Good Morning (Again) Colombo!

Dear Judy,      

Splashes of butter and blood met my eye when I looked through the kitchen window, just two weeks ago.  Time to put the terra cotta flower pots away in the garage.

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View from kitchen window two weeks back.  The Virginia creeper blazed up and down the fence as the morning sun buttered the landscape with gold.

                                   

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My friend Judy Starrit (centre), who lives in BeaverBank, Nova Scotia.

                                                                                                So summer’s officially done.      

I messaged you two months ago: What can I bring you from Sri Lanka?

You replied: Send me pictures of your culture.

Puppy had the usual anxiety attack. Suitcases are a rotten omen, as far as he’s concerned.  

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Puppy hoping to halt the packing process. 

I decided to visit Dad later in the year, to avoid the hot season.   Got fried last April.

Texted Aunty Rom  (who’s not really my aunt!): I’m arriving in Colombo in two weeks. Looking forward to our morning walks.                        

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Aunty Rom, my stalwart walking companion.  This birthday card she mailed on one of our morning meanders never reached its destination.     

The familiar sense of homecoming as the plane touched down on the tarmac. I’ve spent more than half my life away from the motherland.

Sinhalese words came diffidently to my lips, then slid out with fluency. It takes my tongue a few minutes to get acclimatized.

Dad’s driver was waiting outside.  He cranked up the air conditioning.  The roads were congested, though it was still early in the morning.  

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Vijitha, Dad’s faithful driver and general factotum

 

 

A bewildering sea of highrises punctured the sky around me.

Colombo is currently the fastest growing metropolis in Asia, I’ve been told …

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The Lotus Tower (new since my last visit).  A Chinese investment.  The tallest free-standing structure in Asia.  

 

 

The Lotus Tower , dominates the skyline.

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City of Colombo growing upwards for as far as the eye can see

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Higher and higher …
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View from my friend, Angali’s balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NO LIMIT.  Sure looks like it …

Rush hour traffic is in full swing and Dad’s just waking up when we get home.  

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Dad’s home
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Dad’s halfway up. Never thought the parents would adjust so well to condo living. 

 

 

Everything’s spick and span, crisp linen in the guest room, a fresh breeze and the sun streaming in through the open balcony doors.

A resounding emptiness, though.  A sort of hollow ache  as the eye alights on an empty rocking chair, the laptop idling under a dustcloth and the vacant seat beside Dad’s easy chair in front of the  living room TV.

It’s been two and a half years.  Hard to believe.

I missed Mum’s embrace, her radiant smile.

 “How are you, my darling girl?”

Latha had prepared pol roti and katta sambol for breakfast.  

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Pol roti (coconut flatbread) and katta sambol (a fiery mixture of dried red chillis and raw onions). A carb-laden breakfast favourite.  Homecoming heaven!

Yum …

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Latha, Dad’s cook/ housekeepeer

 

 

 

 

 

Dad drove us to Independent Square in the evening to catch some fresh air.  I struggled to keep awake.  

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Independence Square, where the who’s who of Colombo go to keep fit, see and be seen

This is my Dad, Judy.                                        

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Dad enjoying a quiet moment under a banyan tree by the walking track at the old racecourse. 

He was a strikingly handsome man in his day. 

Independence Square is a great place for people-watching.  I got unobtrusively busy with my camera.

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A place for  lovers …
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… and loners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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… and quiet reflection
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Backpack and burkha
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Caption: My Shirt Made a Difference (It did.  I paused to take a picture of it)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daddy and his princess
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Secrets of childhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A moment to breathe
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Palm trees in silhouette.  Twilight shrouds Independence Square.  Time to go home for dinner. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A change of scene the next evening, when Dad headed for Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park).  An imposing statue of Queen Victoria appears to have materialized out of nowhere.

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Queen Victoria’s Statue (purloined from where it had been dumped decades ago, after independence) restored to its original spot just before the recent Commonwealth Conference. 

There’s a different ambiance in this space, besides the gnarly, mammoth trees, probably planted in Victorian times —

…  it’s the lovers cuddling beneath the colossal branches!

For as far as the eye can see …

Maybe because someone forgot to put up a sign like this one —

Tongue in cheek, of course …

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Sign set up at the old racecourse: This is a place of National Significance.  Keep Discipline

Around six o’clock, dusk begins to fall and uniformed decency police appear to guard the morals of the nation. The amorous pairs are shooed out of the park.

Don’t laugh, Judy.  I’m not fibbing – honest!

