Thursday, March 16, 2006
My first memory of Sri Lanka is when I went there with my Dad when I was 10. It was just the 2 of us and we weren't used to spending time together. I don't recollect much about what I expected from the trip before we went, the only thing I really remember is telling my schoolfriend, Aella Gage, who had just returned to London from a holiday in his native South Africa, that I would come back from Sri Lanka with a picture of me with a snake round my neck.
I never knew what happened to Aella, as is the case with many of my school friends.
When we got to Colombo I can recall how I was totally amazed by the size of the house we were staying in. It is the house of some very close friends of my parents', and also of mine now. It is one of the Colombo 7 houses and one which I feel totally at home in now, as I have been there so many times, and actually throught many different stages in my life. It doesn't seem so big now either!
I made a (hopefully) lifelong friend out of the daughter of my parents friends. She is a special person to me and I love her and her husband to bits now. But, at the age of about 10 I found myself spending a large part of my 4 week holiday with her. She came everywhere with Dad and me, travelling to Kandy and Gampola and pretty much anywhere else we went.
This was in 1976 and Sri Lanka and Colombo were very different places then compared to how they are now. There were only 2 five star hotels in Colombo then, the Oberoi and the Intercontinental. Dad used to drop us at the Intercon in the pastry shop - I don't know if it is still there now - and we'd have chocolate eclairs and a coke and wait for him to return. We used to go to the Green Cabin and eat eclairs too. Almost every day, when we were in Colombo, we would go to my Aunt's house in Mount Lavinia. I was showered with love and affection from my cousins. We'd play carrom and just chat and play.
I also remember spending a lot of time at the Wadiya. It's incredible that, when in Colombo, I go there now, 30 years later, with my kids, and Uncle Olwyn is still there, pretty much the same!
Nowadays Colombo is the hustling. bustling city we all are familiar with. I still love it, but in a way I have seen it develop far more than I have seen London develop in the same time. I think it has gone through a bigger transformation than London has in the 30 or so years. I guess I am lucky to be able to know them both well and feel comfortable in them both.
When we got back to the UK I had started my affair with Sri Lanka, I even refused to change my watch to GMT, I kept it on Sri Lankan time for as long as I could. I made lots of friends, I got to know lots of my family and, above all, I got to know my Dad a lot better.
Mind you, I never did get that photo of the snake to show to Aella Gage!
Those days were good!
Posted by Rhythmic Diaspora at 1:53 PM