Sri Lanka is
India without the hassle
"It is India without the hassle." - Arthur
I could see what he meant about his adoptive country. The people
are fine featured, well educated, and it doesn't take five of them
to complete a simple task. You see poverty but it doesn't grate
at your conscience in scenes of maimed beggars. And once out of
the capital city of Colombo, the world dissolves into a lush green
dream. Banana and pineapple, teak forests, queues of brightly coloured
umbrellas bobbing through rice fields. Elephants blocking traffic.
Arthur C. Clarke
stopped at an elephant orphanage and watched a herd bathing in a
river. It was led by a curmudgeonly bull who snorted elephant epithets
when I violated his space. I raised my camera to take a picture
and heard hissing behind me. I swung around to make eye contact
with an enormous reptile. This was not the gecko on the shower stall.
The monitor lizard looked to be about five feet from his first lethal
incisor to the last bony plate on his tail and walked with the gait
of a constipated pit bull. It "monitored" me, (rolling
its eyes like Groucho Marx) dismissed me as a wimp and not worth
the trouble, and swaggered away.
I brushed by
Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth where elephants dress up and have
a grand gala every August and where I lodged at the musty but marvelous
old Hotel Suisse. It had grand hallways and huge rooms with shutters
that swung open and a circular bar tended by a gap-toothed man with
greasy black hair slicked back over his ears. I went to Sri Lanka's
"cultural triangle", the ancient cities of Anuradhapura,
Mihintale and Polonnaruwa, and walked in the rain amongst acres
of some of the most inspiring Buddhist heritage sites I have ever
Now I know
why my Sri Lankan friends - who have lived the foie gras of New
York and San Francisco and Singapore - all say they want to go back
to their villages to retire.
Sri Lanka's capital city, does not evoke such images. It is noisy,
petrol-stinky. Driving requires a sort of entrepreneurship endemic
to South Asia. My driver leapfrogged smoke-spewing busses, nosing
back to the proper lane barely in time to avoid trucks that came
roaring from the other direction blasting warnings from their airhorns.
We slalomed around circuses, leftovers from the Brits who claimed
this as one of their outposts (along with the Dutch and the Portuguese).
We drove past police checkpoints, reminders of a civil war that
despite ceasefires and periodic bursts of optimism still nags and
kills. "Our little problem," as Sri Lankans call it, has
had little direct effect on travellers aside from scaring them away.
We dodged past statues depicting, in the European tradition, Great
Leaders gesturing their right hands into the air like opera singers
belting arias. One G.L. had enormous ears.
Arthur C. Clarke
lives in a neighbourhood called Cinnamon Gardens where, as in many
matured cities, fashionable homes have been converted to embassies,
advertising agencies and schools. Leslie's House, named for Clarke's
late longtime companion, is located next to a girl's school. It
looks as if it has been a work in progress for the thirty some years
Clarke has lived here. Modern appendages clash with colonial charms.
A garden in back has served as his salon for the world of good men
and great who have come to call. Friends such as the late Isaac
Asimov who wrote him a limerick:
C. Clarke of Sri Lanka
Now sits in the sun sipping Sanka
And taking his ease
Excepting when he's
Receiving pleased notes from his banker
he is especially fond of the time he spent with American newscaster
Walter Cronkhite and the good old "man-on-the-moon-days"
when together they shed tears on first touchdown.
you are not intimidated." said Clarke as I entered his office.
He was referring to the yipping chihuahua that charged toward me.
to a halt about three feet away.
me to the tiny beast he originally named Pepe. His Sri Lankan friends
couldn't pronounce it, however... always adding an S. So the name
of the cola stuck. Clarke got up from his chair and called Pepsi.
The dog hesitated a moment and came to me instead. I have an extreme
negative predisposition to two animals on this earth: monkeys and
chihuahuas. When I was a child, my best friend owned a shrewish
little mutt that made shreds of several of my pantlegs so I expected
the worst. Pepsi, however, was more like a housecat. He nuzzled
my hand when I leaned over to pet him.
We walked into
the garden and talked.
moves like a ballet dancer, jetéing from one subject to another,
but always returning to earth in the right spot.
and tea we headed back to his office. He wanted to show me a computer
programme he was using to landscape Mars the way he thought it would
be when it was colonized. I had a 3D modelling/virtual reality program
on my laptop. We were a couple of little boys comparing captured
bullfrogs (You show me yours, I'll show you mine.) Clarke talked
about his friend Mandelbrot and fractals (which I have yet to grasp
either technically or spiritually) and rendered one Marscape after
another. -Connected Traveller
Escape from prison
Three women escape from prison... one is a redhead,
one a brunette, and one a blonde.
They run for miles until they come upon an old barn. They decide
to hide in the hayloft and rest for the night. When they climb up,
they find three gunnysacks and decide to put them over their heads
About an hour
later the sheriff and his deputy come into the barn. The sheriff
tells his deputy to go up and check out the hayloft. When he got
up there the sheriff asked him what he saw. The deputy told him
he saw only three gunnysacks.
told him to find out what was in them so the deputy kicked the first
bag, which had the redhead in it. She said "Bow-wow" so
the deputy told the sheriff there was a dog in the first one.
Then he kicked
the one with the brunette in it and she went "Meow." The
deputy told the sheriff there was a cat in the second one.
Then he kicked
the one with the blonde in it and there was no sound at all, so
he kicked it again and the blonde said, "Potatoes."
A blonde woman was down on her luck. In order to raise
some money, she decided to kidnap
a kid and hold him for ransom.
She went to
the playground, grabbed a kid, took him behind a tree, and told
him, "I've kidnapped you."
She then wrote
a note saying, "I've kidnapped your kid. Tomorrow morning,
put $10,000 in a paper bag and put it under the pecan tree next
to the slide on the north side of the playground. Signed, A Blonde."
then pinned the note to the kid's shirt and sent him home to show
it to his parents. The next morning the blonde checked, and sure
enough, a paper bag was sitting beneath the pecan tree.
opened the bag and found the $10,000 with a note that said, "How
could you do this to a fellow blonde?"