People of Sri Lanka

Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about-Marilyn Monroe

Scattered brain, job that I never liked, people that I love, place that I have hate/love relationship with, lost relationships, lead to a frustration which made me book a trip for 7 days to Sri Lanka last year in September. By then, I was already in the urge of quitting job but was just not too sure to take the risk. Those 7 days changed the way I looked at life, everybody here seemed so happy & carry smile on their face all the time. It was not just the place I fell in love with, it was the people!

After I quit my job and was confused on where to start my full time travels with, it was this same kind & smiling people who crossed my mind and that was it. This time it was not just 7 days, but 30 days. I wanted to experience everything that I missed in my last visit, this time I had no reasons to rush back soon; I am jobless now you see! I wanted to indulge in every place as much as I could, to understand their culture and what makes them such glorious people!

To all those marvelous people I have met on my way, here is my tribute to all of you!

  1. Sala & Bludgy

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Who knew just a random email on a random day to a random someone can lead to something so beautiful. It is not just their place; it is them making it more beautiful. I just stayed there watching birds, monkeys, peacocks, buffaloes, reading, writing, doing yoga. With quitting their jobs in advertising and into full time painting now, they made me realize I have made a right decision too. Read full story about them here.

2. Railway Security Police

I took the train from Galle to Matara; I was struggling to keep my backpack in the upper space provided. I noticed somebody looking at me through the window; I just ignored and continued with my struggle. He then came inside, helped me arrange it and left with a smile. Train got set to move, he came again along with his friends and sat beside me. One of his friend asked me where am I from, I said India and they were very pleased to know. They introduced themselves as Railway Security Police, we spoke about Railway Security Police in India & Sri Lanka. They asked on where I am going next and advised me the best way to reach that place. While we said bye to each other, the same Police who helped with me luggage stressed on being safe; while I was looking for a Tuk Tuk he again came & rescued me by not paying the high price.

3. A Little Girl’s smile & a generous Conductor in a Bus

I was traveling from Matara to Kataragama in a local bus, bus was really crowded and I had to stand for almost an hour and my journey was about close to 3 hours. Luckily found a seat after an hour which was saved by this little girl, she looked at me and called Akki (Elder Sister), I asked her if she can speak English and she said no. So, all we did was exchanged smiles every now & then. I did not find any tourists in the bus or on the road, with small amount of fear I kept looking at the map if I am going in the right direction. May be the girl sensed I was a little scared, every time she sees a milestone she would tell me how many kilometers is left more to Kataragama. After few minutes, the bus Conductor asked me where I was from and I said India; he asked if I am here on studies, I said no and showed him where I was going next. He said I need to take another bus to Buttala, after we reached Kataragama that little girl showed me the bus that was parked that goes to Buttala. It was all written in Sinhala, I wouldn’t have figured out if she had not mentioned. Later, even the conductor told me I can board that bus, I got in and after few minutes I saw him talking to the bus conductor and asking him to help me get off at the right place.

4. Kindest Person on Earth: Punchi Aiya

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This place in Weerawila I wanted to stay was under renovation and the owner was a little hesitant as the place was not completely setup yet, as usual stubborn me wanted to visit and convinced the owner. He said, he doesn’t manage the place but Punchi Aiya does and he is sick right now so I had no luck. I was a little disappointed, he then called me back saying Punchi Aiya agreed and I can go there for a day or two. I reached there and heard that Punchi Aiya had just undergone breast cancer operation, cursed myself for being so stubborn and I didn’t know what to say. He was there with me all the time, providing tender coconut, making lemon juice, best tea & coffee that he made; I kept insisting him not to and he would just not stop serving me food. Next day morning both of us went to get fresh milk from nearby buffaloes, he again served delicious coffee. I couldn’t speak Sinhala and he couldn’t speak English, all thanks to non verbal communication! With his situation, if there was someone else in his place not sure if they would have offered to help. Would you?

5. Mr. Riza & Arjuna

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The man who owns this place in Weerawila is Mr. Riza whom I could just get to speak on phone mostly is again one of the most helpful soul, not only he arranged for my stay here but also sent Arjuna to make sure I would get the essence of the place. We spoke about how tourism has changed Sri Lanka over the last few years, he explained about the lake in Weerawila and why the name Weerawila came in. Arjuna, who is a BCom graduate, worked in Japan for 3 years! Now he is undergoing a training to become a tour guide and he is also a certified Japanese teacher. When I asked him why towards tourism, he said he likes traveling, meet people from other countries and would like to improve his English. A big thank you to Arjuna for sharing details about some really beautiful places I visited in Sri Lanka.

6. Long lost Tamil Family

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Just one of the days when I was enjoying the taste of slow travel in Deniyaya, Renuka who is the cook from the place I stayed in came with a plate of Vade and she said India. I understood, she meant this is from India; I said yes and she says she watches all cookery shows from India and learns lot of recipes. Next day, a mid aged man comes to me and says Vanakkam (greeting a person in tamil), he said he is the cook’s uncle; she told him that I am from India; he invited us home sharing his stories that he was brought up here, his older brother (Renuka’s father) speaks better Tamil than him. It rained all day and we couldn’t go to their house, next day Renuka mentioned that they were all waiting for us with pan cakes, tea and tender coconut L we promised to go with her the same day, they were such lovely family with beautiful kids who live in a nearby village called Batandura. Her father spoke to me in Tamil and said his father moved to Sri Lanka many years ago and they later got adapted to Sinhalese culture. Renuka’s husband works in tea factory which was shut recently as they did not have work to do due to less rains, Renuka works as a cook to manage the family. Her kids got dressed up in their new clothes & shoes that were purchased for New Year and we all stood for a group photo! Say cheese!

