23rd January 2000

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I have passed the test so far!!

By Hana Borrowman

So, I am already half way through my second month in Sri Lanka with homesickness somehow forgetting to rear its ugly head anymore, especially as the rains have kindly decided to make it their business to provide me with regular, skin-soaking reminders of English weather - at its best!

In fact it seems the oddest thing about entering the 21st century in a different country to the one I usually call home, is the way the two noughts sit in seeming denial of time in the date at the top of the page.

Proof in fact of my, as yet unchallenged, theory that Sri Lanka runs on a different kind of time/clockwork to the one back home. In Thailand they have a similarly flexible approach known as 'rubber time'. I never quite managed to find out just exactly how this name came about, but presume it is something to do with the fact that it bends easily, melts in the heat and changes its shape so often. What has gradually become apparent here is that the slower pace of Sri Lanka makes it an almost entirely stress-free zone. Or perhaps people just don't have the time for it.

The fact that the British phenomena of Road Rage that has been filling front pages of newspapers there for some time now, doesn't even exist here, amidst the choking fumes and endless lanes of buses, tuk-tuks, rickety carts and fast cars at a standstill, is surely testament to this. Deadlines, traffic jams, queues and bureaucracy; all things that have people wound up so tightly back in England they are either on the edge of an aptly titled nervous 'breakdown' or paying thousands of pounds just to 'unwind', are simply accepted as part of life here.

For an Englishwoman used to running from meeting to deadline and back again in seemingly endless circles, this slowing of pace and 'shrug and smile in the face of adversity' mentality has been a revelation. Walking down a choked Colombo street getting all hot and bothered, feeling hassled and hurried and harangued by every jutting hand, I suddenly catch a passing shrug 'n smile and fall into step with the local pace of life again.

A shining example of this theory came my way whilst standing at the top of my street in the rain the other day. Trying to cross the notoriously hectic Galle Road at rush hour, I replied to a fellow traffic dodger's offhand comment about the state of the roads with a suggestion that the weather compounded this craziness. She smiled and gestured to an entrance of an abode I've often admired before, that picturesquely overflows with purple, red, pink and orange - and added simply, with a knowing grin - 'no rain, no flowers'.

Despite the relaxed pace here, I'm learning fast. On the morning of an important appointment last week. I was waylaid by various people wanting to pass the time of day so that when I eventually clambered inside my three- wheeler I was already running about 20 minutes late.

Ten minutes down the road (and I know this as my eyes were fixed steadfast to my watch), the tuk-tuk got a flat front wheel. Before I even had the chance to huff and puff about my missed appointment, I was distracted by real-life pressing the pause button yet again. Instead of the typical British scenario of calling out the mechanic and sulking over the vehicle like a child over a broken toy, passers-by were drafted in one by one to help lift the thing off the ground and attach a spare wheel. Then still gasping in awe and admiration of this 'community spirit' I'm being ushered back in with the said helpers waving me off on my merry way and I've forgotten all about panic and meetings and stress.

I'm watching the wonderful world go by in a blur of multi-coloured market stalls and red road dust instead.

It is often remarked that the unwritten law for the spiritual truth-seeker is patience and this is used by their masters as a test of faith/endurance before passing through onto the next level of experience. It's a psychological ruse often employed by Western doctors and dentists too! Well I think I've passed the test so far. Let's see what the next level has to throw at me.

A view from the hills

Kandy's ugly pimple

The wholesale complex at Katugastota is to be opened shortly.

This complex is being readied with the main intention of easing the massive congestion in Kandy, but, as Municipality officials say, it will be difficult to persuade wholesalers to move out of the city. Colombo Street, Kandy, is more or less a wholesalers, preserve and creates the utmost congestion with lorries vying for parking space and causing huge traffic jams at all hours of the day. Many of these vehicles, carrying goods in bulk in and out of Kandy, make their way to the city by night in order to secure their positions on Colombo Street and be ready for loading or unloading as the case may be.

As a result of the hectic wholesale, activity, the Municipality says that it is impossible to clean or maintain Colombo Street which has become Kandy's greatest eyesore. What is more, the heavy traffic keeps the street in a permanent state of disrepair and the buildings too, are old. One official commented that many of the buildings should be condemned. The wholesale trade actually poses a danger to the city, he said. There are hardly any maintained firegaps, the buildings and their electrical systems are old and many are being used regardless of the danger. Furthermore, stores of foodstuff and perishables attract vermin and with all the goods being hauled across pavements and drains, the drains are constantly blocked and fouled.

The Municipality has its plans to give Kandy a bright new face, but the wholesalers simply have to move. There will be the usual ploys to buy time and questions of property and possession will arise, but, as many feel, there will be a better Kandy for all and the city's face will be much more attractive once this unsightly pimple is removed!

Rajan at the helm

The Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Central Province, has unanimously elected T.R.R.Rajan as its Chairman for a second year. Rajan is the Chairman of Sun Match Company Ltd. and a very respected Kandy businessman.

The Chamber's other office bearers for the year 2000 are: Daya Weeraratne, MD, Bake House - 1st Vice Chairman Ms. Shirley Jayawardane, MD Media Vision - 2nd VC; Nanda Bandaranayake, MD, Nankhai Food Products - Secretary; and Shamil Peiris, Director, Central Finance - Treasurer.

A Board of 12 comprises: Jayantha Panabokke of Mahaweli Reach; P. Wijesekera of Yukthi Motor Traders; Ms. Lillian Ellawala of Francis Perera's; G.S. Dayananda of Alidon; Ranil de Saram of Ernst & Young; Nihal de Silva of HNB; J.J. Abdeen; Ms. Vagdevi Fernando of Commercial Credit; H.W. Gammanpila of the Bank of Ceylon; S.B. Yatawara of the NCCISL; Gamini Abeykoon of Metropolitan and P.J. Rodrigo of Rodrigo Estates.

Rajan says that his prime concern is to give businessmen an "international outlook" and will do all he can to encourage businessmen to travel and study foreign markets and develop trade and investment links. "Contact and contract go together," he says, and surely the world is now a small enough place to get about in.

Another Kurera-Perera story

When a principal has to put his foot down regardless of the roars of disbelief, it's a dicey business. But that's what happened at a thrice-blessed upstanding college in Kandy where several boys had actually arranged to be impersonated at the Ordinary Level exams.The principal would have none of it. Can't have Perera masquerading as Kurera, can we? Leave that to the polling booth!

When the egg-hopper hit the fan, a bunch of Kureras, who sat back and told the Pereras to go in and bat for them, were sacked.

Good show, what?

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