Three-wheeler tuk tuks swarm all over the city like a plague of locusts.  They are the quickest and most precarious mode of transport in this traffic-choked city. The captions adorning the bodywork often had me chuckling —

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“City Boy” — as opposed to … Country Boy?
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“Don’t touch my heart” (scroll in to see the words)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“God bless you”
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“I am strong to carry you” (I certainly hope so!)

 

 

 

 

 

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“Bad Boyz 008” (Like James Bond 007?)
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True liberty is to be A free of viceses (think they mean VICES?)
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Pirates of the Caribbean 

 

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Nobody honest in the world (how sad!)

So why is this one stuffed into the open doorway of an empty showroom?

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The door hasn’t been installed yet, so for overnight security …

Still good old tuk tuks are the go-to mode of emergency transport, I’ve often resorted to myself.  A wild ride.  Kids find it a hoot.

Uber is the latest trend, though, and so much cheaper with heavenly airconditioned vehicles …

I was up all night for the first ten days,  Jet lag kills me.  It gets worse with the passage of time.

The early walks with Aunty Rom were my day’s highlight. 

In spite of these urgings –

and the necessary tools left lying around —

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Road sweeper’s ekel broom on the sidewalk,  leaning against a tree 
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Garbage collector’s handcart 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… and these willing workers

— the streets looked uncared for, garbage piled up in corners, picked over by crows and stray dogs.

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The instructions are pretty clear
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Check out the mess under the sign …

 

 

A disappointing regression since the government changed hands.

The supervised disposal of crow’s nests has been abadondoned, Aunty Rom tells me.

Animal rights activists or government cutbacks.  Don’t recall  …

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Mama crow guarding her nest. These raucous scavengers are becoming a problem again. 

The morning walks energized me, Judy. I began each day embracing the essence of the city with all its quirks and complexities.    

I remember this woman from last year —

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This gentle homeless woman has a puppy in her arms today.  
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This was her last year with just the one dog. (Click here : Good Morning Colombo! for story)
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Aunty Rom and me as the sun rides highter
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Dawn over Colombo city.  My favourite time of day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The homeless slumber on –

… and the dogs —

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The stray dogs – all mild and minding their own business –  have increased in numbers since I was last here.  A troubling threat of rabies.
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Abandoned coverlet and water bottle.  Someone just woke up

Vigorously cleaning business premises —

At the bus stop. To school and work –

And so the day begins –

Early morning moments –

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Beggar freshening up at public tap
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Maid going to work at the big house
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Young vagabond with electricity in his eyes …
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Dust pan and broom seller
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Newspaper delivery – motocycle and …
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… by bike. (Sarong tucked up high)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my favourite moments, captured just for you, Judy –

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Walking his employer’s dog
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Happy to pose for camera lady
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“Where’s that wife of mine? …”
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“… where the heck is she?
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Lady in red 
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“Just dropped in at the temple …”
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Jaunty three-and-a-half-legged dog …
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… pausing to check out a pile of garbage before hopping merrily on its way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Whats App, Doc?”

The streets at peace half an hour before morning mayhem breaks out –

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Peeping Tom
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Laurel and Hardy. These billboard pasters came rolling up and spilled out of a tuk tuk ..
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… and asked to pose for a second picture, pot of glue and all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Graceful lady cop
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Flock of nurses off to work
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What’s in the hand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast from the corner vendor

 

 

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“Hey, thanks for the brekkie money!”
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In a mighty hurry
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Shoolgirls packed like sardines into a private van.

Business is brisk at the food truck –

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At the corner of Dad’s street

Aunty Rom and I pass these two every  morning –

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Determined walker. This one means business, down to the nifty running shoes
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On her way to work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aunty Rom pauses to pick up her newspaper –

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A moment to chat with the vendor.  English newspaper, please.

From time to time she suprised me with a detour.  Like the time we popped in at Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine’s home and sat for a while chatting.

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Aunty Rom with Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine (not my uncle and aunt!), aunty Rom’s cousins and my cousin’s in-laws.  I met them for the first time last year when we ‘dropped in’ during one of our walks.  
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Uncle Chandi’s  lovely garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I acquired a new aunty when I took this picture last year. 

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Her name is Welai.  Met her at the corner store by the church, early one morning last April. (Click here for the story in Good Morning Colombo)

Found out later that the smiling woman was the employee of Aunty Rom’s friend, Sharmini.

Only in  Sri Lanka …

Newest aunt, Sharmini, invited us both over for breakfast one Tuesday morning. Aunty Rom and I walked over.  We’d been Facebook friends since the photo incident, and met face to face for the first time today.

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Aunty Sharmini (right) in her beautiful home (with Aunty Rom)

Warm, generous Sri Lankan hospitality …

Welai had prepared a delicious meal of pol roti, chicken curry and spicy, accompaniments. Fresh bananas for dessert.

