For more than half of my lifetime, I have lived away from Sri Lanka, my birth country, the origin of my identity and the beginning of my being. I have been away – tasting and devouring the globe, breathing in freshness of foreign lands and embracing different customs and cultures. Still this minute country of mine has always had a strong hold on me, a magnanimous magnet that has always somehow drawn me. And of course this should be the case. It IS my birthplace. I have always wondered though if it’s a case of grass being greener on the other side; or a case of absence making the heart grow fonder.
I now find myself in Switzerland, ranked top for its high quality of life and fondly referred by some as the heaven on earth! One can easily imagine this when you think of some of the Swiss specialities and knowhow… the masterminds of watches, the finest of transport, the elitist education, calibre of chocolatiers, reputed cheese and wine makers. All this is also wrapped up in enchanting beauty of mountains, lakes and crispy clean air! Having lived here for more than three years, I can personally vouch for this excellence and efficiency in almost all things! Heavenly really! And here, could I possibly be dreaming of that land of Mother Lanka?!
Oh yes, I do!! Here are some of my most missed delights, simple as some of them might be!
1. Coconut Trees: The array of lush green coconut trees that envelope you at the plane’s touchdown never fails to give me that warm tingle of a good hug! Very closely linked for me then, would be ‘Thambili’ (the deliciously sweet water of a king coconut) that is one of the best thirst-quenchers my tongue has ever known!
2. ‘Short-eats’: The unique and delicious pastries (snacks), popularly known as ‘short-eats’, are found in every nook and corner of a street. They really are a delight to your senses! Among many, my most favourite ones are those in the Fab and Green Cabin shops, not to mention their cakes and cream buns! (Now I am a big fan of the Swiss delicatessen but if I had to choose I know where my hands would go!)
3. Rice & Curry: Home-made authentic Sri Lankan food made by your loved ones with that little bit of extra care (and lime juice!) never disappoints my taste buds. In the simplest form, this would be rice, dhal & coconut sambal (a concoction of fresh grated coconut, made orange by onions and spices). Also ‘Lamprais’ (A Dutch derived rice pack wrapped and baked in banana leaves) with its own unique tastes has been a winner in Colombo since times I can remember.
4. The Sea and Beach: One of the island’s crowning glory of course is the sea She bathes in and it’s amazing how much you miss that sea breeze and salty air when not near. Unfortunately though, for good beaches, one does have to find the spots nearer to the array of hotels or restaurants, where they are well-maintained or secluded spots that are not known by many! And once you do, it’s a keeper for a great stroll, swim or taking in all that fresh seafood!
5. Luscious Green: Going inland from the beach would be the lush green highlands as far as the eyes can see with all kinds of exotic flora and fauna. The striking contrast in the surrounding when driving away from the outskirts immediately calms my soul and pacifies my eyes. The fresh springs, waterfalls and rivers cascading through all this greenness and heat are mystifying at most times!
6. Value for Money: Among this natural beauty, lies five star hotels that line up to give you service to a cost that is unparalleled elsewhere! It certainly is not a surprise that Lonely Planet ranked the island top in their highly acclaimed list ‘Best in Travel 2013’ naming her as one of the planet’s best value destinations! And the icing on the cake of course are the hotels’ skilfully designed pools, spas, lobbies and clubs with breath-taking views of their exquisite lands around, be it the city, sea or the hills.
7. People: I find myself among crowds of carefree people with smiles so wide and hearts so big and approachable almost at all times; fortunate people blessed with all that this ‘resplendent land’ (also, the literal meaning of Sri Lanka) has to offer. People nourished by an abundance of natural resources and armed with a rich culture and heritage; people prized with one of the highest literacy rates in Asia and falling heir to a multitude of ethnicities and religions. On the other hand, people who have been through decades of war, torture and political strife yet taking life in its stride, always having that glimmer of hope. In the hustle and bustle I get re-acquainted with my nearest and dearest. Sometimes it seems as if a year’s worth is wrapped into a blink of an eye! I do get to relax, unwind and miss them even before the farewells and customary worships to the elders begin. Farewells – that is until the next visit that my mind is already planning!
And so yes, I live in ‘heaven’ and have travelled the world (or a majority of it) and will keep exploring the rest but one fact remains. Sri Lanka has a non-fading charm. In a nutshell, it’s a nation that is an amalgamation of all facets of natural landscape, cultural richness and varied ethnicities. And I truly hope for all our sakes, including our son’s, that the land rids of her current political plagues, that she stays true to her path accepting all her children as one; and will always be a sweet home away from home for those of us eternally ‘Sri Lanka bound’ living in foreign lands. Alas, also for those of us living within the sea shores of the land – to recognise, treasure and protect its full worth whilst living there and not from the other side of the fence!