7. Tuk Tuk Driver in Beragala

Rains had just stopped as I got into the Tuk Tuk covered on both the ends, I wanted to look out and see the mountains but couldn’t. Wondering how to communicate with the driver, I just sat peeping out trying to remove the sheets that were covered. I heard him speak in Tamil over phone; I started a conversation in my broken Tamil. As all the stories, his grandparents had moved to Sri Lanka too or brought to Sri Lanka is the right thing to say. He remembers his childhood trip to India with his parents, his mother’s sister still lives there but sadly he doesn’t know where. There can be many such sad stories around here of those families who were moved from India! 😦

8. Hard Worker I met in Haputale

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He is Mr. MBC Premalal, a retired post master with 3 kids. At this age, he drives a Tuk Tuk to live! He took us to some secret falls and spoke about few amazing places in Sri Lanka, he made sure we reached safe on the scariest hike to the secret waterfalls. Now, whenever I feel lazy to do my work, I think of him! Being retired and getting back to work again is something only hard workers can do!

9. Indian Ladies in the Tea Estate

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It was early morning, mist was just clearing off. We headed back from Lipton Seat and the tea workers were just starting to pluck the leaves. My Tuk Tuk driver stopped asking if I want to take a picture, as I was clicking pictures I noticed 3 ladies preparing tea on a huge pot. I went to them and said I can speak Tamil too, I am from India. They were just so happy to see me and my bangles, haha yes my bangles & my anklets too. They said, they feel really nice to see a girl in bangles and anklets. They asked me to wait as they wanted me to taste the tea they were preparing; it was a huge pot that was getting prepared for all their co-workers/friends. As we had lots of time, we got into talking.

Their names are Papati, Aarayi & Valarmarai; lady sitting near firewood said her mother stays in India and she goes once in few years to visit her. I asked her why she isn’t staying in India, she sadly says her parents got her married and left her. Other two ladies have relatives in India too but like everyone they don’t know where, they were sharing their problems on how difficult it is to handle their life. They slog for 9 full hours and get 500 LKR per day, they said it is very less money to manage a family and send kids to school. As they always end up having less money, most of their kids don’t get to go to school L I asked what do they do when It rains, they said even if it rains they still got to work for 9 hours and one lady smiled and says its more nicer to work in rain than in the heat. I could see the pain in their eyes that they go through every day, worst part to me was being in a position where I didn’t know how to help!

They still refer to Sri Lanka as Ceylon and with all the problems they have they still carry a smile and carry on with their work. This is what traveling teaches isn’t it? We are not the only one who has problems in the world; we just need to know how to deal with it and of course with a smile! As all Sri Lankans do, they invited me to their house. They said next time, you come and stay with us; we will show you nice places around.

10. Most helpful people on the bus

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Time spent on the research in finding this village, number of people I have asked if they know about it! Phew, now if I think of it; I just feel so nice of making it finally with the entire struggle and these two people made it even easier. When we figured out the direct bus to Mandaram Nuwara leaves only in the noon, we decided to go the nearby town and look for another bus. Conductor in this bus was trying to have a conversation, I told him we need to go to Mandaram Nuwara; asking him if there is a bus from Padiyapelalla. He said this bus goes to Mandaram Nuwara and apparently that was the last bus leaving to Mandaram Nuwara from Padiyapelalla. If he had not spoken, not sure if I would have made to this village; not only did he help to reach the village but also was waiting for almost an hour for us to return to take us back to the town as there was no bus leaving that village in the evening. Both the driver & conductor took us in their Tuk Tuk and showed us a beautiful waterfall, what’s with me and secret falls! I have no idea, ask all these lovely Sri Lankan people I met. They later dropped us to a nearby town and made sure we got into the right bus to reach Kandy!

11. School Kids on the Crazy Van Ride

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On the way to this remote village, there are many small villages where there are lots of tamilians. On my Van ride, there were these curious school kids who wanted to know if I know actor Vijay, yeah check out their innocence. And all of them wanted me to go to Vijay and say that they conveyed their regards to him. As the kids were curious to know if I live near actors, the ladies were wondering why did I chose to travel alone and experience this crazy Van ride with them. They just have one van operating to and fro in a day where they hardly have some place to even stand, and we complain of not having AC bus’s in the city!

12. One Man Army in the remote village

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Mr. Navratana, 52 years old has all the energy in this world; half of which I don’t even have at my age! I was really amazed with his energy, he wakes up early to go on hike, he will be a kid when he has to slide through the waterfall or jump in the water. As we hiked through the jungle, he was picking all the trash thrown by the so called “Senseless People” and was saying this is how local tourist people come here and spoil the beauty. When will the Senseless People gain some sense? However, everyone in this village was such smiling beauties. There were 2 ladies who asked me to come again, they would dress me up with their wedding saree J I even saw a blind man working on the road clearing up weed grown in the corners. So feeling lazy on your bed to get your work done?

13. Family in Mirissa

The home stay in stayed in Mirissa, the first thing owner asks me. Do you have a boy friend? I laughed and said no; Husband, No! Why do you travel alone? Because I like it! One of the best things to stay in a home stay is the food; they cooked some amazing breakfast with so much variety every day. As it was closer to their New Year, they would prepare some special snacks and would invite me for a chat and serve those snacks! Of course, I got invited to stay back for New Year’s but the damn visa was expiring on the day I was leaving. He offered me a drop in his Tuk Tuk till the bus stand and asked me to come back again next year.

It was all you lovely people who made my first visit so memorable, it was all you adorable people who made me come to Sri Lanka for the 2nd time, it will all be you fabulous people who will keep pushing me to visit Sri Lanka as many times as possible! It is not just the place; it is you people who are making it more beautiful!

Ayubowan!

Blooming…

Wild Flower!

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