Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Curious* was discovered by a local garbage dump, weak, hungry and crooked, one soggy July evening in 2005 . Numerous unpleasant incidents with our growing menagerie mean, that we try not to see or hear stray orphans as we walk or drive around the streets of Colombo, but this one hit my eyes, solidly and firmly although it probably measured no more than three inches across at the time, from nose to ratty tail tip. This bug eyed, quizzical looking vision of a blurred orange ball with a string on one end, would not leave me.
Curious was destined to be my favourite.
Mentally and physically Curious is slightly handicapped, possibly mildly "autistic". Just like with humans, in the animal world too, this happens occasionally but we see hardly any instances of such because cruel laws of the jungle dictate survival of the fittest and shrewdest and even they never get a second chance. Curious it would appear, was supposed to. Add to this the fact that he had lost his mother early in life , and you understand why he is twice blessed , doubly lucky and a symbol of hope in a world gone wrong.
Curious lives his life at a tilt of about 23 degrees, and so probably is the only one among us who actually sees the world as it really is. This is due to some obscure spinal deformity which makes him slant his head quizzically when he's walking about or sitting thinking. To the every day rat or ghecko he must appear an extra sinister and calculating predator, but we find it extremely endearing, probably because we know that he would never think of catching or killing any thing, far less eating it: Curious is the closest feline domestica ever came to being a practising vegetarian, and prefers papadam and cheese buttons to chicken. In fact any crackling sound will inevitably cause him to spring off his perch and come sniffing thoughtfully around.
Curious has been in one or two very narrow escapes.
There was the day, which we will never forget , when he went looking at his reflection in my loo and fell in. Yours truly is a working girl who goes out at 7 am and returns at 6 pm, so that drop involved a lot of dog paddling, raucous screaming and commode water ingestion until he was discovered in the early afternoon by the daily help and another generous philanthropist, who put his hand in and fished him out, shampooed him with warm water and Sunsilk shampoo, and wiped him down amidst yowling protests, with one of my tea cloths, whilst admitting that there were, in retrospect, not many people around he would do this for…Curious survived this episode unscathed but with a respect for water closets.
Curious is not interested in the usual singing and serenading competitions that Tom Cats spend much of their waking life thinking about. He is no threat to Patchy (the local princess) and would not know the difference between one end of a female cat and the other, and probably would not bother finding out. As far as she is concerned, he is the epitome of genuine unselfish love and companionship and sits near her on cold evenings, quietly watching the funny humans cooking and arguing about who finished the good curry powder.
Curious accepts life good naturedly, although he does not understand it.
For some weeks he would experience hunger, and look curiously at his food , not realising that the actual consumption thereof would relieve the pangs gnawing his innards, but with the vague idea that some kind of participation was expected of him.
We had to fend off the rest of kittenkind and favour him a bit until he got the idea….
Curious lacks balance and will regularly fall on his backside and look miffed about it. We thus never throw him out of the front door , but place him carefully on the front carpet if we need to de-cat the living room. He is the only cat I know to have missed a fridge, by which I mean he tried a running jump from a table to a refrigerator two feet away and missed it to end up falling short and going down scrabbling half heartedly at the door, again to land on his rump with a audible burp.
Curious is a cat, an ordinary cat and nothing like an ordinary cat. HE was discovered among garbage and yet he has enriched our lives more than many expensive diversions money can buy. He has taught us not to take things for granted and yet to accept some things with grace, even if you cant understand the reasons for them. He's one of the reasons I cant find employment abroad, apart from my attachment to my children and my book and DVD collection and the fact that I love Wellampitiya.
I cannot think of anyone but myself taking care of Curious, and it would break my heart to have to let go of him.
So who's the dependent one, you wonder?
* also fondly referred to as MANTAL
There are more abandoned orphans like Curious featured at www.colombopetrescue.blogspot.com and we hope you will stop by and spare a minute for them. Well, more than a minute if possible?