So good …

She was all dressed up to meet us and quite overwhelmed to encounter the camera lady once again!

 

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Welai, feeling shy, in her Sunday best.  All dressed up for Aunty Rom and me

New aunty has a lovely Secret Garden.

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Aunty Sharmini and Welai at the entrance to the Secret Garden. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welai looking coy and posing in the garden wearing her regular work clothes!

 

 

The sun rode high in the sky.  Too sticky to walk.  Aunty Rom and I took a tuk tuk back home.

The next week,  Aunty Rom, New Aunty and I went to breakfast at the Commons Coffee House, steps away from new aunty Sharmini’s home.  

Scrumptious cheese toast with good friends, all because I made a random click on my I Pad …

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Singing in the rain.  Aunty Sharmini (left) and Aunty Rom outside Commons Coffee House, Cinnamon Gardens.  

 

 

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Sri Lankan Menu (Commons Coffee House)

 

 

 

 

 

Some mornings Aunty Rom surprised me with a different route (to feed my appetite for photography), pointing out stately homes.  Many of them are commercial buildings now.

The remaining single unit homes lurk behind high fortress-type fortification walls and iron gates.

A handful old mansions still remain private residences –

… a couple of them in varying stages of disrepair.

Love how flowers and foliage create waterfalls of colour along walls and from balconies —

Destructive love language along the sidewalk …

Architecture and construction accommodate behemoth trees –

The iconic Cricket Club Café has changed locations. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the old location is for sale —

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FOR SALE proclaims this gate …

… or not!

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NOT FOR SALE declares the gate at the other end.  Didn’t notice till Aunty Rom pointed it out.  Someone can’t make up their mind!

Paradise Road Galleries on Dad’s street has been torn down –

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The rubble of Paradise Road, a classy tourist shopping spot
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Took this pic last year

 

 

 

 

 

to make way for yet another highrise.

Found time to browse at Dean the Bookman’s secondhand store – 

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Discovered Dean at the Saturday pola (farmers’ market) at Torrington Square last year.  Bought this copy of short stories by Guy de Maupassant
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A 20 volume collection of Dickens novels, over a hundered years old, on sale for Rs. 20,000 ($200 Canadian approx)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the old colonial cemetery where we buried Mum two and a half years ago, Judy.

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Kanatte Cemetary.  I never saw it as a place of beauty until now

I’ve just discovered the beauty of  the old memorial monuments.  Wonder why I’ve never noticed before. I was almost tempted to stand in the sunshine and recite Victorian elegies, surrounded by discoloured Italian marble gravestones.  Some of the sculptures are really quite exquisite.

China is pumping money into this country. Thousands of Chinese construction workers are swarming all over the city of Colombo. 

This is the future Port City, a Chinese enterprise –

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View of Port City from lighthouse.  Reclaimed land, stretching fifteen miles out into the sea, leased to China for ninety nine years. 

The ocean at Galle Face, where generations of Colombo dwellers came to relax and enjoy the fresh, salt air is gone.  The Galle Face Green where you could fly kites, buy a cone from the Alerics ice cream van and have a ride on a sad, mangy pony, barely exists anymore.  What’s left of it is all withered and brown.

Not sure how smart an idea this Port City is, politically speaking …

Slave Island is the dizziest hub of construction in the city –

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The star of them all is the Leaning Tower (Altair building).  By day …
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… and by night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka, Judy, are very much like India, with a lot less people, of course, and not as colourful.  And less dirt, I suppose.

The varied face of Colombo fascinates me –

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Working girl carrying her saree with grace
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Beggar commencing his day

 

 

 

 

 

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Woman and street dog: crossing the road in opposite directions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shoe shopping
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Cool dude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Cheque, please!”

 

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Dapper gran’pa …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Texting and walking

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flexibilty of the Sri Lankan woman is pretty amazing …

Umbrellas, come rain or sun —

Tried my hand at rainy day photography.  Quite pleased with the outcome –

The street of my childhood grows less recognizable each time I go back.

Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen’s home is one of the few original houses in the old neighbourhood.

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Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen at their front porch. The last of the original homes.  They lived two doors down from us. She was one of Mum’s close friends.

A highrise is under construction on the premises of  #13 where my old home used to be located —

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A highrise at #13, stomping on memories of the past

I’m embarrassed to admit that lunch become another highlight of my day.  Latha excelled herself –

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Red rice and curry accompaniments.  Three meals a day, served up on Mum’s Noritake dinnerware, with linen napkins and everything.  I packed on the pounds fast!

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I miss the leisured  simplicity of life as it used to be when I was growing up.

