Poson & Weird Weather

Happy Poson poya day!

Mihintale: where Buddhism was introduced in Sri Lanka. A special place on Poson poya.

Mihintale: where Buddhism was introduced in Sri Lanka. A special place during Poson poya.

Today is a full moon day (poya) and in the Sinhala Buddhist calendar it celebrates the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC. It is a festival of great historical and religious significance and is celebrated island-wide, second only to Vesak. I like poya days for many reasons, written about here. So, as I often do on a poya day when less busy than usually, I ponder on things. It’s my form of meditation and for some reason a full moon helps. Feel free to call me as mad as a hatter but there are many that agree that a full moon has a special significance. There is even a wiki page on this phenomenon ‘Lunar effect‘. Far from going a bit nuts, though, I feel calmer.

I find it is a time to put the things of the month gone by in perspective and Poson is particularly relevant to what is to me just a very personal thing: “On the day, pilgrims gather at Buddhist temples across the country to Observe Sil (“Atamasthanaya”) – A practice where followers wear the most simplest of white clothes, and take time out for a period of reflection, on both the self, and on the teachings of the Buddha. This period of self reflection is said to bring one closer to detaching from worldly pleasures and coming closer to attaining Nirvana. Devotees also gather to listen and understand the teachings of the Buddha or “Dhamma”, through sermons and preachings by senior Buddhist monks.” (taken from amazingasia.com). I did none of this but the mention of self reflection hit a nerve. So, it is not all mysticism and talk of werewolves? The moon has an effect on tides, that’s pretty big is it not? So, why should it not affect our moods? Food for thought if ever there was any.

It is a lovely peaceful day. The girls and women in the village dressed in white walking to the temple and whole families enjoying themselves on the beach with picnics. Along the Galle Road other families are crammed into pick-up trucks or singing on a rented bus. Distant chanting of monks from the village temple ebbs and flows with the wind in my breadfruit tree. Yet, something is bugging me today. It is the light. Something about the light, something about the weather. And it’s not the moon bathing the garden in ethereal light these last few nights, it’s different.

It is no secret that India is in the midst of a pre-monsoon heatwave. The Times of India has proclaimed it the world’s 5th deadliest heatwave ever.  That is quite scary in general. All the more so here because Sri Lanka is not a million miles away. I have been hot, my fan is on higher, colder and I am complaining more. It’s humid, sticky and hot. Uncomfortable.

So yes it is very hot, we have established that, but I have noticed the light is off, it’s different. I have been observing this for a while but it was especially noticeable after having left the country for 6 days a fortnight ago. Now, when we have the cross-over from season to off-season this happens, but this year it is extreme. In Hikkaduwa where I live the sunset has moved quite considerably in position. Sadly I do not have good photos to compare but let’s just say it no longer sets where it usually does (or should do at this time of year, however, given our proximity to the equator it should not deviate much at all). The strength of the sun has also increased as I can testify by getting sunburnt in half the time I would have done in December, just a few days ago.

Pre-monsoon deceptively strong sun

Pre-monsoon deceptively strong sun

The sun shines when it doesn’t, it buckets down when it shouldn’t (or when you are least expecting it to). The BBC weather centre tells me the rains are coming, yet it told me this last week and we are still waiting, sweating. It’s different.

On this Poson day, this leads me to consider global warming, then suddenly remembering how the light was off in the weeks following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when the weather turned weird and different. I was here then too, suddenly the memory is razor sharp and I remember nuances, which I had pushed to the back of my head. Could it be Nepal, the earth’s axis adjusting once again? Shivers suddenly rush down my spine in this heat, and humidity. The earth changes, as do the seasons, the sun and moon are in a constant state of flux. The only constant thing is change.

I had a flutter of panic in my chest until I realised that. The only constant thing is change. Now I watch the moon and am at peace once again.

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HAPPY VESAK!

