9 days are not what make travelogues. Not on this blog. But this is a lite version of a lite tour for a very very lite cricket tournament. If Tendulkar hadn’t got that century in the finals, one more void would’ve been created in my porous cricket stats bubble.
I hope the girls who work for Kingfisher really enjoy their job. Given the background of the airlines, this must be a dream job for air-hostesses (cabin crew rather). However, I’d be keen to know if the flights to and from Colombo are punishment posting for them. The day I was on one of them from Bangalore, the flight was nice and relaxed with the girls all smiling and bonhomie flying in embossed fonts. Just as the final call for boarding might have been made, a large group of people boarded. They were Tamilians and Sinhalese, from India and Sri Lanka. They were all carrying their quota of 3 liquor bottles and a major collection of clothes. What followed was surreal:
Voice on the plane: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Kingfisher Experience. I am Alex, your…
One Indian Tamil who looks like he is the leader of the pack: Andha seat pidi, nee idhe pidi (lit: you catch that seat, you catch this)
One air-hostess who is surprised (if it wasn’t for my “no long words” policy, I’d have said, incredulous) and amused at the same time: Sir, what is your seat number sir.
Alex (continues): … captain for the day. We will be flying to…
One other Indian Tamil: Annen bottle thaanga, inge vaanga (lit: Elder brother, give bottle, come here)
Air-hostess who was surprised and amused is no longer amused: SIR, what is your seat no. SIR.
Alex: … Colombo. On this flight, we will…
One Indian Tamil to a Sri Lankan Tamil: Indha pomble yedho pesudhu yennannu pureele annen (lit: this woman speaks something that I can’t understand, elder brother).
Alex: … be flying at around…
Air-hostess who was not amused has suddenly realised she is hopeless: Sir, please sit in your seats sir. The flight is about to take off… no… no… not the bottles here, they will break.
Air-hostess who was hopeless has now realised she shouldn’t have reported late to work on three successive days which had drawn this punishment flight for her: Sir… no… no… you cannot detach the Kingfisher video screen. That is not free sir.
Alex: … 14000 ft. and the…
Air-hostess who had gone through a phase of realisation suddenly thinks she should handle her guests with more care: Don’t take the Kingfisher video screen, ok? I will give you Kingfisher earphones. Ok, sir. Next time you go in BMTC buses spitting red out of the window, you can still use it. Same colour.
One Sri Lankan Tamil to Indian Tamil: Malli, indha tv ye naam edukka yeladhan. (lit: Dude, this tv can’t be taken by us, it seems).
Alex: … weather in Colombo is pleasant at…
One Indian Tamil to the air-hostess whose motherly attitude is about to be shattered: Beer. Beer. (lit: Beer. Beer.)
Air-hostess now so frustrated she laughs involuntarily: Later, (laughs) ok. You will (laughs) get Kingfisher beer can (laughs) later. (Guffaws) Ok?
Alex: … around a comfortable 28 deg. C and …
The Tamilian in the seat to my front to the Tamilian in the seat next to him: Dei, verkudille? (lit: Hey, sweating, no?)
Me (thinking): Adhu seri (lit: that’s right)
Alex: … humidity of around 80% and there are…
All this while the seats next to me are vacant. So happy. But the ringleader, under pressure from an air-hostess ordering him to sit down just sits in the aisle seat. And I am not joking, he tore a part of the day’s Hindu and blew his nose into it.
Me (thinking): Adhu seri (lit: that’s right)
Alex: … small clouds on the way, but nothing to worry about…
Air-hostess now overcome with melancholy, thinking: Dude, how I wish I could worry about the clouds.
Alex:… so relax…
Melancholic air-hostess now surprised, incredulous too: huh!
Alex: … and enjoy the Kingfisher experience.
Me (thinking): Adhu seri (lit: that’s right).
I later learn that these guys travel between India and Sri Lanka with liquor and clothes. Clothes there are cheaper to stitch and liquor is, well, easy to sell. They make around Rs. 2500 per head during these trips which last not more than 2 days. Not a bad business and I’m already thinking of a future job change.
The immigration in Colombo is so chaotic that I don’t realise I’m standing in the line with these future millionaires. None of them seem to have valid documents and the officer there knows a money-making opportunity when he sees one. All this is not good for me and change lanes around 3 times. In the end, I’m at the end. “No doing bisnes ok,” the officer warns me.