Change is inevitable of course.  It just took longer coming to Sri Lanka …

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Sidewalk strewn with temple flowers (frangipani) before the sweepers get going
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Betel juice.  An ungenteel ‘provincial’ habit that needs to change. Red spittle on the sidewalk from chewing betel leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The old Parliament building from colonial times

 

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Colombo lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

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Galle Road in Sinhalese, Tamil and English.  The city’s main thoroughfare, leading all the way down to Galle down south

 

 

 

 

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View from the lighthouse

 

 

 

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Little Lion ice cream from Top Shelf.  Consumed copious quantities of it as a girl!

 

 

 

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New concept.  Hindu temple (golden dome visible) atop a highrise.

 

 

 

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… and Elton John!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy, have  I mentioned the research I’ve been doing towards writing a  book on Mum’s ancestry?  I chased clues all over the city.

Felt like a character in The Da Vinci Code

I spent fascinating hours with Mum’s cousins and some distant relatives I’d never met before –

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Aunties Daisy and Sybil (real aunts!), Mum’s cousins with old photograph albums. 
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Mums’ cousin, Paranidhi.  Met her for the first time.  Went back to visit twice more.  A fount of old family history and intriguing insider stories.  

 

 

 

 

Heard some incredible stories from the family archives, gathered a goldmine of information and tons of old photos.  A  mountain of notes to be transcribed. Almost wore my hand out writing in longhand as fast as it would move!

So when Daughters enquired (during a Whats App phone conversation) if I was bored, I answered: “No, I create my own adventures.  There’s a new one every day and I can barely keep up with them all!”

The plan was for Husband to fly out from Toronto and join me after two weeks. While talking on the phone before he arrived, we decided, on the spur of the moment, to visit the Jaffna peninsula together.  This area, a war zone for decades, is where our ancestors hail from. 

With only days to go and a specific cut-and-paste tour in mind, I had to figure out how to make it happen.

Then I remembered … Jungle Fowl!              

Jungle …what?                                                                           

I’ll tell you all about it in the next post. 

Until then, take care, my friend. I intentionally recorded every detail of this trip just for you, so you were sort of travelling along with me, you know.

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Judy with  her grandson, Eamon, and JOY on the windowsill
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My friend, Judy, chooses to live out her diagnosis of ALS with joy.  She is an inspiration to everyone she encounters.  Click here to read Judy’s story in Love Those Bhangra Boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I’m thankful for you, Judy.  You inspire me to keep living out joy, because joy doesn’t depend upon external circumstances. It comes from within.  

Love always and thinking of you, my friend,

sincerely

p.s  Woke up to our first snowfall this morning.   Oh Canada …

Just got a text from Aunty Rom.  She wrote:  A few days ago, I met the dog lady.  She said the puppy had been run over.  I was happy for her, so she didn’t have to find food for another mouth. This morning, she had another, carried in a box!

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Birthday Cakes and Secrets

On the first family trip to England, Mum had us pose in front of Buckingham Palace while she attempted to take a picture of Dad, Sister and me against the backdrop of the Changing of the Guards.  

The guards had changed and gone their way by the time the picture focused to satisfaction. Sister and I  teased her about it for years to come.

Smile please …                        

Everyone was using pocket cameras.  Sis and I were embarrassed by the ghastly contraption Mum still wielded with pride!

We flew on to Singapore where Dad bought us girls a Kodak Instamatic with disposable flash bulbs.  

Colour pictures … yay, finally!

Shudder to think of the environmental impact from all the used  flash bulbs we gleefully dumped in the trash can.

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“Smile please,” for the Yashica, at the Trevi Fountain, Rome.  Me with Dad and Sister (centre).  Have to check if Sis has the Palace picture (without the guards!)
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Dad, Mum, me (in rising order) on moving escalator in Zurich, Switzerland.  Instant focus with the new Instamatic captured moving subjects.  A new era in family photography.

Mum discovered the joys of photography around age 12 when she got a gift of a Brownie camera

She still had it when Sis and I were kids …       

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Kodak Brownie.  A later version of Mum’s camera. (Courtesy Google images)

Mum’s crisp black-and-white photos display an instinct for capturing the ‘moment’ and an unerring eye for placing and composition.

When sister and I were little, Mum acquired the Yashica, also sort of box-camera-ish

Sleeker, less ‘primitive’,  more sophisticated  …

It took ages to focus with Mum staring into the open Yashica ‘box’ in her hands, at an upside down image. 

She’d  murmur, “Smile, smile” through fixed grin and puckered brow, our features remaining in frozen limbo until we heard the click and a cheerful ‘thank you’!

