I stopped enjoying the ‘Sri Lankan New Year’, which falls in the mid-April each year, since I was a teenager. Endless sweetmeats, innumerable friends who visit you and the obligatory return visits you have to make and so forth. At times silly fights by stupid intoxicated people, much the worst from liquor, having to acknowledge and pay homage to every Tom, Dick and Harry in the village who are elders, takes a toll on oneself. Therefore I have given the New Year celebrations a miss each year. Last year, I went to Kilinochchi and spent time there with Miss Dekala’s family which was an amazing experience.
This year I was invited by Prasanna Balachandran, a person who lives in Vattapalai, Mullaitivu to spend the New Year celebrations with his family. I readily accepted the invitation and left Mahawilachchiya around 8.00 am on April 15, 2017 on my motorbike. It was a comfortable ride as there was hardly any vehicular traffic on the roads. I took the shortcut via the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, bypassing the commercial part of the city. Had a drink of tender coconut water at Thuparamaya, but I was not happy the way the old woman talked to her customers. I felt like refusing the coconut water, but later changed my mind as I thought she was annoyed with herself for the fact that she had to work even on the New Year’s Day to make a living.
I rode to Medawachchiya and bought a new backpack as I had to take my laptop during this trip. You may wonder why I take my laptop everywhere, the reason being, I am not that comfortable with my smartphone, typing on such a small device takes its toll on me. I wanted to take a few photographs at Medawachchiya and since taking selfies is not my forte, I requested the young man who sold me the backpack to take some pictures. He took a few pictures which I found to be excellent, I never expected him to be so creative.
I had a small snack for breakfast at Medawachchiya and rode up to Vavuniya – which was a very dangerous place during the war waged by the Tamil Tigers between since 1975 to 2009, till they were defeated by the Sri Lankan armed forces under the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. I visited Vavuniya during war time with some retired Indian army personnel who had set up their base camp off Vavuniya to remove landmines. I would not have been there without my friends as this city was famous for the LTTE pistol gangs, who would appear out of nowhere and shoot at soldiers and policemen. Vavuniya was a city where Tamils, Muslims and Sinhala people lived but it was not a safe place for anyone during that time. But now the city is very peaceful and the three communities live in harmony.
I got the help of a passerby to take few pictures of me, but he was not unto the job. Cannot blame him as it was the first time he had used a smartphone. I thanked him and proceeded further. For some reason I don’t like Vavuniya city, it has some very badly cooked food outlets and I try my best to pass this city faster every time I pass it.
I was stopped by a two traffic police officers along A9 road, I did not understand as to which traffic offense I committed. But when I removed my helmet, they asked me to continue riding. I am not sure why though.
I wanted to go faster on my bike on the straight A9 road, but my bike mechanic advised me not to speed as he needed to do a full engine check after this trip. So I did not go faster than 70, the legal speed limit on the roads in the island.
At Puliyankulam the road branches, with one going to Jaffna and the other to Mullaitivu. Mullaitivu city was the only city that I had not visited in Sri Lanka. So it was an exciting experience to me. I would not have remembered any of the small towns I passed, if not for the big battles that took place in those towns that cost many lives and property damage to both the terrorists and the government forces during war.
Around Nedunkerny I took another picture again with the help of an amateur. From Puliyankulam to Mullaitivu the road is very straight and surrounded by a thick jungle. Hence I did not feel the effects of strong sun upon me. By now, I was getting hungry and luckily there was a woman who sold papaya and orange juice on the road side. I had a glassful of papaya juice and it was refreshing.
My friend Prasanna wanted me to come directly to his village Vattapalai without going to Mullaitivu town. But I went to Mullaitivu as I wanted to pay my mobile phone bills. Luckily there was a Cargills Food City supermarket and I could pay the bills and go to Vattapalai as instructed by Prasanna. Once I reached Vattapalai around 2.00 pm, Prasanna came to the road and welcomed me. He took me to his in-laws’ house and they offered me a simple, yet tasty lunch. Then I visited Prasanna’s house which was within walking distance. His two kids were very cute and playful.