With special thoughts and prayers for Nepal on this Vesak day in 2015.

ankie renique's blog

Now unless you live in a mainly Buddhist country like Sri Lanka or are a devout follower of Buddhism, you’re probably wondering “what is she on about now?” when I happily wish you and your family a happy and peaceful vesak. Today is Vesak Poya (full moon) Day. It is probably the most important festival of the year in the Buddhist calendar. Buddhists commemorate the three most important events that took place in the life of Lord Buddha on this Vesak Poya Day (always the first full moon in the month of May). First comes the birth of Siddhartha Gautama which took place under the arbour of Sat trees in in Lumbini Park on the Nepalese border where Queen Mahamaya gave birth to him. The second event was Siddharta Gautam’s supreme enlightenment as the Buddha, under the Bodhi tree in Gaya. The third event was Lord Buddha’s Parinibbana (passing away) 

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Why hatred, why negativity?

This post is in response to a photo I saw today. One that has gone viral, one of a little girl putting her hands up to a journo with a DSLR. She thought it was a weapon. A Syrian girl. The BBC is calling this “the photo that broke the internet’s heart” What a load of codswallop. It breaks peoples hearts. YES. It does. LOOK LOOK at this girls eyes and then ask yourself why you as a good person can’t get together with other billions of good people on this planet and do something about this.

"The photo that broke the Internets heart"

“The photo that broke the Internet’s heart”

Anyway I blog about my life – this photo has affected me. If you don’t like it don’t read it. It has also highlighted some issues of life here in wonderful Sri Lanka. “Real issues”:

There maybe issues in lots of countries…I have friends globally from the UK, Germany, Russia (yep even those buggers) to Nigeria to Fiji (and obviously Holland). Most complain. Nowhere is perfect. Holland may seem idyllic – oh except for the fact that Pim Fortuyn was assassinated during the 2002 Dutch national election campaign for being a racist asshole basically. And good riddance. At least we have a cute Royal family. And orange rocks and cheese and heaps more.

Sri Lanka is of course paradise, only it had a bloody 30 year civil war, with possible war crimes still pending – one will see. And while one waits the presidents brother dies in an axe attack. A local politician was shot in my home town days ago.

People are nervous, I am. Not just for my beautiful life here but for the world at large.

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Living in Paradise does have Drawbacks, Honestly

If I had a euro (or even a rupee) for every time somebody told me that I was so lucky to live in paradise, how happy I must be and how that person wished they were me, I would be, one, quite bloody rich and two, probably quite a bit happier.

Many expat/travel blogs will bore you senseless with fantastic adventures made away from home, cool things done outside of a comfort zone, eating weird ingredients, pushing ones boundaries and finding ones inner Zen blah blah. This is not one of them. Yeah I have good times, sometimes even very good, but sometimes I just feel like punching smiley people who pontificate about how wonderful it must be to live in a beautiful tropical island and freelance from home in the face.

What people think

How people think my life is

How my life actually is

How my life actually is

I know, not nice. Still I would like to see those same people say the same thing after experiencing some of the lesser evils of this little bundle of fun in the Indian Ocean 🙂 I have moaned before here and here I will moan again and give you 5 inevitable grievances of living in Sri Lanka.

1) Random shit

Take today for example. I wake up to a beautiful day, do my morning stuff, switch the kettle on to make a cup of coffee… and… no luck, the power is off. I check the sockets, check the fuse box, listen out for the Singhala radio station which usually bursts out of my neighbours house at this time. Nope: “light ne”. Or translated: “power cut”. Ugh. Grab my phone 30 minutes later to call the electricity office and check what’s going on and just as the guy answers (after the third attempt may I add) the kettle springs into life. Fine fine, no harm done you say – only bloody 45 minutes doing things I didn’t have to. Forget working in an office and turning up on time…no chance. Still I’m lucky there so actually no real harm done.