Sunday, August 19, 2018
- Mettha to all, and so much love for her family—Now I look back on the wonderful relationship we had, and though we went through lot of changes and challenges in life, I cannot remember her having spoken one harsh word, or hurt my feelings ever, and how many people, even from loving families, can one say this about? Aunty was a true Buddhist gentlewoman in every meaning of the word. Aunty would love to meet all her relations, who themselves were very loving and genuine people from down south (Dondra people from Pinkanda) and if we ever went travelling down south or to Kandy or to Anuradhapura we had to meet a blur of dear humble people who loved her and spoke of her as a kind of legend. My own family was a western-educated, nuclear family with all manner of grudges against its various relations, but she always advised me that family is precious and her favourite motto ever was “forgive and forget”. Aunty always without fail remembered the good people did, and made sure to forget any wrongs she may have noticed. From her I learned to always seek the good in any human, and to give people chances.
- Karuna and true humility she told me not to call our workers “servants” but to call them helpers. There is a lot of meaning in this. She has always spoken with kindness and respect to anyone, including those working in our homes, be it a gardner, plumber or attendant. This is a trend modern people do follow, but you will agree it was not common in her generation.
- Muditha Aunty was genuinely happy at the good fortune of other people, and would brag on their behalf. This was the same if it was family, relatives, friends or neighbours. You always heard the nice updates! And all of this before the words “positive thinking” became buzz words!
- Genuine upeksha in all she did. Aunty exemplified non attachment, balance and tolerance in all her relationships and dealings. I learned from her not to judge people simply because they were going against social expectations. Not to judge based on class or rank or financial status, but to be tolerant of peoples failings and search for the good in them. And as to material things, she clung to nothing ever, with another motto being “ we will all be letting go of this and going one day” (api mey siyalla ataralla yanawa ne kawadahari). I knew her always as a simple smiling lady happy with a few pastel colored sarees, one pearl necklace, one beige handbag, a pair of spectacles, and a couple of pairs of usually beige slippers. She hung on to no possessions whatsoever. She also stoically and cheerfully bore any pain, hardships and even significant calamities, such as the complete loss of the family fortune with the Kantalai Dam disaster of 1986, which sounded like merely a passing phase from how calmly she described it.
- A love of babies. Aunty had quite a few of them herself,(eight!) without any hangups at all,and only had happy and fun filled stories about each experience, and then she also had a huge boat load of grandchildren (I think about 27 at the last count) and loved each and every one of them that she could get her hands on (and the diaspora ones too!). None of our new-fangled family planning there, each little human was treated as a blessing and an amazing new wonder to be mollycoddled and pampered until she reluctantly had to let go of them to their parents. Of course it may not be practical in this day and age, but she lived in a time when this was possible and she basked in the sheer delight of each addition to her brood, and then grand-brood and after some years, the great-grand-brood too! Aunty was a truly happy and lucky matriarch indeed!
