Dear Ravan, Look who’s back!
A lot had happened since Ravan left to meet his makers. Such was the allure of Sri Lanka, a small island country plentiful in its bounties, it attracted tourists from India and as far as Netherlands, United Kingdom, Portugal, who then refused to go back to their countries. In those days they were known as invaders. The forever greedy Brits seized power from the Kandyans and the island was finally united under the British in the 19th century.
Phew, there’s so much knowledge you can get from Wiki with just the click of a mouse!
Unlike Ram who is still the rockstar of the devout and is often used as an excuse to unleash violence on other communities, Ravan is buried firmly under the debris of history. Buddha is the rockstar of the Sinhalese and there are more monasteries in Lanka than there are men and women who claim to be children of cows.
Perhaps they are ashamed of a King who despite his 10 pairs of eyes that could see more, 10 heads that could think more, chose lust. It led to an apocalyptic ending for everyone and everything that was near and dear to him.
Sometimes I wish I weren’t so beautiful and sublime. I blame my striking charms for bringing out Ravan’s inner Jat. Maybe even had ‘Jat bwaays out to have fun’ painted on his Pushpak Viman and shot a couple of toll boys on his way back. Who knows! I was so busy crying and checking him out.
Nuwara Eliya looks nothing like Lankapura that Ravan had seized from Kuber, the lord of wealth. Snatching things that didn’t belong to him was an old habit of his, it seems.
Thanks to the British who have the proclivity for making every country they had occupied look like miniatures of the hamlets they left back home, Nuwara is no different. It is home to some of the finest tea estates where you waste hours sniffing and tasting different teas with fancy names and arrive at the conclusion that the tea grown in Darjeeling is superior in aroma and taste.
Nuwara Eliya has a lake named after a dead Englishman. It’s called Lake Gregory. The cabbie who we hired to take us around the township made us feel at home. He fleeced us just the way we fleece our tourists in India.
The lake looked so serene and clean that I started weeping with joy. We North Indians are not used to seeing clean water bodies. I almost fell off the cliff while clicking photos of gushing waterfalls on our way to Nuwara Eliya. There were so many of them and what’s more, all of them had water and no fat uncles frolicking in their Lux Cozy chaddis.
|Clicked by Hey Ram|
But I got really mad when I found that we had pay entrance fees to walk around the lake. Madder because foreigners irrespective of their third worldliness had to pay almost 15 times more.
The temple named after me (Seetha Amman) was glittery and red. Just when I was practising every Delhiite’s favourite line ‘pataa hai main kaun hoon’ I was told the temple has no entrance fee.
|Clicked by Hey Ram|
I was expecting to be mobbed but was heartbroken when no one recognised me. Should have dressed traditional, dammit! I looked at Ra accusingly and said ‘why didn’t you carry your bow?’ He responded by rolling his eyes like windshield wipers. He has been doing a lot these days. But then, even I didn’t recognise the idol supposed to be me. She looked so coy and bored at the same!
Maybe this is how we women looked during pre Netflix and online shopping days.
Horton plains, a protected forested reserve, over an hour’s drive away from Nuwara is considered a must visit. Spread over 31.6 sqkm, it is home to a unique ecosystem with abundant flora and fauna that’s been described as “a super biodiversity hotspot”. It has a trail of 9 kms with attractions like world’s end (a sheer precipice with a 870 mts drop) and Baker’s fall.
Poor Baker, his cake must have refused to rise.
|Ram clicked this|
We did not. The trail that starts off as an easy walk with vast grassy expanse on either side, suddenly develops curves like a Bollywood heroine. The series of boulders that you’re supposed to climb over make you yearn for four legs. The trail turns into streams and streams become trails.
In fact the trek is full of suspense. There are stretches where you don’t spot any humans for miles, and with no signage, you wonder if you’ve got lost and paid an entrance fee of 6k Sri Lankan Rupees (for 2) to die of starvation here.
On our drive back to Colombo we made a night’s halt at Kandy, famous for temple of Tooth. While Kandy, Sri Lanka’s last kingdom before the Britishers took over is buzzy, noisy, swarming with locals and tourists, Colombo is almost placid by contrast. Ra-aam and I have a weakness for seafood, especially crabs and our last stop in the capital was all about gastronomy and Digene.
Since we are both of the opinion, if you’ve seen one monastery, you’ve seen all, we firmly stuck to exploring the city and its many eating joints.
If you’re in Sri Lanka, you cannot return without a meal at Ministry of Crab, Nihonbashi at Colombo, high tea at The Grand, Nuwara Eliya, kottu from a street side vendor, thaali with a medley of veggies and sambols, the fiery black pork curry and a grilled seafood platter from one of the beachside shacks.
And if you’re a shopping enthusiast, you’ll waste more energy in trying to shop than shopping.
Of course you can always pick up spices, teas, curios (mostly elephants) dresses that you buy in vacation fervour and when you take it out to wear when you’re back, you wonder what was I thinking!
Having accumulated so many calories, I wished we could walk back home to India just like last time.
As our aircraft touched down Delhi and everyone started running towards the exit to prevent the plane from self-combusting, I was filled with mixed emotions – relief of finally returning home and to predictability and wistfulness of a great vacation coming to an end.
I think I looked kind of funny half smiling, half crying when we stepped out of Indira Gandhi International airport. Bharat was waiting outside with a ‘welcome home bhaiya and bhabhi’ placard. And then I committed the biggest blunder.
It was like being hit by a wall of smoke. Unable to stop myself, I breathed in some more air. My insides were now filled with smoke. I was coughing and wheezing now. Is this my Pati-parmeshwar’s idea of slyly arranging a purity detector for me! I only checked out half a dozen men on the beach at Unawatuna, I silently wailed.
My God, this is déjà vu!
My eyes were stinging now and I felt so helpless. After all these centuries of staying put with this %*%&)()#*^$## IS THIS HOW HE REPAYS MY LOYALTY? I stuck to him despite getting lovelorn messages in bad grammar from dozens of men on Facebook. I replaced my heart with stone and refused to listen to the entreaties of that Uzbek guy who wanted to marry me because he had fallen in love with my profile picture. I even ignored my oh-so-hot-gym instructor’s passionate GM and motivational forwards on WhatsApp.
Why should I stay with this ungrateful man! Certainly not for the sake of our sons. Luv and Kush are happily settled in the US.
I promptly took out my mobile and changed my relationship status to ‘it’s complicated’ on Facebook.
Maybe I’ll move in with Valmiki. I always had a thing for authors who don’t bathe much and tie their hair in a bun.