Two hours later I eventually get ready to go out as I have some bank stuff to deal with. Need to see the manager and have been putting it off. Get to the bank. It’s closed. The guard apologises “sorry madam, today is [insert unintelligible name] holiday, bank closed”. Me: “but the wine store is open” (yes I know that is a completely random thing to say but you would understand if you lived here). In fact every single shop is open except for banks. It is a real “bank holiday” in the bloody sense of the word. Only nobody seems to know why.

Just because they can

Just because they can

I go to a wedding in the afternoon, a woman comes up with a tray of glasses of water. I’m not thirsty at all but I’m afraid to appear rude so I accept a glass and just as I am about to drink it it is snatched out of my hand. One person frowns, the snatcher is grinning “no, no you no drink, touch, touch…”. Eh? Another person appears and touches the glass with both hands, or actually barely touching and then holds his hands together as in prayer. “Like so” the snatcher whispers. My partner has stepped outside for a cigarette. I am mortified. Why didn’t anybody tell me about this custom, am I just supposed to guess this stuff? I see it happen to another foreigner a bit later. Maybe they do it as a joke, to make us look stupid, I brush that thought aside only for it to re-surface when somebody laughingly tells me and the other hapless looking foreigner are the guests of honour at this wedding. I barely know the wedding couple.  Random shit. Random annoying shit.

2) Being white (aka suddho or suddhi (male & female))

Every man and his dog thinks it is fine to ask you your name, age, occupation and marital status just because you are white (well… a foreigner). Some are genuinely interested, most are just nosy or practising their English. Annoying. Having to pay 10 times as much for any tourist attraction, including dubious places,  is perhaps acceptable for bona fide tourists from wealthy western countries in a poor third world developing country, but given that those “definitions” are so blurred nowadays (especially in Sri Lanka which is no longer classified as third world by most standards), and that residents on the same local salary still have to pay those rates by virtue of their skin colour is just stupid. It’s racist. And that is just the regulated price discrepancies. “Regulated racism”. Gah.

This would be acceptable if it was a common practice globally. It is not.

Don’t even get me started on the opportunists I come across in my day-to-day wanderings. I once heard a story of some Russians being charged 10,000 rupees (+/- $100 USD) to cross Bentota bridge by tuk tuk in 2008 (this journey takes 5 minutes on foot). The driver had told them he was risking his life crossing the bridge because of the war. Got to give him 10 out of 10 for ingenuity.

You are also often referred to by “suddha” or “suddhi” (which means white, in male and female form). By friends and foe alike, referred to as “the white person”. Yes, literally.

Muttiah Muralitharan laughing with (or at) David Cameron in 2013

Muttiah Muralitharan laughing with (or more likely at) David Cameron in 2013

3) Loopy shit

My neighbour has been having pujas at night to exorcise bad spirits – it is a Hindu religious ritual. Now I am wary of religions full stop so anything that is in the slightest bit strange I dismiss as utter madness (I do not mean this in any way derogatory – I am a non-believing, non-practising Catholic and fully believe Catholics are the craziest people on the planet). So, imagine when I am confronted with not only chanting, incense burning, coconut throwing, bell ringing, head oiling and bindi annointing activities, but also high-pitched wailing and something I can only describe as body jerking  when the deity being revered in the puja to exorcise the bad spirits has taken possession of a human being – a kind of spirit possession I guess (don’t quote me on that, my sources are the village gossips!!). From wiki (just to give you an idea): “The Coast Veddas, a social group within the minority group of Sri Lankan Tamil people in Eastern Province, Sri Lanka, enter trances during religious festivals in which they are regarded as being possessed by a spirit. Although they speak a dialect of Tamil, during trances they will sometimes use a mixed language that contains words from the Vedda language. This is big loopy shit. This is my neighbour. I am proper freaked out.

They also have extreme horror films on the bottom shelf in the DVD shop – completely unrelated but just saying. Chilled out tropical island lifestyle? Think again.

4) Gecko shit

Precisely that. Many geckos live in my house. They shit everywhere. A nuisance. Sometimes they have diarrhoea… need I go on? Gecko shit.