- A love of this planet. Aunty was one of the first environmentalists I knew even before that word became fashionable. She loved working in the garden for hours, and this is probably one of the secrets of her living to 97 in a hale and hearty physical state She would potter in plants, grow flowers of all hues, and carry huge kalugal around making various esthetic arrangements. All coconuts we ever ate over the last 3 decades were from trees she had planted and tended. She would stop and look at a green bean in earnest when we were cleaning them to cook, and appreciate the farmers of our country by commenting on how much effort it took to make even a few beans which we just go out and buy. She would not allow us to waste even a few grains of dhal or rice washed away, not because of the cost of it, but in appreciation of the labour that went into growing food, and also the many who went without. She always conserved water and made sure to recycle even old clothes to take the maximum use out of them. She made thrift and food management a virtue and also from around 7 or 8 years old since she heard a sermon of Ven Narada, avoided meat, fish, and eggs and most dairy products, (except for during a childhood illness when she was compelled by family members to eat fish to “get her strength back”). Unlike the egotistical vegans of today she never imposed her diet on anyone else, or lectured or boasted about it, except for a gentle bit of advice if she felt that someone would take it. It's only becoming clear to us, now, with all the modern hype about the health benefits of veganism, that this too must have been one of the secrets of such a long and healthy life. She was one of those dear old ladies who took a tiny bit of sugar onto their palm with tea, instead of stirring in heaps of sugar, and anyway she always preferred hakuru if there was any. She also stoutly defended her right to be allowed to cook with coconut oil and refused to have anything to do with palm oil and all the other synthetic stuff that commercials were trying to force on us in the 90s, because, in her opinion, “we used to eat baskets full of kavum and kokis at weddings those days and all of us ate coconut oil and nothing bad happened to anyone! “ (referring to village weddings) and, what do you know, she was right after all! She woke daily around five a.m and kept herself busy and active into her 90s, always finding at least some bit of light housework that she could do even if it was washing and sorting the tupperwear or drying pepper seeds in the sun, or helping make some of that awesome billin achcharu . So busy did she insists on being, in fact that she fell one day, and cracked a hip around 94, but as graceful as ever, fully healed and walked around fine for years after that too. At 73 one lovely memory was climbing Sigiriya with her in the lead, and my adventurous daughter dangling between us like a swinging baby monkey at the age of two...I like to think that my daughter has inherited from her, the love of adventure, travel and meeting people.
- A love of life itself. There is no denying that there was family strife in her life in her latter years, as always there will be some external factors to break the peace in any home….but that never kept her angry or downcast. I can only remember a quiet happy humming as she pottered in the garden and greeted each new day with the same wonder and delight with which she danced on the beach, climbed mountains, or ran nimbly after toddling grandchildren. And yet, Aunty was never afraid to leave this life either, and prepared serenely to let go of life with the utmost grace too. A few months before she died she had a rather uncomfortable bout of gastritis and was briefly hospitalised (which actually had happened only about two or three times in all the 26 years i knew her), and the doctors ran every known test they could on her and came up with about 100 pages of reports, all absolutely clear, and with a completely clean bill of health. No diabetes, no cholesterol, perfect heart function.... With the gastritis incident we had all started visiting her because we instinctively felt worried that she was in pain and that she may depart this world soon, but even then she made the usual jokes, and was very cheerful. Some months later, shortly before her 98th birthday she died unexpectedly, quietly and peacefully in her sleep. The last words she said to us were a cheerful blessing as we visited and left.
Wednesday, August 01, 2018
image aptly titled "our packages" from chandrapanagoda.lk
I didn't know till recently how much a coffin costs in Sri Lanka, it hasn't been that high in my "need to know" list. But this year I found out that it can be anything from 20,000 to 400,000 LKR.,and at each end of the spectrum the damn things look the same! They are shiny polished OBLONG WOODEN BOXES with handles! They have some shiny white material inside. The 400,000 one doesn't look 20 times as posh as the other one, it just looks the same but a bit heavier. I was told that monks get the high quality send off. Of course that makes sense, burning a box that costs enough to make a small home for a destitute family, just because they are a Buddhist monk. Just what the Buddha ordered!
As each year starts we look into it and wonder with new hope, if finally this will be the year we waited for, if this year we will find what we were looking for. None of us imagine that this may be the year in which we die.
My own 2017 started with rescuing a cow of all things under Gods sun. and of course it wasn't the usual rescue from the slaughterhouse, no this was me and this is Sri Lanka so this had to involve more drama and fright and bribery, corruption, violence and skullduggery and a predictably feisty hellcat cow that finally ran away into the sunset of Hanwella- that is a completely different story. But someone told me at the start that I would be blessed, that the universe would reward me. I waited with bated breath all year.
Then 2017 was the year when my father fell ill, mysteriously and irreversibly becoming bedridden in a series of events designed to test the limits of our endurance and of our belief. For various reasons I have written about in other places, I have no sentimentality about my father, and merely considered him sympathetically as an unwell elderly person in need of care.
