Once upon a time not many moons ago I tried to imagine how the streets of Kandy would have looked during the reign of King Sri Wickramarajasingha, and failed. However hard I stretched it, my mind snapped back to the present before I could see the king riding towards me, or the grandeur of his palace. Lack of parking, rain and puddles, wet shoes and wet shoulders, thanks to the water dripping from other people’s umbrellas, hindered any progress I might have made in switching my mind into an ancient mode.
|No visit to Kandy is complete without paying homage to the Dalada Maligawa
Yes. You guessed right. No visit to Kandy is complete without paying homage to the Dalada Maligawa and seeking the blessings of the Triple Gem. My Significant Other, a Trinitian, recalled the visits he had made along with his schoolmates, every Sunday to the temple back in the good ol’ 80s.
Things had naturally been far more simpler then, and to teenage eyes, more magnificent. This Sunday the most pleasant sights inside the temple were the two ladies who almost forced flowers from the tray of lotus in their hands, onto the passing pilgrims in order to fulfil a vow and the four legged residents who had easier access to the holy precincts than their two legged counterparts. Many an eye became misty when they saw the tears pouring down the face of Raja, and gazed at the photos depicting the last few days of his life at his mausoleum, if I may call it that.
Correct, again if you guessed the next event on the agenda was finding a place to have lunch. The well known restaurant facing the Kandy lake, which my companion assures me is the best place for a quiet meal in Kandy, fails to live up to its high reputation. The ribald shouts of a wedding party in the hall downstairs, the empty restaurant with hardly a fly around on the second floor, the unshaven gentleman in khaki shorts who confirms lunch is available but will take sometime to prepare, help us make a fast decision.
We give up our ‘frugal traveller budget’ and bust our savings by deciding to dine in style at the Queen’s Hotel. Luck is on our side. A plate of Mongolian what’s-its-name costs between Rs. 240 to Rs.290 depending on the ingredients you choose. As we sip glasses of fresh orange juice we try to guess the marital status of the other couples around us; are they about to get married, just married, married for less than five years or married for more than a decade?
The young man and woman tucking into two plates of fried rice, washing it down with coca cola, talking like two presenters of a radio channel, are not married but courting, I decide. My companion disagrees on the grounds that the young man would have ordered a few side dishes as well to impress his girl if they were courting. Verdict: They are newly married.
The couple having two pastries and sharing a chocolate cake and a bowl of ice cream and talking to each other only now and then, must be married for five years while the couple at the far corner, digging into two vegetable sandwiches, not uttering a word to one another, must be married for more than a decade. Just then, our two plates of Mongolian Combo ( I think I got it right this time) arrive and we wonder what others might think of the two of us, if a relationship between two people can be decided from their conversation or lack of it and the food they eat.
Next stop: shopping. No visit to any city can be complete without buying something that would make us recall in the days ahead “we bought this in Kandy, that day....”. The chilly temperature due to the afternoon showers is warmed by the friendly, ever helpful shop assistants who make no objections in parcelling the old sandals of my companion when he decides to wear the new pair he had just bought, and the staff at the supermarket who unlock a door marked “No entry” through which we manage to reach the car park reasonably dry in the heavy rain.
Finally to Getambe. To the Bo tree overlooking the Mahaweli. To listen to the soothing sara sara sound of the bo leaves, gaze at the clouds drifting in a grey sky, to place palm to palm and pray, may all living beings be healthy and happy. Yes, true heaven (if it’s already not someplace in your mind) could be a place in Getambe, Kandy.