Gecko culprit

Gecko culprit

Let me finish with probably the most controversial of all:

5) Karma. Yes, that notion which the majority of you will perceive as that fundamental doctrine in Buddhism, that law of moral causation; “what comes around goes around”. Yes that one. You know the one where you think oh dear that will come back to haunt them when somebody does something bad and you read about it in the newspaper, or when an ex-lover gets ceremoniously dumped by their current beau and you think “YES karma matey!”. You would think that living in a place dominated by this very notion of karma would be pretty damn fantastic right? Well you’re wrong.

Picture this: It’s 9am in the morning, you have a full day planned. The power goes off (see number one). You don’t panic yet…no need. Only then you receive a call from your other half to inform you this power cut will last until 5pm. Your mouth goes dry – you have a deadline due at 4pm and your laptop battery will not last the distance to complete the work anyway. You panic. You demand some answers from the electricity board – no luck. You moan to your other half: “what to do?” he exclaims, meaning there is nothing we can do because it is all caused by a higher force which we have no control of. I am here driving myself crazy but the locals have accepted their fate, even if it inconveniences them greatly: there is nothing we can do so we will not be bothered in the slightest. I have a headache and high blood pressure, not to mention an increasing urge to commit murder, yet they are having a cup of tea gossiping with their friend across the road. Sri Lankans embrace karma. This is fantastic if it prevents you having high blood pressure, surely?

Yet, karma has a dark seedy side. This very thing which should make living our lives so much more simple also makes our lives so much more unbearable. This very notion of moral causation has evolved into quite a disturbing phenomenon – the absence of motivation. Accepted apathy. More worryingly, the absence of good and bad. The absence of any feeling of guilt. Much has been written about ethics and morality since the early Greeks. How the hell do we, as mere humans, know whether something is good or bad? Well to avoid getting into too deep waters here I will make a probably insane assumption that most of us do actually know the difference. Yes we do. Increasingly though I notice that this notion of karma is being used as an excuse for laziness – “I can’t really do anything about it so I won’t”, “my actions won’t change the outcome much so I won’t bother”. Also as an excuse for bad behaviour – “it wasn’t really my fault… it just happened that way”, “nothing we can do about it now, it’s already happened”, “it’s not my fault, he brought it on himself”, “if he didn’t do that to my sister five years ago then I wouldn’t have felt the need to steal his car”, “if she didn’t kiss that guy last night, she would not have a skull fracture today”. I have heard these kinds of things and have occasionally been shocked. People here often hide behind their religion and particularly the notion of karma to avoid the repercussions of their actions. Thankfully, this is something that is changing with better education and it will continue to change just like it did for Catholicism years ago. For me it can’t change quick enough. Religion doesn’t do a whole lot of good in my book.

A controversial piece. Feel free to argue and criticise in the comments. I’ll only delete it if it is outright slander :). And for all you lovely people of Sri Lanka please don’t think I am having a go at you and your homeland. I’m not at all, far from it. These are my opinions of my life here. I love the country and its people most of the time. We all have our grievances – I just took the initiative to air them. I would do the same anywhere else, even in my own country – probably ten times worse. Freedom of speech and all that – been a long time coming here 🙂

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Why I Love the Season in Hikkaduwa

Not so long ago I posted reasons why I love the off-season in my adopted home, Hikkaduwa. They are all perfectly valid reasons and I am looking forward to that experience in a few months again. The peace and quiet, the gentility of the locals, not constantly harassed by having to look after people on holiday (shopkeepers, house owners renting their property, surfing instructors, tour guides, even fishermen sick and tired of having their photo taken at sunset with a catch). People have more time. It’s more chilled out. And the weather isn’t that bad either contrary to popular belief.

