Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The concise “Lonely-Planet-like” guide to...

.....Wellampitiya.-part 1
Wellampitiya… rocks! No seriously, I’m not saying this because it happens to be my home town, and I want to help jack up the land prices by at least 10 rupees per square foot in the area-. Its just that I find it one of the most colorful, interesting, downright adventurous places to live in .And its not that I have lived here all my life, no: I do hazily recall comparatively civilized places like Nawala, Manchester and even exotic Nairobi and they honestly bore me, they are refined, predictable , really sane compared with this joint.

Getting there
Located in the suburbs just outside Colombo , beyond Dematagoda on the Kolonnawa Road, you can reach it by making use of that overcrowded very slow, roundabout bus numbered 140 which heads in from Colombo 3, or the 131 from Maharagama: I am constantly surprised to not hear yet that someone has been found suffocated to death in those buses, frozen clawing rigidly at the straps… I think they must be two of the poorest, smelliest most overcrowded buses in Colombo.
It is also a mere 15 minutes drive away from Colombo’s Town Hall – that’s a maximum of $ 3.50 in a Six-Eight-Eight Cab if you can actually convince them to go that way ( we face the same problem with Pizza Huts unfortunately- I cant think what the natives have subjected them to, they do not give reasons but those cute Pizza delivery chaps would rather run their bikes off Lovers Leap than agree to deliver anything to us although we are technically within their allowed mileage: Sad)

The Local Economy
A substantial number of average Wellampitiya blokes do not actually attend day jobs but send their womenfolk out instead. Since I have a day job I too am not really sure what it is the employed ones do but I’m guessing its very macho and involves a lot of noise. Welding, masonry, truck driving – that sort of thing. And of course its more or less a homeland of tuk tuk drivers, those hairy, honest epitomes of lower middle class moral rectitude. Even the comparatively more effeminate Wellampitia bloke who ends up in the local Chinese food outlet, makes a lot of ruckus about it , chopping kottu roti as if it’s the necks (or worse) of rival gang members and actually manually assaulting the stir fried veggies which lends it that wonderful so called “umami” flavour.

Local Hobbies
Most male Wellampitians have excellent roofing in their homes but spend their lives on the road. The crack of dawn finds these ernest over-zealous early birds walking up and down the main road in banians and gym shorts , brushing their teeth, drinking kola kanda and waiting for the morning newspaper(no doubt for updates on the latest local throat slitting incident ).

Safety : D
usk finds numbers of male Wellampitians squatting in little huddles by the road side, chatting , slapping each other on the back, drinking from strange murky bottles and generally taking their civic duty seriously by monitoring all traffic, particularly the younger female citizens who happen to be returning from a days work. Ok I admit this is what most Sri Lankan’s and indeed most human male creatures in general prefer to do anyway given half the chance but Wellampitians take this very seriously- more as a job than a hobby. The result is, its actually very safe for local women to walk the streets at almost any time of the day or night. Women spend the evenings in temples or walking up and down between houses swapping dishes and retrieving children who have got slightly dispersed during the day(See “Youth Activities)

Organised Crime (we’re talking really organized)
But it’s a different story if you are a stranger in Wellampitiya. The silent looks of calculating concentration from the locals and the decidedly hostile snarling of about 15 under-sized, blotchy but vicious looking stray dogs per average road will send any but the most determined intruder back where they came from within a few minutes at most.
I am personally convinced that thieves, rapists and criminal elements do not stand even a remote chance here unless they have actually agreed through prior bookings with the locals on whom to rob/plunder/molest and to what extent, etc.[1]
I also suspect aspiring criminals from other towns are sent here for final year training and if they ever do get out alive it means they are ready to graduate. Most of these resultant “honors” students leave minus superfluous appendages like noses, thumbs and the occasional eyeball but then those are the subject of good drinking stories later on (plus you get landed with short pithy names like Potta Nihal or Sedawatte Sudo). A very good friend of mine, an ex-Wellampitian who has subsequently moved to Nugegoda and reformed[2] recounted to me that after being attacked by half a dozen knife welding rivals, he regained consciousness in a ditch on the “Bundt” at 3 am with his scalp partitioned into three distinct flaps, and thought to himself- “this cant be my bedroom”

Next week: Youth Activities, Endangered Fauna, and garbage disposal in Wellampitiya

[1] Rather like in the fabled city of Ankh Morpork- check the Wikipedia entry.
[2] Honest!

also available at

(illustration property of Daily Mirror )


Jack Point said...

Which is the Kolonnawa Rd?

I know Dematagoda because it is on the main highway, is it off this?

Or do you have to go all the way to the Kandy Rd and turn off?

al juhara said...


Sam said...

//Ok I admit this is what most Sri Lankan’s and indeed most human male creatures in general prefer to do anyway //

i agree with most Sri Lankan's part. but not with the most human parts. :-)

Very nice post. I defiantly enjoyed it!

al juhara said...

thank you...thanks for the point. and check out the mirror printout -the cartoon is such fun. w@w 21st Nov.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just read your article on daily mirror W@W magazine...and I just have to say...I LOVE your writing!!! I just moved from Chicago to your article just hit the nail on the head. Anyway just thought I would leave a comment on your blog spot, keep up the good work.

al juhara said...

from Chicago to Dematagoda?! What WERE you thinking? :-)
thanks for the feedback -they do make my day!

Anonymous said...

I know I know keep thinking that myself...but then you have to kiss good bye to those care free university days when you get to live off of daddy and the scholarship the nice university gave you and start living in reality (ie- dematagoday...yuck) But hey for the first time I witnessed (from a safe my balcony about 10 storeys up) a stabbing.