So I am sprawled lazily on the cushions in this shack on a remote beach in an area still recovering from the effects of decades of conflict. I ignore the supremely fit and purposeful surfers around me; the only physical activity for me is the act of reaching the beer mug to my lips. Even that is carried out with less frequency than usual. I could get used to this, but of course nothing is going to allow me to. Tomorrow I need to be back at work and that poses a small problem. I have to get to the north and I don't have a ride. I am not too worried though as a lot of people from Batti are down here for the long weekend. I can get a ride to Batti and then pick up my car from there. "Know of anyone headed to Batti?", I ask no one in particular. My friend sitting next to me nods, turns around, and pats the woman sleeping behind her. Now what are the odds of finding a person right there who was not only going to Batti but onwards to Vavuniya (where I wanted to go!), and who had a place in her car for me? It gets better. What are the odds of this person being your batch mate from a Master's program that you did two years back?! It was a joint masters that seven universities in Europe conducted and what are the odds that both of you did it from the same University?! I had missed meeting her as I had moved out from Groningen to Uppsala for my second semester just when she moved there from Dublin after her first! Only to meet in this remote south-east corner of Sri Lanka!
Guess even the most desperate gambler won't be betting on these odds.
So I get a ride with these two women right up to Vavuniya the next day. In the car the women do a strange thing. Something which I realise they have been doing together for sometime now. They read to each other! My new friend, the one who had studied with me, starts reading first. The book is Shantaram - and the part they start with is where he describes Leopold's in Bombay. One of my favourite places in Colaba. What are the odds is almost becoming a cliche now! For a dutch woman to meet someone who has been to Leopold's just when she is reading about it in the book is surprising to say the least!
I was being read to after a very very long time - and even if I had felt that it was slightly corny when she started to read - by the end of the trip I was hooked! Every time she would put the book down to look out and enjoy the view - I would have to resist the urge to ask 'what happens next?'! The writings of a foreigner's perspective of your country read to you by another foreigner was a truly unique experience for me. The wonder and amazement of the writer at things that you take for granted was so well echoed by the reader. I don't know if I will enjoy reading the book myself so much now!
A touch of serendipity, I guess, is never too far on the Isle of Serendib...