Sri Lanka Paradise!
12.36 pm now (May 31, 2010). Keep the time in mind. It is important.
Ok, now to Paradise. Sri Lanka Paradise. That’s a Tourist Board
payoff line from the early eighties, if I remember right. We knew that.
We told the world that Sri Lanka is a paradise and what more it comes
with blue waters and shining eyes, delivered I was reminded recently
with a gentle smile.
Some want to call this hell and for a while their consistent
rubbishing of Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans and things Sri Lankan did rub off
on the most naive and/or pernicious sections of the international
community. We knew. This is Paradise.
For years many people told us that Paradise was a continent at the
other end of the world. I visited that ‘Paradise’ and lived in various
parts of that beautiful place for a total seven years. I spent a year in
a place called Los Angeles (Mexico to some, USA to others).
I lived one block away from what was supposed to be the worst place
for crime on that continent, the Pico-Union intersection. But hey, LA is
LA. It is made of Hollywood, film stars, 3rd Street Promenade (yes,
that’s Santa Monica, but that’s still ‘LA’ in the common imagination,
Bunker Hill (Paradise on Earth), Skid Row (a few blocks from ‘Paradise’
and ‘Hell on Earth’ according to Mike Davis of ‘City of Quartz’ fame)
and the Lakers.
I had a stipend from a university that came to 350 dollars. My rent
was 300. I lived with my then wife in a ‘studio’ (think, ‘one large room
and that’s it’) on a little over 10 dollars a week. My Sri Lankan
friends told me, ‘you got to get wheels, you got to get a driver’s
licence and for all this, you need to get a California ID’.
I filled the forms, submitted them. Waited. And waited. And waited.
Days passed. Weeks. Months. No word. Finally, after about three months,
I called to find out what had happened. ‘It’s being processed,’ I was
told. I was asked, politely, to wait a further four to six weeks. This,
by the way, was in the year 1994. I explained ‘context’ to the person at
the other end of the line.
‘You may not have heard about my country. I am from Sri Lanka. It is
a tiny island off the Southern coast of India. No, it is not part of
India. We are classified as a third world country. Poor. We have all
kinds of problems and suffer many deprivations. Guess what, we can apply
and get a new passport the same day! A passport, mind you, and not an ID
issued by a province or some other region; a document that is valid in
I got the ID three weeks later.
Here’s why Sri Lanka is even more of a Paradise that I had thought.
This morning I got a call, officially inviting me to participate in a
conference in Goa, India. I had been told about this a couple of days
ago, but the official invitation came only this morning. I don’t have a
I do, but it is not accepted by the relevant authorities because it
is in such bad shape. Edges frayed. One edge has been chewed by mice.
I’ve been drenched and have had my passport soaked. Washed too.
Inadvertently. It’s in a sorry state. I would need a new one.
In the meantime, I had already planned to visit my Grama Niladharini
(Pamankada GN Division), Dayaranjani Wijesinghe to get her to endorse
some documents so that I can close my late mother’s bank accounts. It’s
almost 9.00 am when I get to her neatly maintained office in Kirulapona.
She noted that my father had not filled the householders’ form, gave
me one and told me to get it signed and to return it to her. I did this,
got my father to sign the document and rushed to the Divisional
Secretariat in Narahenpita to get another endorsement that the bank
I was told that I need to get the birth certificates of my siblings
as well as mine before the endorsement could be stamped. Got the forms.
Filled. Bought stamps. Submitted. Forty five minutes later, the birth
certificates were ready. I asked a friend to collect them and rushed to
Punchi Borella. Got some passport size photographs. Filled the forms.
Got photocopies of relevant documents and found a JP to sign relevant
sections. I handed the application. Paid the money. I was told to come
at 3.00 pm to collect it.
I rushed to the office, where I used to work, and borrowed a computer
to write this (I had forgotten to bring the wire of my laptop). It is
1.26 pm now. I have never been to India, so I am excited about this
conference. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get my documents
ready. I forgot that I live in Paradise.
There may be many horror stories and I am not saying I have not been
put through hell at times. On the other hand, I doubt that one could do
all these things within a few hours in all other countries. Blue waters,
shining eyes? Yes, that’s what Paradise is made of. For me, today,
‘Paradise’ has other connotations. I am comparing LA to Sri Lanka.
Ahasai polovai wage (like sky and earth)!
It’s 1.14 p.m. now. Time for breakfast.