Felt like forever!                                                                   

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Mum’s Yashica (courtesy Google images)
Latest in modern technology! Kodak Instamatic with disposable flash, wrist strap and film

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum often said she wanted to get an ‘unawares’ shot.

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Preoccupied with underwear. What Sis and I thought we heard Mum say.  We’d go into hysterics! 

Sister and I heard … underwears! 

We hadn’t the foggiest notion what she meant.

 

 

 

 

 

She caught us unawares all right.  The delightful album-memories bear testimony to the fact.

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Puzzled.  “Okay, so what IS it?”  Little sister and me with oldest cousin, Sri. 
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“Did you hear that?”  Sister (right) and me
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Sheer joy, unawares.  Sister (left) and me with Dad.

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Mum’s was the era of stay-at-home mothers. Those who were in the professions were nevertheless the proud masters of the housewifely arts.  They cooked, sewed, hung for hours on the telephone with other women, shared recipes, discussed the current price of important commodities like sugar, rice and eggs, wrote lengthy, polite letters and never forgot birthdays and anniversaries.

At family concerts we kids ‘did’ Mum and aunties talking on the phone …

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Me pretending to be Mum on the phone with one of her sisters 

When Sister and I got married, we each received a special gift from Mum.    An album of photographs – mostly black and white photos and some washed out Kodak and Polariod colour pictures – each one tailored to document our lives from birth to early adulthood.

All meticulously labelled …

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A gallery of our early lives, with love from Mum.

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 With Mum’s unexpected passing two years ago, I lost my best friend and discovered a treasure trove of old pictures while cleaning out cupboards and putting things in order for Dad. 

Eyes popped out of my head as a pictorial record of family history unfolded …

Who ARE these folks? (Dad has no idea. Dying to know!)

Entered a new realm.  Memories of bygone days surfaced from boxes, dusty files and disintegrating albums.

Mum’s voice recounting fragments of family legends echoing in the recesses of my mind …

The past came alive in a way that didn’t seem possible.  Moments in time frozen on faded bits of glossy paper,  pictures worth  thousands of words.

Family.  Grandpas, grannies, aunties, uncles, cousins …                                                      

Cousins might not necessarily be immediate ‘first’ cousins.  Sometimes you might not be quite sure how you’re related!
Me (left) and Sister on a play date with Mali (centre), our THIRD cousin.  Her grandpa and ours were first cousins.
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Birthday parties – just the cousins were crowd enough. (Me, a baby in cousin Chris’ arms, far left)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weddings were a huge deal, grand affairs.  Guest lists could run into the hundreds.  Your parents’ friends and business associates and in-laws’ in-laws might be invited. And the neighbours, of course.

No fib. Honest!

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The workers from Mum’s family’s firm at her wedding.  They arrive bearing a gift-wrapped china dinner set  (I own it now and use it on special occasions)
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Dad and Mum’s wedding

Little girls were dressed to the nines in scratchy, organdy dresses often ‘smocked’ by hand,  with stiff  ‘can can’ skirts underneath.  A nightmare to sit down in.  

Detested those cancans …

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Cancans and bows for Aunty Elizabeth’s engagement party.  Sister (left) and me outside Westholme, Kinross Avenue, Mum’s family home.

Engagements were solemn, formal family affairs, with a priest/ minister to officiate.

Pretty much as  binding as the marriage ceremony itself …

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All the cousins, uncles and aunts on Mum’s side at Aunty Elizabeth and Uncle Selva’s engagement.  Toddler Sister seated between the couple.  Cousin Shiro the only one still to be born.

You were as important to the aunties and uncles as their own offspring –

The aunties even cared enough to tell  you off as if you were their own!      

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She does!

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Sister (left) and me with Babby (Mum’s younger sister, Elizabeth), my godmother.  I lived with her family for two years while Dad worked in West Africa.  She sewed some of my clothes and treated me as her own. 
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Uncle Prince, my godfather, recently celebrated his 95th birthday.  (Mum’s sister Ruby’s husband).  He’d always visit, very late in the evening after work at his clinic,for as long as we were laid up in bed with sundry ailments.  He never billed patients who were financially in a bad way.  Treatment was free for clergy of all religions.

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Sister and me with Uncle Peter (Mum’s older brother) who lived with us for some of his bachelor years after Westholme, the old family home, was sold.  Sis and I hung around in his room whenever we got into trouble, until the situation cooled, knowing he would intervene if Mum hunted us down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chances are your best friend was a cousin, the one closest in age to you  –

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Me (lying on mat) and cousin Dileeni.  Besties since we were babes.
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Gotta have a sun hat!  Rarely apart.  Dileen (left) and me.