Saying that, however, I will miss the tourists. After all it is them that keep my favourite restaurant open, the locals smiling because they are earning, the bus drivers driving less recklessly because there are white people walking on the Galle Road (yes really…most of the time, kind of), my favourite bartender in my favourite bar not scowling because he has to source the ingredient for your particular drink from  afar (“ah you want a mojito…just give me 30 minutes to get mint leaves from the market, or we have curry leaves???” – I just made that last bit up but yeah conversations do happen along those lines in the off season – “you want pork? Sorry we don’t have any but we have chicken…”).

The season feels like the town is richer, both materially and immaterially, nothing is too much trouble, anything is possible. People walk with a spring in their step, a purpose, everybody has somewhere to go and wants to go there.

And when it is beautifully sunny the whole vibe steps up a notch – COLOUR. I honestly sometimes catch myself taking out my phone to capture a scene while I am shopping for onions at the market. Tourists are dressed in silly bright-coloured clothes and driving on blindingly white Honda scooters. The place is buzzing and I like it. I gladly wait in the queue at the ATM in town because I am people watching in the sunshine.

Hikkaduwa Colours in the Season Time

Hikkaduwa Colours in the Season Time

Yes it’s busy and fun. I stop in the queue at the ATM and tell an Estonian man that he can only get out 40,000 rupees a day on his bank card. He pulls out 2 others, we laugh. That doesn’t happen in the off season.

I stop at the market. There is fresh basil. That doesn’t happen in the off season.

I stop at the super market. There are fresh button mushrooms and I meet two friends. That doesn’t happen in the off season.

I walk into my friends shop and a Russian girl has bothered to cover herself up with some clothes. That didn’t happen at all until recently when the town kicked up a fuss.

The sunsets are incredible, the ocean is calm and so blue. It’s wonderful.

It’s been so damn good that except for one or two incidents I am ready for the off season for all the right reasons.

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Fruits of Sri Lanka

The Exotic Delights of this Fruitful Island

From the humble banana to the notorious durian Sri Lanka boasts numerous exotic fruits and the local markets are awash with colour.

Fruit market in Galle

Fruit market in Galle

Fresh fruit – especially the ever-popular pineapple, banana and papaya – often comprise dessert in Sri Lanka. Yet, there are so many other, more exotic varieties available, as a visit to any pola (market) will confirm. If you have not yet acquired a taste for tropical fruit then Sri Lanka is a great place to do so. Below is a check list of just some of the fruit grown on the island.

Banana – In Sri Lanka the name plantain is often used interchangeably with banana. This fruit is a general favourite, served to complete any meal and at special occasions. Usually it is eaten straight from the skin at the table. Bananas come in many sizes, and can be green, yellow or even red in colour. Some of the most popular varieties are:

Ambul – small, yellow when ripe: sweet and sticky

Kolikuttu – yellow when ripe: sweet and starchy

Anamalu – long, bright green when ripe: slightly floury

Seeni kesel­ – small, yellow when ripe: very sweet

Rath kesel – thick, red when ripe: very fleshy

Red banana

Red banana – Rath kesel

Custard apple – Four varieties of custard apple are grown in Sri Lanka and each has an unmistakable flavour, whether sweet or tart. The custard apple is a lumpy light green fruit with a sweet, custard-like white pulp embedded with black seeds. The bullock’s heart is a lumpy pink fruit, which is not as popular as the other varieties because of its granular texture. The cherimoya is a lumpy, green fruit with a pulp similar to the custard apple but with a more subtle fragrance. The soursop is a green, kidney-shaped fruit with a pulp redolent of the custard apple, but having a more characteristic texture.

Durian – The durian is probably the most notorious of tropical fruits due to its unpleasant odour. This fruit, which is round to ovoid and covered with sharp spines, has a white, custard-like pulp regarded as an aphrodisiac. It is one of those things in life you either love or hate. You either find the fruit delicious, or you loathe it without eating it, unable to surmount the olfactory barrier. For the uninitiated, it is best to try it creamed as custard.

Durian - not for the faint hearted!

