Monday, September 28, 2009

Colours Of Lanka - The Blues

My most recent sojourn to the motherland is over but far from forgotten and I feel as though it's the first proper holiday I've had for a couple of years, which might sound a bit arsey but is true nonetheless.

You see there have been more short trips than I can actually count, for which I'm grateful. Quick three or four day dashes to Singapore to see C, a long weekend in Colombo, even a week or a bit more. But this was two weeks, still not enough time but longer than I've had for a while. I got to see just about everyone I wanted to, got out of the metropolis twice, not for long but it still happened, and returned feeling mellow, relaxed and chilled.

And one of the things that struck me was the colours of Sri Lanka, specifically the contrast between the blues of the coast and the greens of the hill country.

Going to Hikkaduwa was fun, despite PK at the station, which was kind of fun anyway. As we sat on the train and the thing chugged its way out of Colombo I did something I love to do; I gazed out of the window and watched life pass by. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that the lives were just happening and the train passed by, I suppose it's all about perspectives.

I'm one of the many who adores that feeling as Colombo gets left behind and its urban hustle and bustle dissolves into the rural tranquility of the countryside. It happens so quickly and also so slowly.

By road, if you're heading south, it starts after Mount and Ratmalana. Little glimpses of the ocean through side streets and between buildings in the city give way to the vast expanses of beautiful blues. High rise blocks and diesel fumes are replaced by palm trees and, well diesel fumes. The incessant Colombo horning surrenders to the background roar of the sea, the frequent Tsunami damaged buildings serving as a harsh reminder of the power and danger that lurks within its beauty.

In the train it all takes place just that bit quicker. As the railway line hits Bambalapitya the scenery changes. On the land side there's the city but on the sea side there's the sea, which may be why they call it the sea side. I looked out of my window and saw the twin towers in the background, the ocean on my left and Galle Face fading away. It all felt quite wonderful, a reminder that Colombo really is built along the sea.

I never fully forget, in a normal day in the city, that the sea is there. It peeks through all the time and makes its presence felt. Jump out of a tri shaw at Majestic City and you see it there at the end of the road. Or have a drink at the GFH, watch the sunset and it looms large, making itself as obvious as a Sri Lankan at the baggage carousel.

But at other times, if you're not careful, it can become a background that gets taken for granted, like a nice wall in your home, one you like and enjoy but sometimes don't notice. It still holds the ceiling up, provides shelter and gives an atmosphere, it's just that you don't always sit and look at it. Sitting in a train, with its vastness occupying the biggest area of my panorama, I couldn't help but take note of it. I mean the sea there, not a wall in my home.

The journey is one of blue, dotted with sporadic greens, occasional browns and splashes of red. It's the blues of the sea and of the sky that dominate the vista, never aggressively, but if there was a battle going on, between the blues and the other colours, then the blues would be winning it.

As we continue our journey things become more rural and more colourful. Grey is a city colour, it rarely exists in nature, apart from elephants and other grey things. There must be a reason God didn't make grey flowers, I suspect it's because they'd look a bit crap or that people might think they were elephants from a long distance away.

I peer at the lagoons, the old iron bridges and the people, with the interest of a young child just being allowed to go to the shop on his own. I know that, at forty three, I should probably be a bit more mature but I can't help hanging my head out of the window, feeling the wind rush through my hair brush the top of my head as I smell and taste the atmosphere.

I love the way the railway track and the road appear to fight for the whole journey. One minute the road is winning and gets to be next to the sea, the next there's a level crossing, with its queue of vehicles and everyone trying to get to the front, and the train line zips in front of the road and gets the sea view. When I'm in a car I want the road to win the competition, when I'm in the train I'm on the side of the train. I'm just so fickle.

Pulling into stations adds another dimension to my visual feast. I watch people get on and off the train. There are commuters from Colombo, school kids going home and people going about their business, each in their own world. For me this is a trip, an event. For some of them this is an everyday commute, no big deal, just like me going to work in the morning.

There are a few Suddhas, heading to Hikks, or Ooonerwartooner, perhaps Galle. They look a bit hippyish though and in need of a good wash. Frankly, if I were in charge I'd hose these people down at the station, just to keep things a bit clean and tidy.

While the people and the specifics change and mix there is that one constant; the blue in the background. It stays with us for the journey and, when we get to Hikkaduwa and get off the train, it gets off too and follows us around.

It's a bit special. It's a little bit of Sri Lanka.

Like the greens to come.


ViceUnVersa said...

Mate the foliage will remain green, the flora in brilliant colour, the political scenario methinks is far from green. Far away.
Many moons ago a green combatant from Hambantota after ensuring he had enough votes said these infamous words before getting on his jeep and leaving:
"uncle senior people like you need to be in parliament, I am going now, you do as you wish".
How he must be green now.
We need better shades of green. It's not going to happen in yours and my lifetime.

Hariharan Sivaraj said...

You must have a carbon footprint the size of a giant mutant yeti's swollen giant mutant testicle.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

DD - Happy Monday to you 2. Oct 15th, gig, Chiswick. Come, even though it's a Thursday.

HS - Yes, I'm afraid so. I also have testicles that size!

u4j10 said...

Ditto your thoughts on Sri Lanka being a visual feast!Nice post. Regards