01 June 2015

Sri Lanka Paradise!

This was written five years ago and published in the 'Daily News'.  I don't think things have changed in the Paradise Isle.  

It’s 12. 36 pm now (May 31, 2010).  Keep the time in mind.  It is important.

Ok, now to Paradise.  Sri Lanka Paradise.  That’s a Tourist Board payoff line from the early eighties, if I remember right. We knew that.  We told the world that Sri Lanka is a Paradise and what more it comes with blue waters and shining eyes, delivered I was reminded recently with a gentle smile.  Some want to call this hell and for a while their consistent rubbishing of Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans and things Sri Lankan did rub off on the most naïve and/or pernicious sections of the international community.  We knew.  This is Paradise

For years many people told us that Paradise was a continent at the other end of the world.  I visited that ‘Paradise’ and lived in various parts of that beautiful place for a total 7 years.  I spent a year in a place called Los Angeles (Mexico to some, USA to others).  I lived one block away from what was supposed to be the worst place for crime on that continent, the Pico-Union intersection.  But hey, LA is LA. It is made of Hollywood, film stars, 3rd Street Promenade (yes, that’s Santa Monica, but that’s still ‘LA’ in the common imagination, Bunker Hill (Paradise on Earth), Skid Row (a few blocks from ‘Paradise’ and ‘Hell on Earth’ according to Mike Davis of ‘City of Quartz’ fame) and the Lakers. 

I had a stipend from a university that came to 350 dollars. My rent was 300.  I lived with my then wife in a ‘studio’ (think, ‘one large room and that’s it’) on a little over 10 dollars a week.  My Sri Lankan friends told me, ‘you got to get wheels, you got to get a driver’s license and for all this, you need to get a California ID’. 

I filled the forms, submitted them. Waited. And waited. And waited.  Days passed. Weeks. Months.  No word. Finally, after about 3 month, I called to find out what had happened.  ‘It’s being processed,’ I was told.  I was asked, politely, to wait a further 4-6 weeks.  This, by the way, was in the year 1994.  I explained ‘context’ to the person at the other end of the line.

‘You may not have heard about my country.  I am from Sri Lanka.  It is a tiny island off the Southern coast of India. No, it is not part of India.  We are classified as a third world country.  Poor. We have all kinds of problems and suffer many deprivations.  Guess what, we can apply and get a new passport the same day!  A passport, mind you, and not an ID issued by a province or some other region; a document that is valid in any country.’

I got the ID three weeks later. 

Here’s why Sri Lanka is even more of a Paradise that I had thought.  This morning I got a call, officially inviting me to participate in a conference in Goa, India.  I had been told about this a couple of days ago, but the official invitation came only this morning.  I don’t have a passport.  I do, but it is not accepted by the relevant authorities because it is in such bad shape. Edges frayed.  One edge has been chewed by mice.  I’ve been drenched and have had my passport soaked.  Washed too. Inadvertently. It’s in a sorry state. I would need a new one.  

In the meantime, I had already planned to visit my Grama Niladharini (Pamankada GN Division), Ms. Dayaranjani Wijesinghe to get her to endorse some documents so that I can close my late mother’s bank accounts.  It’s almost 9.00 am when I get to her neatly maintained office in Kirulapona.  She noted that my father had not filled the householders’ form, gave me one and told me to get it signed and to return it to her.  I did this, got my father to sign the document and rushed to the Divisional Secretariat in Narahenpita to get another endorsement that the bank required.

I was told that I need to get the birth certificates of my siblings as well as mine before the endorsement could be stamped.  Got the forms. Filled. Bought stamps. Submitted.  Forty five minutes later, the birth certificates were ready. I asked a friend to collect them and rushed to Punchi Borella.  Got some passport size photographs. Filled the forms. Got photocopies of relevant documents and found a JP to sign relevant sections. I handed the application. Paid the money. I was told to come at 3.00 pm to collect it. 

I rushed to the office of the Rivira Media Corporation, where I used to work, and borrowed a computer to write this (I had forgotten to bring the wire of my laptop).  It is 1.26 pm now.  I have never been to India, so I am excited about this conference.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get my documents ready.  I forgot that I live in Paradise.  There may be many horror stories and I am not saying I have not been put through hell at times.  On the other hand, I doubt that one could do all these things within a few hours in all other countries. 

Blue waters, shining eyes? Yes, that’s what Paradise is made of.  For me, today, ‘Paradise’ has other connotations.  I am comparing LA to Sri LankaAhasai polovai wage (like sky and earth)!  

It’s 1.14 p.m. now.  Time for breakfast. 

Malinda Seneviratne can be reached at malinsene@gmail.com


සෙන්නා said...

When i told my Indian friends that i got my new passport within one day (Fact is within few hours ) their eyes went up to the sky. Believe me, it's a magic for them.