The view of the Port
According to the New York Times, Sri Lanka is the number one place to visit this year. Luckily, we already live here. Over New Years I stayed between beach and lagoon in Tangalle. Next week we’re going to Jaffna to watch the eclipse. Just over the weekend I visited Pettah with friends. This is the bustling commercial center near the port, though as far as I can tell the main trade seems to be in dried fish and artificial human hair. It is a vibrant and happening place and I got some serendipitous photos. These are a few.
Day laborer laboring
Day laborer crashing
People work hard in Pettah, selling, transporting, dealing. As tourists we’re just passing through. Amidst the crowds, people drag hand carts full of onions, sprats, or like 20 televisions. It’s hot, it’s congested and I don’t know how they do it. We’d stop to refresh with lime juice, etc every half hour and were dead sleepy after just an afternoon. These guys are hauling and working all day.
I wouldn’t say that Pettah is a place to go for food, per se. It’s frankly crowded and dirty. I was excited to find a Budweiser in a shop, but it turned out to be non-alcoholic and gross. The vegetarian meal we had near the kovil was frankly mediocre, besides the technicolor sow [sic?].
Picking pickled fruits
My favorite thing about Pettah, however, is that amidst the bustle you get these amazing moments of serendipity. Basically, just weird, trippy shit. For example, there seems to be a thriving trade in fake hair. I have noticed this on most street corners, but in Pettah every street vendor has astounding varieties of really gross looking wigs and hair extensions, usually in attached to alice bands or scrunchies. We asked and a full nightclub drummer alice band costs about Rs. 750. I really wonder who wears these things. If you look through the whole Flickr set there is a photo of me in such a wig, but I certainly won’t feature it here.
Rish in wig
Then there’s this particular image, which I think is one of my favorites that I’ve ever taken. I’m interested in the points where photography breaks down and becomes surreal, or painting-like. Hence low-light, long exposures, refraction under water, etc. Those are the points where photography often doesn’t work, but if you get it right it can be really trippy. In this case there’s a weird effect from the reflection of the glass in a food cart. You can see me taking the photo, but I seem to somehow emerge from among the wade. You can see characters behind the cart looking quizically, but then some of the other characters are actually behind me. As you can see, the street sign is actually backwards, so it’s a reflection. What seems like the street ahead is really behind. It’s actually hard to tell what is where, in space.
Trippy food cart reflection
There are few hallucinations I could imagine, however, that could match to even the daily tasks of the Pettah photo studio. This, for example, is a young girl receiving communion (I believe) directly from Jesus. I hesitate to make any transubstantiation jokes, but Jesus is literally handing out a slice of his own body. I leave you with this. Pettah is hot and dirty but worth a visit. If you want to orient your tour the Dutch Museum (which sucks and is not worth paying foreign entry for) and Kovil are places to orient yourself by. It’s really about the oddities and little bends of reality in between.