”So what do you do with your time, Mom?” Daughter asks.
“You know me,” I reply. “I find things to do.”
Daughter’s voice, all the way down the line from Toronto to Colombo, is as clear as a bell. It’s a free call, thanks to Viber, What’s Ap and Magic Jack.
The suitcases come out of storage four weeks before. I pack in spite of an unhappy Puppy
and head for the airport and a month in Sri Lanka, to visit my Dad in the Land of Dreams.
Dad turned eighty on March 23rd. March 28th marked the first anniversary of Mum’s passing.
This is my dad, a good-looking octogenarian –
He’s adjusted remarkably well to being alone. I miss Mum.
April is the hottest month in Sri Lanka, with soaring temperatures and stifling humidity. A perpetual film of moisture clings to the skin.
It’s snowing in Toronto.
“Aren’t you bored, Mom?” Other Daughter enquires a week later.
Me bored? Never!
Meet the aunties who are not really my aunts. (In the Land of Dreams everyone is your aunty or uncle. It’s respectful.) Aunty Romola lives on the third floor, Aunty Amitha – her friend from Australia -lives round the corner.
The aunties and I walk every morning, just after dawn.
The Ipad and camera phone are an established part of my anatomy. The aunties are very forebearing.
Pause. Click. Pause again. Click. Aunties shrug and move on. Catch up at a trot …
“Our shadows. Look! Don’t move.”
Aunties strike a pose. Aim and tap.
“No backsides, please!” Aunty Romola warns.
I have the routine down pat –
“Excuse me!” (That’s me in one of three languages) “May I take your picture?” …
“They probably agree just because you’re a woman,” my friend Suresh says when I show him my cache of pictures.
I never thought of that.
Aunty Romola squeaks when she sees this one –
“That’s my friend Sharmini’s maid!” she says. “Where did you find her?”
I e-mail the picture to Aunty Rom, who sends it on toher friend, who chides the sweet old lady for posing for a stranger. “Don’t you know they do terrible things on the internet?”
The poor thing is horrified.
Aunty Rom looks over her shoulder. “Did you get that?”
Aunty Romola is beginning to see with my eyes …
She points again. “Get that!”
That is a line of tiny clothing hanging out to dry between a lamp post and a tree.
Not far away, a beggar family is asleep on the tiled threshold of an upscale store.
The city landscape is changing rapidy. A handful of remembered landmarks from my girlhood remain –
Lovely old colonial homes –
Are being torn down –
to make way for more high-rises-
This is Mr C.R. de Silva, a friendly retiree from Washington, DC. We often pass him and his wife on their morning stroll. Today he’s pruning the greenery hanging over his garden wall.
This charming gent delights and intrigues me with his impeccable English and private school accent –
(It must be over 40 degrees celsius inside the lottery ticket booth.) I ask about his family. He tells me he’s single and lives alone. He’s inclined to chat and I’d love to linger. The lights change, time to cross Duplication Road. The aunties urge me on.
I ask Dad about Dr Chinniah, who was my dentist when I was a girl (too long ago). Is he still in practice?
Aunty Romola and I bump into Dr. Chinniah on Galle Road.
Only in Sri Lanka!
Doyne and Sunitha are my neighbours in Canada –
during the cold months,
La dolce vita …
I partake of a sumptuous breakfast and warm Sri Lankan hospitality in their fabulous home.
This year Sri Lanka celebrates the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on April 13th and 14th. It’s all about the astrologically pre-determined auspicious time.
For days the metropolis of Colombo becomes a ghost-town. I stand in the middle of Galle Road, the capital’s normally traffic-choked main thoroughfare, to take pictures.
Overnight showers have done nothing to ease the stickiness. The streets glisten with pretty puddles.
Aunty Romola suggests we pop in at Aunty Christine-and-Uncle Chandi’s for a quick visit. Their home is along our route.
Aunty Christine is my cousin Dileeni’s mother-in-law and Aunty Rom’s cousin (and not my aunt at all!). It’s 7:15 am. They are a charming couple, gracious and welcoming, notwithstanding the early hour. They’ve been married for sixty plus years. I meet them for the first time. We stay for fifteen minutes.
Aunty Romola and I walk home holding cinnamon branches from Uncle Chandi’s well tended garden. They’ll serve as plant-props on Aunty ‘s balcony.
Dad sometimes takes an evening stroll at Independence Square.
and I accompany him. Dusk is falling when I happen upon this sweet old lady and her son.
She beams when he tells me her age. She’s ninety something years old.
This young family is happy to pose –
I click and I head towards the walking track to get this one –
and collide into my once-upon-a-time friend, Piyali. Piyali and I met (too many) years ago at a cooking class for young ladies. I’ve often wondered where she was.
We recognize each other instantly. I puff and pant to keep up as, never pausing, she sends me a friend request on Facebook and enters all my contact details into her phone. It’s boiling hot, I’m wilting.
I find out that Piyali’s in Colombo for a few days. She shuttles between Sri Lanka and Abu Dhabi, where her husband works. The timing of our meeting is amazing. She hasn’t changed one bit. She’s a mother-in-law now.
Dad showsme a copy of the family tree on his mother’s side. It dates back to 1670. I find Aunty Romola on it, so I guess she’s sort of an aunt after all!