Durian – not for the faint hearted!

Mango – The premier fruit in the island must surely be the mango, which also comes in a wide variety. Outlines can vary from the classic mango shape, as depicted in the paisley pattern in textiles, to an almost perfect sphere. Size also varies. For instance, the wild mi-amba is tiny, while the pol-amba (pol = coconut) is truly as large as the nut it is named after. Much the same can be said for the skin, which can be green, yellow, orange, pink, or even scarlet. The juicy peach-like flesh can be sweet or have a hint of tartness. Some of the most popular varieties are:

Pol amba – large round fruit with small stone: very fleshy

Kartha kolabun – long ovoid: rich and sweet

Yapanne amba – long, narrow mango: very sweet

Gira amba – tip shaped like a parrots beak

Mee amba – one of the smallest: very sweet

Vilard – red when ripe

Mangosteen – Mangosteens are a particularly striking fruit, with a perfectly round shape, deep purple skin and crowned by a contrasting green calyx. Broken open between the palms of the hand, the fruit reveals a nest of delicious, sweet-sour fleshy white segments with the flavour of strawberry and grape. Mangosteens are commonly sold by the roadside at Kalutara and Peradeniya.

Mangosteen - my favourite

Mangosteen – my favourite

Papaya – Considered one of the classic tropical fruits, papaya or papaw can be small or large. When cut lengthways, a golden melon-like flesh is revealed, lined with a mass of black seeds. After sweeping off the seeds with a spoon, squeeze half a lime over it and enjoy the sweet yet subtle taste of this unique fruit, which is considered excellent for the health. Papaya is often served at breakfast having been first chilled in the fridge. It is also pickled and used in curries when unripe.

Pineapple – Pineapples in Sri Lanka are generally small but thirst-quenching. The medium-sized Mauritius variety, with its slender body and amber coloured skin, is an ideal balance between sweetness and tartness. The larger Kew variety, squat and green, is canned, and also used for making pineapple jam and pineapple juice. A variety of pineapple known as ‘rock pineapple’, which is green and smaller than the Mauritius or Kew, grows wild in Sri Lanka.

Rambuttan – This fruit, whose Malay name means ‘spiny’, is scarlet, maroon or golden-skinned and covered with short, fleshy hairs. Inside there is a mouth-watering translucent, sweet-sour pulp, which like that of its relative, the better-known lychee, covers the single seed. The pulp is sweeter in the better varieties, those in which it easily peels off the seed being preferred.

Woodapple – The woodapple is a hard-shelled fruit, a favourite with elephants. In fact it is so hard a hammer has to be used to break it. The truffle-like pulp within has a pungent smell, but it has an agreeable, slightly sweet-sour taste. The pulp is eaten with salt, although the most popular preparation is a drink called divul kiri made with the pulp, treacle and coconut milk. A fruit cream made with the pulp and condensed milk is also popular, as is woodapple jam.

Woodapple

Woodapple

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The Sri Lankan Kade

The Legend of These Roadside Boutiques AKA The Local Tea Shop         

Kades, the traditional Sri Lankan shops or booths, sell an overwhelming variety of goods. Mostly gone from urban areas they are still common in rural areas.

If you happen to be travelling in Sri Lanka by road and require refreshment, desist from stopping at that modern establishment with its plastic tables and soft drinks. Rather, seek out a traditional kade (shop) with a simple wooden seat in front and a bunch of thambili (king coconut) lying inevitably beside it. With several deft cuts of a large knife (which look disconcertingly like a rusty machete) the thambili will be prepared for you to drink straight from the nut. It is more refreshing than any kind of mass produced aerated beverage. A cup of hot steaming plain or tea is also usually available, along with “short eats” – pastries and buns filled with spicy fish or vegetable concoctions.