One of my colleagues later told me that the officer answering the line I was first standing in (with the Tamilians) had coolly asked for money for giving a Visa. But in good sub-continent tradition, “only if you can”.
Arty films never had it so good. You can only think of discussing Stalker and Close Up in a pirated DVD shop. Even if it is in Colombo, piracy is where the art is.
After walking in the draining heat parallel to the ocean, I thought of buying an original DVD or VCD of Forsaken Land, the well-accepted Sri Lankan movie. We went to this place called New Bollywood which dealt with pirated movies. In the good tradition of piracy, he wasn’t selling Sri Lankan movies. “You will get original copies down the road”.
Still, I browsed through and was cautious not to buy something that is easily available as an original in India. There was a DVD called “The Experimental Films of Maya Deren”. Nice. I also saw the DVD of Pink Flamingoes. Didn’t touch it fearing infection.
While the collection, I must say, was excellent, it was difficult not to buy many more. One of the our guys found Stalker and said, “Ok. Guys. Anyone wants this? Me and my dad watched it in a film festival and I haven’t understood any of it (laugh follows).”
“What is it about?” someone asks. “Don’t know (laughs)”.
“Who is the director?” ask another someone. “Andrei Tarkovsky (more laughs).”
“I want to meet someone who has ever liked it (laughs).” And while he is laughing he suddenly, like after a divine intervention looked at me. He stops laughing and asks, “You liked it?” I sort of half nod, half smile. He laughs. “You might also like this,” he shows me a Luis Bunuel movie. Then he shows Close Up. “You like this?” “Yes” “I now know your taste,” he says.
The shop owner has now got into it as well. “Look everyone, he is buying the experimental films (group laughs). Sir, I can play this on the TV and you decide if you want it.” “I have decided.” More laughs.
After the rather funny interlude in this pirate shop, we move to a proper one, to look for Forsaken Land.
I ask for the movie which they are clueless about. “What is the Sinhala name?” “Something starting with Silanga”. “Sulanga?” “No, Silanga.” After much such banter, they decide they know what the Sinhalese name is. Awesome. “Do you have it?” “No, sorry. Not released.”
The compact cupThe cricket was utterly boring. Thanks to some firefighting at work, I didn’t have enough time to watch what was happening. But work went smoother towards the end of the tournament and I did enjoy the Tendulkar’s hundred in the final. Such a lot of fun. Seemed like it was played a decade back. Many people felt so and that was perhaps the reason why word spread that Sachin had used a runner for the first-ever time. Not right. I mentioned it to everyone who’d lend an ear. I was right, of course. It was in fact the third occasion he batted with a runner.
You end up paying around Rs. 300 (Sri Lankan) for a 10-minute journey in an auto. The auto-drivers have no meters (some have, they tell me, but they hide it well) and once they know you are a foreigner, you cough up no less than Rs. 50 per kilometer, at the least. It also has to do with us as we hardly bargain. You might miss seeing people on a stretch of road, but you’ll see different-coloured Bajaj autos for sure.
So it came as a surprise that someone would stop to drive us 10 minutes for Rs. 100. This guy was fairly friendly with the UK guys with me.
“UK, US very good. India people not good.”
“Why?” I ask.
“All Asia people bad people.”
“All Asia big people bad people.”
“I am small people, so I am good. You? You big people?”
“No. I small people. But Asia people bad people.”
When we got down and my UK friend offered to pay, the auto guy said, “I want Indian people to pay. You don’t pay.” So I shelled out my last Sri Lankan rupees that I’d kept for woodapple jam.
The beach, dinosaurs and pimpsI skipped a party thrown by the hotel as I wasn’t prepared to wear the sarong they gave us. Instead, I slipped to the beach. It was Sunday and a massive crowd had gathered, flying kites, making merry and watching a video on how dinosaurs vanished from earth.
As I walked alone wondering how these kites were of such shape, I was accosted by a drunk pimp. It didn’t surprise me as most people hanging out around tourist places have a pimpish side to them. Massages and hookers abound the area. I bought a kite, drank woodapple juice and left the beach.
This was a day before I left for Bangalore. On the way back home, MG Road was under renovation and the darkly lit footpath was infested with hookers and pimps. While the Volvo played an irritating radio channel standing at a signal, two guys came to the women and picked them up.
It was a small tour. It’s a small world.