My mother had taken care of him for many years now waiting on him hand and foot and we had watched as he played the merry devil with antibiotics, randomly self medicating according to his warped medical knowledge, and also binging on eye popping amounts of sugar, in spite of the fact that he was a diabetic and had a continuously suppurating foot wound. On the pretext that he needed sugar because he felt as if he had low sugar, which he did not. The difference between minors and criminally negligent adults is that of course you can't force elders to do anything, even if you can see that they are gradually killing themselves in front of you. My brother and I, his only children, were used to this self destructive behaviour after watching him chain smoke for 30 years, and then completely speculate his wealth away for another 20 years, we had given up expecting him to take any advice from us. Our mother had given up arguing around 50 years ago and instead lived in an alternate reality, based on her knowledge of astrology. Father was supposed to die in 2020. So we braced ourselves for a long and interesting relationship with elderly care institutions in Sri Lanka.
The extent of the care needed by this heavy tall bedridden and incontinent patient, was such that after no less than 23 calls to elderly care homes in Sri Lanka only four agreed to undertake his care. Two were unregulated budget homes for poor villagers, in Homagama and Padukka, salubrious areas of the country, but conditions within them were reminiscent of concentration camps with softer bedding and better ventilation. One was a budget home which looked like a hotel and charged a higher amount and one was a decently registered nursing home in Colombo run by doctors, where his expenditure would add up to more than our combined monthly incomes. We went through three of these different experiences in traumatic sequence.
In the first budget priced home in a rural area called Pitipana, we left our father only one night and returned to find that he had been threatened, starved, and traumatised and his catheter had been tied so he could not urinate. He was actually crying for water and did not let go of his plastic water bottle for many days afterwards. He began to speak only in Sinhala, and he would not recount what had been told to him to make him so terrified. We withdrew him from this pretty place and later my husband paid them a visit with about ten of his friends and indulged in a little summary justice, because we didn't have time or evidence to report them to the authorities. Proper revenge was taken Im happy to say, Sri Lankan style, because frankly we were in a state of emergency and really did not have the patience anymore to be classy and genteel about things.
Its difficult to concentrate, when you are holding up a very heavy and large man who has completely lost the use of his arms and legs, and is continuously incontinent. You try keeping your job, keeping your head and doing this. Adult Diaper bills for the month came to about half my salary, medication bandages and catheter changing added to that exceeded the combined income of my brother and myself.
I asked my husband what rural people with lower than middle incomes did. He said they would take turns. But he admitted he had never seen such a case. Occasionally a frail old lady might get paralysed but still she was the size that could be safely hauled to the loo for cleaning. My neighbour an elderly lady in her late 70s said that she had looked after her husband for eight years, by keeping him locked up at home, without clothes. He would crawl around the house soiling the corridors as he went. My father could not even crawl. It took two people to lift his torso high enough for him to be able to eat something.
Then a relatively expensive interlude in Colombo brought us physical relief, although at the expense of our financial and psychological stability. Cheerful, chubby nurses took care of everything, we could visit him and cheer him up, his long lost relations were allowed access, he seemed to be accepting his pitiable fate at last. But we were steadily notching up debts that we could not have dreamed of, and against our principles, sending pleas around to family members and to people we didn't know, to help father as we wanted to keep him in comfort, till we could sell the family home and finance the rest of his medical and palliative care. Life was disintegrating into a nightmare before our disbelieving eyes. True to Sri Lankan human nature one of our cousins threw it crudely in our faces that we had asked for help, although he had not contributed a cent towards helping us.
In the middle of this all, father himself had a small amount of stashed away money, which could pay for about two months of the nursing home, but he was being typically tight fisted about it. He could not walk, or stand or even sit up unless two strong people placed him upright, but he was stubbornly hanging onto his cash, saying that he would release it if we took him to the bank. To take him to the bank would need a stretcher, two strong men and an ambulance and was completely unnecessary as the bank has confirmed that he only had to sign a form and they would release it to us. There was a deadlock here which was difficult to believe. We could not afford to keep him indefinitely in the Colombo nursing home.
