One of my favorite things about this country is probably our preservation of Buddhism. Vipassana meditation has made a huge difference in my life, lifting years of depression and grumpiness. Our particular superstitions also give us a day off work every full moon. Recently I drove down to Kandy for a wedding, at Earl’s Regency. Ate, met a friend there and we ducked out to go see town before the sun set. Because Kandy really is a beautiful, multi-layered town. We asked the hotel security where we could find a ‘lassana thanna’ and he drew a blank. Which is so so sad. So many people see less of their own country than tourists. So we just drove to the one place we could see. The huge Biharavokanda Buddha statue overlooking the town.
The thing is, this is all a day trip. I can get in the car and drive to the beach, the jungle, the hills or even the opposite coast within a day. Some day, inshallah, I’ll be able to drive to the north. I’ll admit that I miss some creature comforts and consumer goods from the west but this, to me, is luxury.
Kandy, for example is a lovely city. What I like most is the depth and layers of the city. Colombo is effectively flat and it’s easy to get lost (and there are no views). I like hilly cities because you can always sorta sense where you are by the pressure in your ears, the slope beneath your feet, the temperature on your skin, any number of things. Height gives you a sense of place. And I generally love heights.
And water. At the center of Kandy is an artificial lake which cools in the day and reflects everything at night. And it’s something obvious to orient yourself by. Driving by it me and Ranil wondered what the hell happened to us. How come we don’t do this stuff anymore? Our ancestors built giant lakes and stupas with their hands and wits. We lease airplanes from the west. In the old days a king was judged on the tanks and stupas he built. If I was President I’d do the same thing.
Talked to a cop at the Biharavokanda Buddha. There are police quarters just below. He said during President Premadasa’s days the Buddha was covered in gold flake. The gold flaked and the Buddha is white now. There’s a small room inside with carvings and images. There’s another full of boxes, junk and stacked chairs. You can see the whole city, and the whole city can see you. The lake, the walls, the houses, the cars.
It’s not a bad place to be, here, this moment, Sri Lanka.
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