08 June 2014

The 0.001% chance of something happening

Yes, we went to 'Thanamalwila' and had a lot of 'curd'

There’s an anecdote I’ve heard tell of Ajith Fernando, who along with a dozen others, ‘went around the pearl’ not too long ago.  This had happened several decades ago.  Ajith and a couple of friends, probably just out of school at the time, had decided to go to some random destination. 

The story went thus:  ‘They had got into a bus with the strangest sounding destination they could imagine.  They picked Thanamalwila.’

Tales, when told and re-told, invariably gather story-strains which make narratives richer even as it robs.  I don’t know if Ajith and Co. actually thought ‘Thanamalwila’ sounded strange.  When I heard about it, I laughed.  The narrator just said ‘they found that the only thing to eat in Thanamalwila was curd and so they camped somewhere eating nothing but curd for three days’. 

It could not have been that way.  I’ve never asked Ajith but I am pretty sure that there were other things to do and eat in Thanamalwila, if indeed that’s where they went and indeed if Ajith and his friend actually did take a trip to a random destination.

Some people travel like that though.  They are very different from what could called ‘checklist travelers’.  There’s obviously many benefits that flow from checklists.  You cover a lot of ground when there’s meticulous planning, there’s no doubt about that.  Sometimes, if traveling with many people, it makes absolute sense to plan ahead.  You can’t after all have twenty people on Day Two of a trip suggesting 20 different places to visit or 20 different things to do.  And if you want to bring down overall costs planning is what you should do if it involves a whole bunch of people.  Add to this the fact that some people like to do things with friends and you get a compelling argument for checklist traveling.

There are other kinds of travelers.   Like Ajith who may have not done that Thanamalwila number but knowing him might very well have gone there or somewhere else and consumed a lot of curd just for the heck of it, ‘curd’ of course being metaphor for ‘whatever goes’. 

I remembered the Ajith-Thanamalwila story a short while ago when I saw a Facebook post.  It was a Lao Tzu quote: ‘A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving’.  And immediately I was transported back to April 14, 2014 and another Ajith-Thanamalwila type journey.  I wrote about it not too long afterwards in an article titled ‘The true location of Kala Wewa’.

To recap, I picked up my friend and self-proclaimed ‘professional rastiyaadukaaraya’ Wasantha Wijewardena from Thalawathugoda around noon that day and suggested we go somewhere far away from Colombo.  We picked Kala Wewa.  I told him that I had friends in Galgamuwa I would like to see, so he suggested we first go there and then decide what to do next.

I didn’t quite remember where my friend lived.  I didn’t have his phone number.   I knew that he travels a lot and the chances were that he would have chosen to spend Aluth Avurudda with friends or family rather than staying alone in his house (he’s a bachelor, a teacher and quite a good singer).  I told Wasantha (in Sinhala) ‘the chances of actually hooking up with this guy are about 0.001%’.  Wasantha said ‘don’t you think that things which have a 0.001% chance of happening are exactly the things that do happen’?  I agreed, subject to the caveat ‘certain kinds of things’.  This was ‘that’ kind of thing. 

We couldn’t find the house.  It took several calls to get a number where we could reach him – a mutual friend’s niece was married to our friend’s youngest brother.  We had to call the mutual friend, get his sister’s number, get from her the niece’s number and finally our friend’s brother’s number. It was not as confusing when we actually did it, because all we had to worry about was writing a singled number down on each occasion.  He was not home. He was far away.  Partying, he said.  We laughed.

Wasantha and I didn’t go to Kala Wewa that evening. The Kala Wewa came to us. It came to us in Madadombe, a small village about 9kms from Galgamuwa.  We were greeted as brothers greet brothers by my friend’s brother who I hadn’t seen in many years and who had never set his eyes on Wasantha.  My friend called several hours later and said he would come to Madadombe – he had arranged for someone to give him a ride to a place close enough for us to go pick him up.  

We bathed in the Maha Wewa in Madadombe.  Then we picked him up.  We took shelter in a random house (naturally a distant relative of my friend) until a herd of elephants prowling near his house had wandered back into the shrub jungle.  We had dinner, we talked.  Some might say we were both crazy.  We had no plans.  We had a vague idea of destination but we didn’t have a clue where we would end up that night.  We were not unduly worried.  But we ended up in Madadombe, sorry, ‘Thanamalwila’.  We consumed a lot of curd too.  ‘Curd’ that is.  Ajith would understand, even if he never went to Thanamalwila and even if he’s never had curd in his life.



Anonymous said...

Malinda, Ajith's story is true and I was one of the 'friends'. Choosing Thanamalwila was totally random. If I can recall, we were coming back on the Ella-Wellawaya road and got off at a town and selected Thanamalwila at the Bus stand.
The Curd story is true as we had camped at a location far from the town. A farmer was taking his morning load of curd and we thought this was the quickest and easiest breakfast!