The pretty hotel like home in Homagama agreed to take him in for about ⅔ of the monthly fee. For the third time in three months we arranged to take him away. This was not before sending out another plea this time to the professional institute of which he had been a course director in his proud heyday. They did vaguely commit to sending some money but only a small amount actually materialised and this was enough for one month in the new place. Transporting him took an expense for two strong men to lift him and an ambulance to cart him to the new location. You may not have noticed it in the heat of an emergency, but ambulances are bloody expensive.
Two days later he was dead.
And the new elders home owner panicked, and placed an entry in the police station she claimed covered her jurisdiction, which was a place 30 km away called Horana; the police stampeded over clearly intent on finding some fault with her, 1 for not being properly registered 2 for not having a doctor in attendance and 3 for him having died just two days after arriving. There you had a entrepreneur lady living a horror story. She had just opened an elders home where lots of quiet little old ladies could be bullied into behaving themselves and giving her solid cash, and here she had accepted this bedridden old man and he had gone and died on her. She had the look of someone in a bad nightmare who just wanted to wake up. And it was Christmas day.
Our van transport on the day of the post mortem was no less than 300 km, which is the distance from Colombo to Trincomalee, - this is the amount of zigzagging from pillar to post that we had to go through, the vehicle being with us for no less than 36 hours. We went to the police station, waited for two hours for a constable to join us (there were no other people at the station) went on a detour because the constable wanted to have a look at his three wheel which had been given to a garage to repair,(this is how we spent the first few hours when we should have been quietly grieving for our dead father) then went to the Horana hospital where we waited standing for an hour till the JP came in and told everyone that he was doing us a massive favour by officially releasing the dead bodies of their loved ones, (he lectured us that not his job but he was doing social service)and we had to humbly and worshipfully listen to this (without screaming at him to sign the damn papers because our honoured beloved father was starting to disintegrate in the tropical heat in the mortuary van) then we had to wait another twenty minutes till a half witted nurse found the keys to his room, because they had forgotten the keys, then he took our statements (all three of us, mine, my brothers and the elders home owners) and tried to insist that my mother join the fray,("the spouse should claim the body") and became abusive when i said that she was mentally retarded, and hinted that he could issue a warrant and force her to come here. To this I shrugged, because by now i was ok with anything they did, I was just numb. This was just the beginning of the bureaucratic abuse and obstacles hurled at the family of newly bereaved.
More worshipful humility required of us as we stood near the mortuary for 4 hours, (stood because the Government of Sri Lanka wont afford seats for grieving family whose members are being dismembered) and waited experiencing various abattoir noises and nauseating smells, until at long last the doors opened and a misshapen bundle on a stretcher was exposed and the attendants asked us, rudely of course, where the polythene was. Which polythene you may ask? No one had said anything about polythene, not even our funeral house van drivers. So if you see Hollywood films where the deceased is neatly stitched up in a Y shape and handed back in a body bag, that's not how it's done in Sri Lanka due to our poverty or insensitivity or both. According to the embalming boys, my father's body had been sliced downwards on both sides of all four limbs, his skull sawn off and held in place with a long rag, and his innards emptied and flushed with so much water that the cadaver kept dripping continuously until it was cremated. Furthermore the main arteries had been torn out of their positions and lost, so the embalmers had no way of injecting formaldehyde. Gleefully, and so as to get some more money for their alchohlic bribe, the funeral boys showed me the photos. Morbidly curious as we humans sometimes are, I made the mistake of going through his smartphone file on our father.
Through this haze of insanity only one rational voice spoke to us reasonably, humanely and kindly and that was the JMO, Dr Prasan who first questioned the constable on the suitability of mangling the body of a 78 year old heart patient who had not one but at least four conditions which could kill him of natural causes at any instant, and told him in no uncertain terms of what he thought of his time being wasted in this manner. Constable 80100 did everything he could to obstruct and cause distress to us, including pointing out that the elders home was not registered, (it was under probation for one year which is reasonable in the circumstances) and that my mother had not arrived to claim her spouses body (to which the JMO replied that the children were here and that was quite enough) however the police entry meant that the body would have to be subjected to post mortem, it was beyond his power to stop this procedure at this point.