Such secrets you’d share!

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And she whispers in mine …
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I whisper in her ear …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You both could be flower girls together, several times over –

Two for the price of one!

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Little flower girls.  Dileeni (to bride’s right) and me at Babby and Uncle Selva’s wedding.
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Flowers girls again!  Me (left) and cousin Dileeni at Aunty Betty’s (Mum’s cousin’s) wedding
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… and again!  Dileeni (left) and me, experienced flower girls at our oldest cousin Sri’s wedding.

No need to wonder why Getting Married and Having A Baby used to be our favourite dress up games!

We created our own entertainment, inspired by the Enid Blyton books we devoured. An active imagination and a bunch of henchmen was all a handful of cousins required. 

We all loved to read.

No one called you a nerd or geek.  It’s what kids did …

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This little girl reminded me of myself as a kid. 
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Puppy posing with some favourites from my childhood
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Sister and me with my doll, Cynthia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endless doll’s tea parties – 

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Dileeni (right) and me
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Sis and me With Baby Cousin Shiro and my dolls Cynthia, Diana and Minerva (Mum named them, probably)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never seemed to outgrow the toys and board games.  Played with them for years.

Those were the days …

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Me with cousins’ toys.  We all shared.

Don’t recall ever being bored as a child.

Two cousins, Sister and I once crawled into our pretend kitchen, a curtained alcove under a desk space, to melt squares of chocolate over a burning candle.

Melted  chocolate is delicious spread over Marie biscuits …

We could have set the house on fire.

When best friend/ cousin set up a lab at home, you  followed suit. 

My lab sat on a rickety table in a corner of the kitchen …

Best friend/ cousin obtained test tubes from her dad’s clinic.  Litmus paper too.  And needle-less syringes.  She always shared.

We performed acid/base watch-the-colour-change litmus experiments with vinegar and lime juice …

There were those school-holiday cousin sleepovers, Monopoly games that went on for days, birthday parties and breathtaking birthday cakes –

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Sister and Me with my 7th birthday Humpty Dumpty cake made by Mum.  She handcrafted Humpty Dumpty out of parchment icing and painted him in with food colouring.

Rocking horses and fluffy pets –

Piano lessons and picnics, seaside frolics, Sunday School.  And cousins, cousins, cousins –

A kinder, gentler time, a different world.  No TV.  

Innocent and enchanted …

Though a late bloomer, I think I’ve inherited Mum’s love of photography and her desire to record the precious, never-to-be-replicated moments. 

And like Mum, I’m in less than a handful of photographs in my immense digital library!

So thankful for this gift of photo-memories from the past. 

Much to remember, much to write about.   That’s what next times are for.

So until next time,

sincerely

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Cousin Dileeni (left) and me.  Still close friends though we live at opposite ends of the world.

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That Corner Chair

Ever paused to check out what folks are doing at bus stops, or observed  parents with kids in restaurants, in the park?

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Eyes on phone.  Caregiver of disabled children. In local mall.
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In the mall at Christmastime.  Not interested in atmosphere, decorations,  festive music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The forty-something-and-under phenomenon.  Hunched over phones …

Shook my head head in disbelief as I took this one –

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Youngster manning Salvation Army Christmas Kettle – crouched over phone and halfheartedly ringing bell with free hand.  Guess why kettle’s almost empty.
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As it should be.  Smiling Kettle Person happy to pose at WalMart.  Couldn’t help emptying  my purse of all its spare change.

Times have changed. Sad.

Life’s blazing flicker moments come and go.  In plain sight.

So easy to miss …

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………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Happened to look out of window as sun rose last week.    Picked up phone and clicked.   

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Sunrise over neighbour’s home

Minutes later –                                                     

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Brighter, more gold

Stark contrast in brightness of light and sharpness of shadow.  Parable for the day –

Only a matter of time before things get brighter …      

Might have missed the golden moments in morning haste, if I hadn’t happened to look.  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….     Objects have such power to transport me back to associated moments.

 When I look at these – 

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The moment I stand at this bay window, I’m back in assorted paradise climes where I found the shells and starfish
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Enormous bathroom collage of shells from  shores around the world.  Daily I re-live the joy of beach-combing.  The sense of remembered joy never fades.

                                                                                                        

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Ah, to be a dewdrop in lush, humid rain forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there’s Chair-In-The-Corner .

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Husband’s maternal grandpa’s chair.  Over a century old, from Kopay, Jaffna.  

Hansi putuwa in the vernacular.  Translated: resting chair

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Infant Husband with grandfather on said Corner Chair .

Miracle child, my husband.  Survived despite all odds.

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Cutie Pie- now mine!