I wanted to rest a while and had a nap for an hour or two. Then we both visited the nursery run by Prasanna free of charge for the village kids. Prasanna had spent most part of his life in Germany and did not go back to Germany as he had fallen in love with a village beauty. He runs the nursery with the ad-hoc donations he gets from donors in Germany.
We then visited Mulliyawalai to meet Father Dixon who is a pastor whom I had spoken over the phone a few days back after being introduced to each other by a mutual friend. Father Dixon can fluent in Sinhala, Tamil and English. We had a chat after which we returned to Vattapalai.
I spent the night in Prasanna’s in-law’s home and left Mullaitivu after taking a few selfies with them.
It was surprising to see the green ricefields in Vattapalai during this drought. This is the only green ricefield. I saw during my whole trip.
As soon as you pass Vavuniya and take the Vavuniya – Anuradhapura road, after passing the Air force camp you will see this wonderful oasis. It is clear blue water surrounded by beautiful foliage and aquatic plants. I spent around half an hour here as it was so refreshing.
I reluctantly left this cool oasis and then came to Medawachchiya and then TanTantirimalee through Medawachchiya – Cheddikulam road. Passed Bogoda Bridge. This was the farthest point we could go from Tantirimale during war. But now anyone can go anywhere in the country.
Roads from Vavuniya to North are very nicely paved. I doubt roads in Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka are as good as the ones in the North (and East for that matter.)
Language never became any issue during all my visits to the North and the East in Sri Lanka both during and after the war. I never tried to talk in unknown Tamil or English here. I talked only in Sinhala. To my surprise, the people here helped me very enthusiastically when I asked for road directions or anything else. I did not see any hatred in their eyes towards me. People were nice to me since my first visit to Tamil Tiger controlled area before 2005. I think the hatred was just created by the terrorists and by the politicians from both sides of the fence.
I never thought I would be able to see a peaceful Sri Lanka before old age. I never imagined my son would be able to live in a peaceful Sri Lanka with the way the war was dragging on. But lasting peace came before his first birthday!!!
Now I have been to all districts in Sri Lanka. Feel happy. Thanks Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa for making this possible by ending the three-decade-long war. Without you two, this would have been just a dream. (Thanks Basil Rajapaksa for wonderful infrastructure here in the North. I know my friends won’t be comfortable with me thanking BR due to obvious reasons but he has done a lot here. His way of doing things was the problem here.) If not for MR’s “three idiots” (and obviously Basil R too,) MR would still be the President of Sri Lanka. But it was not to be.
Bertolt Brecht says in the Caucasian Chalk Circle “War is over, peace is coming. Beware of the peace.” With all his experiences as a politician, MR messed up big time by not being able to manage the peace which came much faster than they expected. They tried to manage the peace with the same drastic ways they managed war, without being able to understand the difference between the two phenomena.
Dear Wanni, Your Mullaitthivu bikehike is very intersting. Gamini Akmeemana would like it too. Incidentally I, too, gave up this NY festivities ib my teens for the same reasons you mentioned but I do not oppose my immediate family following those rituals. They no that I am not an adherent. Then Medawachchiya. I my late teens I was there at Rathmalgahawewa where I ran away from home and school. We used to go to Vavuniya to gobble down good thosai and vadai from an Aiyar Kadai. You must east Saiva food only from an Iyyar Kadai. Even in Colombo or Kandy there is no place to have good vadai or thosai, my favourite food. Shortly Sarath Ariyawanse and I are going to Trincomalee for such a diet. After all ride carefully with extreme caution so that we could read more bikehikes by Nanda Wanninayake. Regards. Rat.
P.S., In all my Mannar rides I either left Mannar as late as 6pm or on way to Mannar, reached Anuragburro too late to venture into Mahawilachchiya territory. Next time hope to reach Anuragburro early so that there would be time to visit your territory where you have been doing a lot of social work. P.P.S., I am wondering why don’t you apply and join UNV. Friend Amugoda joined UNV and after five years now he is full-time UN. I see that you are an eligibale candidate. Like a sailor you can see the world, save a lot of money for your life’s eveining and the child’s future, and continue to keep uplifting your native area.
R H M S Rautnayake Hippocleides said : What care I, I do not suffer fools gladly. http://www.robertrutlandknox.wordpress.com