16th January 2000
Front Page
Editorial/Opinion| Business| Sports|
Sports Plus| Mirror Magazine
The Sunday Times on the Web

West meets EastFalling in love

A British journalist provides an outsider's view of Sri Lankan life
On January 31, last year in Britain, I picked up my regularly delivered Sunday newspaper to find one of the supplements inside it dedicated to an island I hadn't really had cause to consider before - Sri Lanka. It was a cold, grey day, as days at this time of year tend to be in England and I remember being drawn in by the images of wide, sun-drenched, palm-fringed beaches on the cover. Inside the vibrant scenes of bustling city life and articles eschewing the optimistic outlook for business and tourism soon had me daydreaming about places and faces with a certain unfamiliar charm.

I still have that supplement tucked away in my desk drawer to return to, like a letter from a lover or a childhood lucky charm. The edges are a bit tattered from carrying it around for months as a ray of portable sunshine, the bold heading 'SRI LANKA' is surrounded by doodles and notes on interviews and articles for magazines I work for back in Britain. But then I don't really have cause to look at it these days, as for a month now those sun drenched scenes of inspiration on the cover have existed right outside my apartment window...

'First impressions last' they say and they did for me, for about 48 hours, the approximate time it takes to acclimatize and get over jet-lag. Since then every day I have found reason to re-evaluate and reconsider Sri Lanka; as a tourist destination and country in its own right, as a complex, seemingly ever-inconsistent anomaly and finally as my much loved home. 

Back in England initial and tentative enquiry about how to switch my role as British journalist to a Sri Lankan equivalent meant several letters back and forth to the familiar sounding newspaper I had been advised to approach. The Sunday Times of course, shares its name with a much respected British publication. At this stage in the proceedings someone seemed to press the fast-forward button on my life. Before I could protest I was standing on the diesel-infused airport tarmac of a very warm and very foreign country at some ridiculous hour in the morning not quite sure of how, when (or indeed whether) I'd actually made the decision to make Sri Lanka my (albeit temporary) new home. Even friends who came to see me off said they'd thought I was joking until the plane I was on punctured the dull grey bubble of Manchester, England into the bright sunlight of 'the rest of the world' above.

Perhaps noting my look of pale confusion in the 'Arrivals' area, somebody kindly decided to help me out by delivering me safely into the hands of my Sri Lankan contact Kumar. He was outside with a taxi, avoiding the Rs. 100 airport ticket and we set off on the long dusty ride back to my apartment in the beach suburb of Colombo, the one I'd soon be on familiar first -name terms with. 

'Mount' as it is known by my neighbours - a rather bohemian array of folk from every corner of the world - is a wonderful contrast to the hot hustle bustle of the Galle Road and I soon found the slow-paced, laid back lifestyle contagious and days floating by like passing cruisers.

That was just before Christmas came around, before the bombings and the festivities, election fever and Millennium hype. Before I went on a tour of the country, swooning at monasteries and swaying on elephants backs, getting a chill in Nuwara Eliya and defrosting down on Unawatuna beach, developing a crush on Kandy and its seductive charms and a lasting relationship with my new home as a whole.

But then that's another story.

Index Page
Front Page
Sports Plus
Mirrror Magazine

More Plus

Return to Plus Contents


Plus Archives

Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business| Sports| Sports Plus| Mirror Magazine

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to 

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.
Hosted By LAcNet