S. M. Owens posted a photo:
Sri Lanka: Tangalle, Coconut Grove
I was in an Asian mega-city…. one that comes with every imaginable diversion. I was strolling lethargically along an opulent tree-lined boulevard, enjoying a typically broiling Saturday afternoon. I was heading toward the river and the older part of town. Then, astonishingly, at an impossible intersection, I found I was trying to cross the road with an acquaintance that I hadn’t seen for years.
He didn’t look any different: solid, athletic – he was obviously still working-out; and as always he was wearing camouflaged battle-fatigue pants. He dragged me across the road when my inclination was to wait – he’s familiar with taking risks, and he knows how to spin a yarn.
He’s from the eastern side of Sri Lanka – that’s about all I can tell, except that his demeanour is delightful, his smile infectious, and in case you’re concerned about such things, he does have a passport (meaning he’s not a refugee).
He said he was pleased to see me – as always, I believed him. He offered to take me to an expensive coffee shop, to catch-up. I recommended somewhere cheaper; and, in the curious surroundings of a convenience store, amongst shoppers buying cold drinks and ice cream, we discussed world politics, war and peace, and national psychology….
Consequently, we turned to the subject of small island complex.
I asked him if he’d read Yann Martel’s excellent book, ‘Life of Pi’, or seen the movie.
He hadn’t – it’s not a war movie.
No. It’s a fantasy, and a wonderful concept. It’s about an Indian boy from Pondicherry – surely he must be a Tamil – cast adrift on a lifeboat, with a collection of animals.
I said that early in the book, there’s some animal psychology, and that this is as insightful as it is brilliant. Here, the author explores the relationship between a confined zoo animal and its cage: how the animal initially hates the cage, but then begins to love it; then, over time, the animal begins to feel protective of its cage, to the point where it will attack and possibly kill any intruder.
I said, exaggerating massively, that in a way, the national psychology of Sri Lanka was a little bit like this. I went on to say that other countries were similar – being desperate to repel invaders.
He understood my analogy perfectly, and he was amused by it – so who’s the tiger?
Still talking, we went outside the store. The street was thronged; the road a traffic jam.
Buffeted by the chaos and distracted by the din, he told me it was his intention to return home in six months. He thinks he still has a home to go to: no parents, no brothers or sisters; and he invited me to go and stay: “you can stay as long as you want”.
But the difficulties remain; in his homeland he’s an outsider. Even though he was born there, he’s seen as an alien. As for me, I’m seen as merely a tourist – and that’s okay, because everybody knows that sooner or later I’ll leave, and not out-stay my welcome.
We shook hands and said goodbye, and without any degree of certainty said we’d be in touch. Regardless, and the variables are unquantifiable, I’m sure I’ll bump into him again one day, although I’ve no idea where and when that might be.
Photo and text:
© S. Owens
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Source From Flicker
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