Parents who dared to believe.  Mother with dogged faith –

He’s going to be okay …

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Husband with parents after christening at St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Borella.  (Left) Maternal grandparents, (right) Paternal grandparents
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“Hi there!”.  Dad, Mom and precious first born (two brothers to follow)

– and Maternal Granny who pretty much slept with head in his crib at night that first year.

Just in case …            

Grew to be strong as an ox, that babe, healthy as a horse.                     

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A deep, strong bond to the very end of her life. Husband and Ammamma (His mom’s mom). 

And married me …  

Testimony to power of prayer, faith,  love, positive thinking.

 

 

 

 

………………………………………………………………………………….

Visually struck by the obvious.  See how reflection in mirror changes.

Depending on where I stand,  angle I look from …

Another parable?  Sort of.

How do I perceive situations that arise?

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It will, but can it hold you?
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Need more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider, ponder on definition of joy.  An inner grace, un-dependent on circumstances.  Ability to be thankful.  To see the glass  half full, not half empty.  To look back with gratitude.    

And embrace even the unbearable uglies …

To be able to evoke music from within –     

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Music from within??

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Determined to believe the best is yet to come.      

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“The best is yet to come”.  Caption on van zipping past on Saturday morning.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Thankful husband’s life was spared to marry me.  Thankful for our daughters.

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He and Me.  Post-cancer treatment cruise.  Sketched Antigua, West Indies. (Bears passing resemblance to Husband, None at all to me.)
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New York City artist.  Striking reproduction of the twins’ ‘inner essence’ 

    

 

 

 

Thankful for nine cancer-free years.       

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Pink ribbons for breast cancer.  Holy Spirit Dove.  Mother-in-law’s handiwork.  A gift to celebrate the end of chemo.  Always grateful for in-laws’ loving care and support.

 

 

 

 

Wordless gratitude …  

Wishing you thankful joy today.   May it sidle sweetly in and entice you to come out and play –

In spite of yourself …

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Until next time,   

sincerely

They Called Her Mrs B

So Mrs Clinton doesn’t make it.

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All trumped up.  (A photo-shopped Donald?)
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          Hilary Clinton (Pants Suit Lady)                    
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A woman in the White House – ah when, oh, when?

American dreams of woman shattering glass ceiling are … shattered.  

 

 

 

 

 

Glass ceiling on international stage is shattered in 1960 when simple housewife steps into defunct husband’s shoes, becomes world’s first woman premier –

Old enough to remember?

Sirimavo Bandaranaike,  Madam Prime Minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), island home of world’s best tea  …

They called her Mrs B.

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                         Sirimavo Bandaranaike with Soviet Union Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin

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Way to go,  little Boy Scout! (Husband receives award from Mrs B at school prize giving)

Perplexing time in history of the  US of A. 

Glad to be Canadian  

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Begins with you and me … little drops of water, little grains of sand.
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The new reality.  Must it be this way?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

House renovations are finally done.  Just in time for house guests –

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My snoozing spots are gone, Mama! 
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   Relieved Puppy.  Hip hip hurrah!

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“If you love me, let me be … ” (Puppy and weekend Guest-let)
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Three hearty cheers. No place like home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arduous weeks prior –

Never again …

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Scrubber, that’s me!  Couldn’t wait to get mop and pail out … 
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Scary without railings, Mama!
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Much better, but slippery now. Carry me up, please …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next job: Duct cleaning –

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Quick phone call 
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 Connected up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff comes rumbling through vents into humongous tube.

Me to Duct Guy:  “Unearthed anything interesting over the years?”

Duct Guy:  “A Penthouse magazine once, dead ferret,  mouldy submarine sandwich.” 

Macabre Me: “Never any human body parts?”

Duct Guy (chuckling): “No!”

Boring …

Unseen toxic stuff all gone.   Household breathes so much easier.  

Literally …

Almost as wide as me. Gigantic tubing.

Feels like a parable –

Just because I can’t see what’s inside, doesn’t mean it’s not there and affecting who I am, how I function … 

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Sobering food for thought

 Do I need emotional housecleaning? Any residual gunk and uglies clogging me up?

Hmm …  

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Supermoon last week.  Crazy camera lady checks out rise/set times,  goes moon chasing.  Runs, walks.  Chilly, hungry, determined. 

Won’t to go home without pictures.  Thankful for unseasonably mild weather …

 Sun sets.  Ginormous blood-red orange slips into view above trees.  Bright as sun. 

Gasp!

Ipad and phone won’t do justice to immensity, colour and breathtaking grandeur. 

Pictures don’t record as eye sees. So disappointed.

