enough to bear some islands within, which can be visited on boats. We spotted some small villas on the islands and kept wondering how tranquil would staying there be. The most amazing thing about the Koggala Lake area is that a backwater lake and some fabulous  beaches are both just 5 mins away from most of the accommodations. Mirissa, the southernmost point of the island is only half an hour ahead and is known for its whale watching excursions and for another beautiful beach.

Boat Rides with Coconut water! – at Koggala Lake

Thing is, that in this part of Sri Lanka, you don’t have to look for a good beach; you just take a car along the coastal road and stop wherever you think the beach is best (you may have a tough time deciding that or you may just end up stopping after every 10 minutes, like it happened with us). Driving back, as we watch the sunset from the Hikkaduwa beach, the coastal road and our driver tell the story of a huge loss from the tsunami. Numerous houses lie derelict, abandoned just besides the sea. Several of them were never rebuilt or re-inhabited. Wonder what it takes to rebuild a country torn by a decades long war and a massive tsunami all over again.

As we join the expressway on our way back to Colombo, our driver lightens the mood by playing a ‘rap’ version of ‘Sawan ka mahina‘(!!), followed by a few more Indian songs. Indian songs seem fairly popular and even the roads are frequented by Bajaj & Hero motor bikes and the breakfast comprises dosai at several places. The Kiribath with dal and sambol is a delectable Lankan nuance to the rice and dal prominent breakfast dishes in South India. Most vegetarians will have an easier time around the place than in other Asian countries.

Perhaps, the India connection will never make you feel out of place here.


Have you been to Sri Lanka lately? Write a comment with your experience if you too had a great one!