End of Part one
Part two- the horrors of old folks homes in Sri Lanka.
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Last week I made my regular pilgrimage to the weighing machine in our central pharmacy and was pleasantly surprised by the large digital computer which spewed out a small note reporting that not only had I reduced two kilos in weight– but that I was also of “IDEAL BMI”.
So at the end of the day maybe after all its that famous “Middle Path “ we need to stick to.
...Anything to keep from having to drink silly spinach soups! Yeauch!
Saturday, February 03, 2018
Glue traps are a gruesome way to die for little animals, and this is Tinkerbelle a stray kitty who was caught in one, her front leg also breaking in the effort to release her, which is a common occurrence in victims of these inhumane devices. Tinkerbelle's rescue was funded by a private animal rescue fund named NO CAT LEFT BEHIND SRI LANKA. This FB page based fund was initiated in 2016 by Dutch national Anouk Gaastra who was also the founder of Cat Protection Trust later taken over by animal rescuer Indira Sahadevan. The objective is to sterilize street cats and the cats of poor owners who cannot afford it, so as to prevent/reduce overpopulation and suffering among stray cats.
Locally resident animal rescuer Marilyn Wouters, who runs a shelter for disabled and paralysed cats in Negombo now helps raise and manage resources for this fund too, personally contributing to the fund on a monthly basis. With the kind support of a team of dedicated vets who work at subsidsed rates, the NO CAT LEFT BEHIND page helps spay, neuter, and treat injured and wounded street cats. Marilyn is also the author of "Picking Up the Pieces" a vivid memoir of life in a number of countries, sales of which also support her charities.
"But some people even abuse our fund, they say they cannot afford the operations but they drive up in cars, clearly they are not poor, this is stealing the chance from another poor person/animal," says Marilyn who emphasised that this fund is setup to help lower income animal supporters, overburdened "street feeders" and also helpless ownerless cats. "Some cases are very expensive to treat as they need long term hospitalisation"
To date 225 felines have been sterilised and 70 have been treated with funds of around 1.5 million LKR collected by Marilyn and her friends. The Funds have gone towards saving very pathetic cases such as neglected cats with chronic maggot infested wounds, dog bites, and broken limbs. "An estimated 90% of the money was from foreigners," adds Marilyn who works tirelessly on social media to raise awareness of the plight of the stray cats of Sri Lanka. "Since my outcry in December some donations came from Sri Lankans and I hope to be able to pay these bills and continue this work," To help support wounded and injured cats please join and support the FB page https://www.facebook.com/nocatleftbehindSL/ and buy a copy of Marilyn's book "Picking Up the Pieces," You can help support this feline emergency fund directly by sending donations to Dr Asanka of Royal Vets Clinic in Maharagama.TP 0779470047
Sunday, January 28, 2018
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 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.
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, : 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. 164 and 166 too go in that direction but there is a danger of falling asleep and ending up in Angoda. This has happened to me. 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 fast food delivery unfortunately- I cant think what the natives have subjected them to, they do not give reasons, but those cute 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.
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 towels or 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 : Dusk finds numbers of male Wellampitians squatting in little pow wows 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. 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 some locals on whom to rob/plunder/molest and to what extent, etc. 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, eyeballs and the occasional stretch of epidermal insulation, but then those are the subject of good drinking stories later on (plus you get landed with short, pithy names like Blind Manju or White Nihal and get to write autobiographies with titles like "With One Foot in Sedawatte"). A very good friend of mine, an ex-Wellampitian who has subsequently moved to Nugegoda and reformed (honest!) 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- "hey- this isn't my bedroom"
You have probably heard about all kinds of vice emanating from Wellampitiya – murders, shoot outs, bus arson(oh joy) and occasional hauls of moonshine: well, speaking from the inside I must tell you these people are not really evil ,mostly they have merely given up with pretenses and dislike beating about the bush and hypocrisy. I personally approve, I mean - instead of the malicious gossip ,backstabbing and subtle under-cutting you encounter in so called "civilized" joints, I suggest it would be much more straight-forward to challenge someone you have a grudge against to an open shoot out and have done with them- it's crisp and uncomplicated. Also being shot cleanly in broad daylight would really be a blessedly quick end to all those vague anxieties about the cost of living, the ozone layer and whether mobile phones damage the few surviving brain cells you do have...
