Places you’ll never go and things you won’t see

A coconut grove next to the Indian Ocean in වාද්දුව (Wadduwa)
—a man climbing the palm with a t-shirt tied around his ankles
and a machete stuck down the back of his shorts.

Strolling along a beach filled with fisherfolk hauling in a net
—heavy, with the morning’s catch,
a call and response chant for each pull.

A third class train ride to කොළඹ (Colombo)
—sleeper hopping on train tracks to get to the platform;
a mother, baby on hip, begging in the aisle.

Walking from the station to your hotel in the capital’s streets
—the view of the new city being reclaimed from the sea;
dinner in a restaurant in an old Dutch hospital.

A tuk-tuk ride at night around the lake in මහනුවර (Mahanuwara)
—a night market selling clothes next to the train station;
ශ්රී දළදා මාළිගාව (Sri Dalada Maligawa) temple on පෝය (Poya) day.

Touring a Ceylon tea plantation in නුවර එළිය (Nuwara Eliya)
—Camellia sinensis terraced into hillsides;
bone china, a pot of orange pekoe and tea cake.

An ayurvedic spice garden in දඹුල්ල (Dambulla)
—cinnamon bark being stripped from a stick,
oil massaged into your back.

Visiting the stone ruins of a king’s audience hall in පොළොන්නරුව (Polonnaruwa)
—monkeys lining the ancient stone steps,
stone බුද්ධ (Buddhas) sitting, standing, lying.

An elephant safari in කවුඩුල්ල (Kaudulla) National Park
—riding the dirt road rollercoaster in an open topped jeep,
pachyderms swishing grass with trunks; stuffing mouths.

Swimming in an infinity pool next to පරාක්රම සමුද්රය (Parakrama Samudra)
—bats pouring and pouring across the sky above
the world’s largest man-made lake.x

The observation saloon at the back of a train travelling through the up country
—standing in the open train doorway, people walking on the tracks
after the train has passed; a railway station shrine to බුද්ධ (Buddha).

Climbing down the steep hillside to go shopping in ඇල්ල (Ella)
—roadside stop at a waterfall;
the view of the southern Indian ocean from the gap.

A Hindu temple in තිස්සමහාරාමය (Tissamaharama), peacocks on the walls
—a box with a spike
coconut offerings impaled.

Drinking pineapple juice at every meal
—a street-side stall selling වඩයි (vadai),
a roadside shack selling මි කිරි (mi kiri).

A gelato shop in a colonial Dutch street in ගාල්ල (Galle) Fort
—taking an impromptu shower in your clothes on the ramparts;
drying off in your room in a scheduled blackout to conserve power.

Waiting the warm sea water at දෙවට (Dewata) beach
—lying, lifting, crouching, rising, wobbling;
learning to surf with බුද්ධ (Buddha) on the hill, watching.

Your grandmother’s house in (කරණාගොඩ) Karranagoda
—the school where your father attended kindergarten;
බුද්ධ (Buddha) statues in the cave temple he worshipped when he was a boy.

Dining at an aunt’s house in පානදුර (Panadura)
— ආප්ප (hoppers), පොල් සම්බෝල (pol sambol) and කිරි හෝඩි (kiri hoddi);
and an after dessert walk in the tropical dark along quiet village roads.

Home is not your country.

Sinhala Translations

poya day – monthly full moon public holiday
vadai – fried lentil patties
mi kiri – buffalo curd
hoppers – bowl shaped pancakes
pol sambol – coconut sambol
kiri hoddi – coconut gravy

Indrani Perera is a Sri Lankan/German/Australian poet living in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia). She was shortlisted for the Jean Stone Award and Nillumbik Prize and is the author of Defenestration and pas de deux.  www.indraniperera.com