Tuesday, March 29, 2005

That 70's Country

Sri Lanka, Kandy - 28-Mar-05
Sorry if most of my complaints boil down to, simply, "This isn't India." India is home now....I could leave Sri Lanka tomorrow. I came to do my visa and now don't even think I want to do that here; plus the rumours are that you can get a better Indian visa (more time) in Bangkok. I think I'll give it a week, see if I can hook up with some of the many Brit/German tourists floating about and join their treks to Adam's Peak, Sigiriya, whatever. I am too freaked out to organize it on my own, and hanging with other foreigners will decrease my alienation.... I think.

The Koffee Pot is the state of the art cyber cafe here in Kandy, my new refuge/oasis/hangou. They are well AC'd, have 17 in ch monitors and serve drinks and pastries right to your computer table, which is pretty much my idea of, well, Ideal. This little hideout is keeping me relatively sane....

My friend Gary says, "Try to get something out of Sri Lanka, often good art emerges from misery."Here's hoping. The Temple of the Tooth is very nice, a sort of elegant austere haven, albeit a heavily guarded one, in the middle of this messy steamy town. Since a bombing here in the 90s, which killed 10 people, you must now pass three or four checkpoints....strangely half-hearted ones, where the guards lackadaiscally pass a metal-detecting wand over your abdomen (looking for IUDs maybe? ) and completely ignore your bag. The female guards seem to enjoy doing this, then playfully swatting me on the behind with the metal detector. (!)

So far the best words I have to describe SL all start with De - degenerate, depressed, a bit decadent, decrepit, dilapidated. As of yet I haven't even been really inspired to take photos, and THAT is really saying something for me. (something negative) Oh and don't forget Drab (de-rab). Trying to articulate what's missing in Sri Lanka - there is definitely less emphasis on aesthetics. In India, every billboard and store display and rickshaw seems to be burbling with irrespressible frippery, animation and colour. India has more creativity and energy. Even the beggars are more creative in India. The prevalence here of 1-polyester, 2- denim skirts (yes, long, full length skirts made of jeans, haven't seen one since high school) 3-old 70s cars, like the Contessas which look like mini versions of the Starsky and Hutch car; I would not be surprised to see a Gremlin, and 4- bad western pop music --you know, that quasi-reggaefied-pop cross between Boney M and UB40 that I call "international pop" --- all conspire to give a kind of run-down 70s feeling to the place (no, not a cool, retro 70s feeling...more like, everything that didn't sell from every Dollar General Store in the 70s got dumped here and is still filling the store shelves). The Sunday paper carried a full page pinup photo of Bryan Adams, who, for some reason, is a GOD both here and in India! "Summer of 69" is inescapable....

Nothing here looks like it should work....though surprisingly it often does. I was shocked to find a digital photo place that stays open till 10 at night. This morning the Tamil family who keep the bungalow where I'm staying were watching a TV show of Tamil film classics (incl. Shivaji Ganeshan, MGR etc) and it made me HOMESICK. (Even that silly song with Ganeshan singing "caw, caw" to the crow seemed like sheer genius.) Last night at the Kandyan dance performance, the woodwind player, in the midst of blaring otherwise unfamiliar Sri Lankan sounds, started trumpeting the melody to "Raghupati Raga Ravan, patita pavana Sitaram" and I nearly burst into tears. I MISS INDIA.