Aunty Amitha messages me on Facebook . She’s back in Melbourne.
It’s spring again in Toronto. Suitcases are unpacked. I’m home.
Puppy is pleased.
I close my eyes and dream of Paradise. It’s such a long plane ride away.
There’s something about Sri Lanka. It’s …
To Paradise Island, land of endless summer, land of my birth –
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Rush hour traffic on Friday morning. A chopped-off bar of colour appears ahead, directly above the steering wheel.
A sideways glance at my passenger. “Look at the gorgeous bit of rainbow!”
No response from Daughter. I turn into the bus station, and …
An equal-opposite matching wedge in pastel colours. The slices cling to the sky, like two pillars on either side of the building.
Enchanting. Delighted …
“Look, another piece. Heaven is smiling!
! It’s going to be special!”
Daughter throws a puzzled look and hops out of the car. “Bye, Mom.”
I park some feet away, remove sunglasses, raise camera-phone to click. No rainbow.
Disappointed. Turn key in the ignition, put sunglasses back on and … my chunks of rainbow are back!
Lower the glasses to the tip of my nose. Rainbow-chunks disappear. Realization dawns. These stumps of rainbow are only visible through tinted glasses. Daughter never saw them. She must have thought I was nuts.
I’ve just seen beauty un-visible to the naked eye. Life’s like that sometimes, isn’t it?
I drive home realizing that
because Inner Me wears tinted lenses born from the dark seasons she’s lived through.
I suppose the soul-sunglasses are to blame for how my eyes perceive things. Like last week, when I was in the mall minding my business. I had this serious urge to step into Hallmark Cards and …
Three ceramic ornaments in different spots — two below eye level and half turned away from where I stood — held hands and stood up to shout with one voice –
Message for the day?
– honest! I’m
to convince me and
I took this picture some months back.
How I laughed. That’s me. I can’t help it!
P.S. Keep the sunglasses on!
This post is dedicated to my friend Marietta with my thanks for the pictures she took and shared with me. I’ve used one of them in this piece. All the other photos are digital moments captured on my phone.
“It’s weird, Rosie. I walked into Winners and the shelves came alive. As if the display had been contrived just for me. The words were flying out from everywhere. Odd thing is, I hadn’t planned to go there. Just felt an overwhelming urge as I drove by, so I popped in.”
I show pictures –
There was more.
I met Rosalyn two years ago, on Fanstory, a website for writers. Turned out she lived round the corner, not in Alaska, Australia or … Timbuctoo!
to talk about writing and … our dreams. The more we talk, the less unattainable they seem.
Rosalyn scrolls through the pictures on my phone. I chatter on –
“The same thing happened when I visited my cousin in Ohio over the Thanksgiving weekend. We went on an unplanned shopping trip and – oh, my goodness! – the place was alive with … dreams, Rosie. Look!”
More pictures –
“It’s called universal synchronicity,” Rosalyn volunteered.
“Synchro … what?”
“That’s what my son says it is. It means the universe is trying to tell you something.”
“The universe? You mean God?”
“Whatever you like to call it. Something’s trying to communicate with you.”
“To encourage me to keep dreaming?”
“I guess so. Yes!”
“A man almost collided into my shopping cart last week. My eyes popped out of my head when the lettering on his T-shirt began to screech!”
Rosalyn grins. “You got a picture?”
“I chased him down the Walmart parking lot and asked it I could. Told him the words were significant. Said I wasn’t a crazy woman!”
She chuckles. “You dared?”
“He obliged. I had to record the moment. This stuff has been happening a lot lately.”
I flash more pictures –
My words trip over one another. “I’ve caught more than a thousand moments on my phone, Rosie. Look at what I saw last Saturday, on a shelf at Winners. It had no business there – ladies’ section, face up – staring at me … ”
“It kind of grew and screamed … honest! I was rushing past, not really looking.” I barely pause for breath. “I found a belated Christmas present in my mailbox some days back. From a friend I haven’t met in ages. I almost jumped out of my skin when I opened the package and saw the words on the picture frame.”
A dream come true!
Rosalyn, bless her, is never sceptical.
“I had to see someone on Saturday. When I drove into the parking lot of her building, something grew out of the corner of my eye. It filled my line of vision.
Rosalyn looks amused. “You took a picture, of course.”
“It was parked at the far end. There was absolutely no reason for me to notice it.”
“And then I had this compelling to drop in at Indigo Books. I hadn’t been there in ages. This paper weight jumped up the moment I walked in –
The words seemed to be on every item that caught my eye. Suddenly, I heard a child’s voice mumbling, ‘Dream bigger, darling’. I got goose bumps. The kid was reading out loud. He held a pencil case in his hands, the words were etched on it. It felt pleasant, you know, and kind of weird!”
It’s snowing outside. The medium white hot chocolate is warm in my hands. I take a deep breath and sigh. “I’m excited, Rosie!”
“Me too,” Rosalyn replies. “This synchronicity thing has been happening to me too!”
This post is dedicated to my friends – Rosalyn (who’s such a wonderful listener), Alice (who delighted me with the unexpected gift) and Karen (who dropped it off in my mailbox). With my love and thanks.