Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Of Red Dots, Black Strips and White Streaks...

Imagine an extra terrestrial being, observing the earth from somewhere far above, on a clear Saturday morning. If she had good eyesight she may have spotted this emerald green, tear drop shaped island hanging tentatively to the Indian peninsula. If she was also blessed with an ultra sensitive sense of smell she wouldn't miss the fact that she was hardly sniffing any vile CO2. Ah! Fresh! While at it, if she had screwed her eyes and focused on the eastern edge of the teardrop, she would have made out a thin black strip running along the coast, hugging the ocean and gently shimmering in the sun. She may also have picked up this little red dot on that strip that seemed to dash and stop as it inched slowly southwards. What she couldn't have known was that lodged uncomfortably, albeit voluntarily, inside this sporadically moving red dot was a miniscule and extremely rueful entity. The cause of this rue was the knowledge that at this very moment this entity could have been comfortably inside a fast moving white streak located somewhere much further to the south on the shimmering black strip. But alas, this miniscule and rueful entity had inside him, in no mean amount, a senseless and intangible quality called a sense of adventure. It usually resulted in the uncomfortable lodging of the entity in question in the most questionable places.

The red dot of course was one of the many that crisscrossed the emerald island at this same excruciating pace. What is popularly called a bus.

The white streak of course would have been my car, which rested peacefully back home.

Two reasons for that. I had just read somewhere that Sri Lanka accounts for much less than 0.01% of the total carbon dioxide emissions and I didn’t want to make any changes in the figures. Secondly, using the local transport in a foreign country is an exotic experience after all. So I ignored some good natured advice and took the early morning bus from Batticaloa to Pothuwil.

The reason for the sporadic movement of the bus is quite simple. Security checks. The entire bus gets off and files through a check post for baggage and personal screening. This happened twentytimes in the 150 km stretch that I traveled. I took 6 and a half hours for the trip. Finally when I got off at Pothuwil I should have been in a really bad mood - but i was at Arugam Bay! Yipee! One needs to take a tuk tuk from Pothuwil to avoid a short 3 km trek to the beach. I paid Rs 100 for the trip - but you could get a ride for Rs 40 if you knew better.

Heading south the tuk tuk crossed the new bridge, built after the tsunami, and immediately dropped me off on the beach road. I turned left and hit the beach. This stretch of beach is the main hub of activity for the tourists, surfers and fisher folk alike. The beach is a charming mix of laid back leisure and frenetic fishing activities. This is considered a surfers haven – especially suited for beginners. The season starts picking up after April and lasts till about November depending on the monsoons. I was there during the low season so I pretty much had the place to myself. There were still a few accommodation options and restaurants that were functional. I spent my time there taking long walks, watching the fishermen reel in their catch, see the sun set and the moon rise and of course beer, arrack and some lazy conversation. I had decided to come here at the last moment - when I had realised that I had a long weekend staring at me. I hadn't counted on the bus trip to take double the scheduled time. So it was with some dread that I looked at the return trip. Luck was with me, however, as I bumped into some NGO types headed back to Batticaloa. Not bad at all, I thought, ensconced comfortably with a German blonde and a French brunette inside a white streak. Couldn’t help feeling that I was being watched – maybe by some extra terrestrial being who was peering down and smiling knowingly…