Sri Lankan Kade - often a family run business

Sri Lankan Kade – often a family run business

The kade was formerly known as boutique (not from French origin but a corruption of the Portuguese word butica or boteca), has all but disappeared in Colombo and the other large Sri Lankan towns, although some examples are still found in rural areas. The most basic ones are constructed of wooden boarding with a window counter through which the proprietor conducts business. Bigger kades are built of brick but are open at the front in order to hang fruit, display rows of vegetables on trestles, and store sacks of rice, dhal and gram on the floor.

The proprietor of a kade is called a mudalali. Almost invariably he wears a banian (vest) and sarong. In earlier days he would wear a jacket over the banian and sport a konde (knot of long hair at the back of the head). The mudalali is one of the key persons in the village, because most of his customers, being poor and without cash for most of the month, have to rely on the credit he is prepared to give them. You won’t find any cash registers or other commercial paraphernalia in a typical kade, just a pair of scales and perhaps a pocket calculator.

Kade with Weighing Scales

Kade with Weighing Scales

Traditional Village Kade

Traditional Village Kade

Historical Literary References to Kades

That kades and other traditional mercantile establishments have changed little in the past 100 years is demonstrated by the following passage from Bella Woolf’s How to See Ceylon (1914): “The native shops – boutiques they are called in Ceylon, a relic of Portuguese days – are open to the winds of heaven. Here the seller sits cross-legged or on his haunches on the floor, while all the day and far into the night the purchasers swarm around. Strange to European eyes are the sacks and baskets full of curry stuffs, chillies, Maldive fish, and grains unknown to the West, kurakkan, gingelly, paddy and gram. The fruit shops brim with plantains (bananas to most people), pineapples, rambuttans (red and green round fruits covered with prickles), mangoes, custard apples, papaws, breadfruit, brinjals (purple and white), and pumpkins.”

“’Candles for sale’ is the device outside one boutique and attenuated specimens of the candle tribe dangle on strings. There are boutiques displaying gay-coloured clothes and hankerchiefs, there are betel leaves impaled on sticks, sold together with arecanut and lime for chewing purposes. In some places tailors are sewing for dear life – a tiresome touch of the West. In another doorway a woman sits at work on pillow lace. Here is a barber shaving his victim coram populo, or an astrologer casting a horoscope.”

In a further reference, Woolf writes of the boutiques peculiar to Jaffna (at the very northern tip of Sri Lanka): “Even the cadjan houses, it will be noticed, are built up against the fence and if they serve the purpose of boutiques as well as dwellings, the goods are not displayed for sale. The buyer pokes his head through a hole in the fence and calls out for what he wants.”

There are many other references to the humble boutique from English literature pertaining to Sri Lanka. For example, William Skeen relates in Adam’s Peak (1870): “We were overtaken by a smart shower, and gladly availed ourselves of the shelter of a boutique on the wayside.”

Henry W. Cave comments in The Ceylon Government Railway, also known as Ceylon along the Rail Track (1910): “Chatham Street is composed of a strange medley of restaurants, native jewellers, curiousity shops and provision boutiques.”

Clare Rettie remarks in Things Seen in Ceylon (1929): “The boutiques – or small shops – are piled high with vivid coloured cloths, all sorts of ingredients for curry making, betel for chewing, etc.”

  1. Brooke Elliot advises in The Real Ceylon (1938): “The village boutiques (shops) are worth quiet inspection, including the Toddy-Shop or village ‘Pub’”

While such scenes can still be witnessed in rural areas, the average Sri Lankan shop at the beginning of the 21st century is a more prosaic affair. Nevertheless, the colourful arrays of vegetables, and sacks of rice and other commodities will arrest visitors. Even displays of mundane items such as biscuit packets have a distinct dimension of their own. Furthermore, innovative methods are employed. Circular nappy-driers with dangling clips, for instance, are used to hang a variety of small items from crisp packets to sachets of detergent.

A kade would be incomplete without a good selection of hanging sachets and packets of everything :)

A kade would be incomplete without a good selection of hanging sachets and packets of everything 🙂

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