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Reddish setting moon.  (In the park just before dawn)

 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 Summer-like weather most of last week.   Snap pictures of burning, brilliant gardens.

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Ankle-deep 

Neighbours’ leaves all raked, ready for pick up –

Mostly naked trees –

Some still stubbornly clothed –

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Squirrel-y busy-ness –

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In Wai Ling’s front yard

Half chewed apples all over Garden, stalwart summer blooms clinging on for dear life –

Delighted to find last, late (scrawny) strawberry –

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                                                    “Goodbye, my darling.  See you next spring!”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Seen him a couple of times –

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View from rear.  Glazed eyes.  Unshaven, unwashed.

Looks scruffy and lost. 

Homeless man?                   img_20161121_141352

Wish I could pluck up courage to say hello. 

Fear of rejection …

On my to do list: Talk to him.

 ………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Found this on fly leaf of an old book of Mum’s  –

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Mum’s handwriting.  Miss her gentle wisdom.

Material things were never a big deal with her –

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She said this a lot

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

This week’s assignment –

Deal with useless emotional junk.

May take some work …

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Open the doors.  Let it go.
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Mum once told me, “To have hurt feelings is pride.”

 

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… just a willing heart

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………………………………………………………………………………………………

Weather’s changed dramatically.

Trying ignore perpetually chilly toes.

At least I have toes  …

Thankful for toes!

Until next time,

sincerely

PS:  The photos in this post are moments captured on my Ipad and phone.  

Please support a local author – like this page on Facebook and follow.  Thanks for dropping in.

Good Morning Colombo!

”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

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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 –

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                                             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. 

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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.

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Romola de Mel (left) and, Amitha Fernando

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 …

“Stop!”

Aunties halt.

“Our shadows.  Look!  Don’t move.”

Aunties strike a pose.  Aim and tap.

“No backsides, please!”  Aunty Romola warns.garagedoorback

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The aunties and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 –

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“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 to her 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?”

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Picking flowers

“I did!”    

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. 

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Not far away, a  beggar family is asleep on the tiled threshold of an upscale  store.

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More Colomber 3-at-dawn moments –

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Drink up, baby, it’s good for you!
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You want my picture?  Why?
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Friday,  it’s mosque day.
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Hope for another day
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A sound night’s sleep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cripple

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All dressed up.  Tuk-tuk awaits
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Off to temple with mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On duty
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No school today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yep.  Just woke up.
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Early to school
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Before breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For more pictures go to Colombo Faces and Kollupitiya Places & Other Spaces)

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The city landscape is changing rapidy.  A handful of remembered landmarks from my girlhood remain –

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Lovely old colonial homes –

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colonialhome1colonialhome4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are being torn down –

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to make way for more high-rises-

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View from Dad’s condo

 

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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.

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Chanaka Richard de Silva 

 

This charming gent delights and intrigues me with his impeccable English and private school accent –  

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(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.  

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Dr Nithi Chinniah (left) with Aunty Romola

Only in Sri Lanka!

Doyne and Sunitha are my neighbours in Canada –

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Doyne and Sunitha Seneviratne

They

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during the cold months,

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La dolce vita …                

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Kiri bath and all the accompaniments, fresh mango for dessert

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.

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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.

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Overnight showers have done nothing to ease the stickiness.  The streets glisten with pretty puddles.

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Aunty Romola suggests we pop in at Aunty Christine-and-Uncle Chandi’s for a quick visit.  Their home is along our route.    

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Chandi and Christine Chanmugam

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.

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Cinnamon branch shadows

Dad sometimes takes an evening stroll at Independence Square.

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independencesquare.2

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and I accompany him.  Dusk is falling when  I happen upon this sweet old lady and her son.

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Mom and her boy

She beams when he tells me her age.  She’s ninety something years old.

This young family is happy to pose –

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Chip off the old block

I click and I head towards the walking track to get this one –

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Evening prayers (zoomed in from a distance)

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.

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Piyali Dissanayake 

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 shows me 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!


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givewingstoyourdreams

widenyourworld

allofsrilanka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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foot

 

 

 

 

 

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That’s me!

                         

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flowersonwall
Morning Glory

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At Katunayake International Airport
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Katunayake International Airport

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Aunty Amitha messages me on Facebook .  She’s back in Melbourne.  

It’s spring again in Toronto.  The suitcases are unpacked.  I’m home.  

Puppy is pleased.

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I close my eyes and dream of Paradise.  It’s such a long plane ride away.

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paradise foodcourt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s something about Sri Lanka.  It’s …

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To Paradise Island, land of endless summer, land of my birth –

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sincerely

 

Share the love, like this page and follw.   Until next time …