High on the endangered list is Picky, a local dog canine citizen I met about a decade back. Among other unspeakable eccentricities, he has a compulsion to pee mark territory on piles of coconuts laid for sale at the local Pola. This would make even the gentlest of meditation-practicing Buddhist grandmothers understandably miffed but we are talking about hairy, tattooed underworld beefcakes, whose nuts are thereby devalued so I really don't know how he has survived this long. True to local tradition, he sports deep scars of different levels of freshness on his skull and neck and is blind in one eye; I swear I have seen him chase smaller rivals into the paths of oncoming buses; at the same time, he is very gentle with children and kittens and just yesterday I found him walking around inside a neighborhood pediatric clinic , looking silly and unfocused.
Apart from bats ,kabarayas, visiting troops of grey langaurs, wading birds, water fowl, hoethamboowahs, bandicoots, porcupines and mongooses, I am rumored to personally harbor a white cobra at the bottom of my backyard, but I have never heard of it harming anyone. If it does exist, it is welcome to stay there. If not, it would mean that the natives have smoked it out, doused it in kerosene and given it a fiery send off, something they do to hapless reptiles, centipedes, scorpions and anyone they suspect of having an alternate sexuality, on the days they don't attend temple.
Little Wellampitians (or Wellampettes as I like to call the precious darlings) are short,brown, shiny and very cute but have sturdy constitutions since their mums went through pregnancy dodging batons, brickbats and bullets and fortifying themselves on exhumed moonshine, instead of regular stuff like cows milk: they have fine tuned survival to a happy art, spend the afternoons playing Catapult-The-Town-Idiot, setting fire to the tail tufts of wondering cows and cheerfully riding their tricycles around dodging (and occasionally under) the 40 foot Maersk container-trailers that head in from Orugodawaltta to Peliyagoda.
Garbage Disposal Is an issue here, which the local cattle sadly cannot handle all by themselves though they do try. Some of my neighbors have crossly demanded to know why I carry my garbage long distances and dump it in the local Urban Council collection bins (which are overflowing and stinky) instead of, like them, putting it in my own land since I live on a comparatively large extent of land. I have had to point out that really, I don't like them putting their garbage in my backyard, either, so will they please stop. This article completely ignores the huge mountain of garbage the size of Adams peak which slowly erected itself in our background, because its a contentious issue which has been dealt with so many times in the newspapers. At the time of updating this article, it has been "sorted"
The road watching Wellampitian males are patient and take the security watch matter quite seriously staying up sometimes till about 1 am , doing pretty much nothing except discussing politics ,cracking lewd jokes, chewing things and occasionally hoisting their sarongs into strange arrangements the better to properly air themselves by. There is always a vague air of expectancy but what exactly they are waiting for I'm never really sure. In conclusion-Wellampitians don't pretend:if they think someone did something wrong, they tell him so, while ramming his skull rhythmically into a "blokgal" wall and making him chew on knuckle sandwich.
If they like a woman they appreciate her loudly and enthusiastically.
If they like you as a person you get to attend every festival they can afford to invite you to viz age comings, home comings (after honeymoons or after a stint in jail), funerals and the-after-funeral-but-before-t
For those of my friends who think this is an article aimed at policy makers,and the local Urban Council I honestly don't mean it that way and personally wouldn't suggest changing a thing, except perhaps the mosquito situation. The writer in me thrives on such excitement as neighborhood flood-outs, vigilante revenges and extreme exorcisms : this beats watching WWF on cable any day. I'm just sorry my article cant be larger, perhaps with a photo supplement..:)
In case anyone is interested in buying land over there, do let me know. :D