Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Travel Diaries - Sri Lanka

Miskil is a special lady. She has her own mind and is pretty clear about what she wants. Years ago when she came to visit her aunt Shobha at Hyderabad I proferred my own ideas of how to go about life - none of which I follow by the way. Miskil came by and managed to conjure up a nice little career shift after that - thanks mainly to her own drive, personality and intelligence. But being the kind person she is Miskil does credit me some.

Having launched herself into a successful career in advertising (she already has a successful career in dancing) she set about figuring out relationships. Her ideas were very clear and she was patient. When she finally announced her marriage with Kabir Grover, a couple of months ago, it pretty much ticked off all boxes incredibly. Kabir is a gentleman, a good sport and looks very bit a thoughtful and caring person. Trust Miskil to drop the bomb on us - you have to come to Sri Lanka for the wedding she said. And we had to. You cannot say No to Miskil.

Miskil pretty much had everything figured out - prices, places, pick up etc and guided the whole show along. The wedding cum sangeet cum party was to be held at a beach side resort called Jetwing Blue in Negombo, which is 20 kms off Colombo. So tickets were done, plans made and dates blocked. We pencilled in a couple of days at Chennai to meet Anil and Lalitha, Krishna and Chitra.

Come D day and Anjali appeared with her back pack and off we went to Chennai. The Uber fare was 360 to Shamshabad where Meru and Skycabs charge about 800. How do they do it? Anyway it was  a nice start to the vacation. When we alighted at Chennai we found the place teeming with lots of political activity - Sasikala was being challenged by Paneerselvam. The lady had spirited away a bunch of her MLAs and hid them in a resort. I found one pre-paid service and they charged some 500 bucks to Nungambakkam which seemed fair (until I saw the Uber price was was 250 - how does Uber do it). Our cab driver seemed to favour Paneerselvam and said everyone disliked Sasikala. We reached Anil's home - I love that road and its many shops and eateries. I love their home too with its cosy interiors. Anil went all out and was the gracious host. We met the cat of the house - Chikoo - a saintly feline with the stillness of a monk. We chilled out all day, waited for Lalitha to return that evening, watched the political drama on TV and headed out for some Chinese at Cascade down the road. The guy lived up to his name - food was quick as an Udipi.

Flight to Colombo being at 3 we headed off in a cab to the airport at 12. We strolled along the airport leisurely until boarding time. Anjali was up and awake. The Sri Lankan Airlines air hostesses looked nice in their traditional sarees (which they tie in a different way) and their Ayu Bowan greetings. It's an hour's journey to Colombo. Anjali had had a long day and slept. At Colombo we had a bit of a scramble at the airport with immigration and then catching up with Gautam and Ramya (who were also headed to the wedding) - mainly to get as much duty free booze as we could. That done we headed out to find that the bag with Shobha's and Anjali's stuff was missing. In its place was another bag of similar size and shape that went around ominously on the conveyor belt. I was convinced that this was the culprit and found a helpful baggage officer (what are they called?) who secured the offending bag first. Then he found that the person involved had four bags and tried calling. Anyway that whole process took an hour and we were wide awake by the time the next round of guests came out of the airport. Shobha and Anjali were already planning about how they would now buy new clothes and it helped that no one was all keyed up. We hitched a ride with Milind and Neelima in a swanky car and in a short while were at Jetwing Blue, Negombo. The staff at the reception was dressed in a nice uniform - a nice top with a sarong that made them look dignified. There is a fullness to their face, eyes, and bodies, and they radiate a peace - the Sri Lankans I met there. They handled the luggage business with the airport well (seems like a normal affair) and got it all done smoothly. By the time we came back after lunch - the bag was waiting in the lobby.

Jetwing Blue is a wonderful property, with a beautiful pool that one cannot ignore, lovely views of the beach and a stone's throw from the sea (if you can throw well). We met some of the old culprits, forgot about sleep and hit the breakfast. Ms. Anuradha Reddy whom I met at the Hyderabad airport told me to eat the hoppers (of which she had set a record of sorts in her youth when she polished off 40 she told me) and I did. I tried some more Sri Lankan stuff for breakfast. Now for the devilled prawns, Mendis arrack and the cashew that Vijay Lokapally advised me to savour.  Anjali, as mentioned earlier was already slipping away on her own. I took a good look around and geared up for the day. There was sangeet that night. Would this be my first sangeet party? Perhaps - I cannot remember. Of that day, later.

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