Tuk tuk drivers, aunties and monks – An intro into Sri Lankan culture

If Lewis Hamilton was placed beside a tuk tuk on the roads of Sri Lanka, it is not difficult to comprehend that the not so famous “uncle” on his tuk tuk will be the definite winner with a smug on his face. Sri Lankan drivers have a certain trait passed down by generations or perhaps by experience. For one, hearing the horn on the road does not entirely mean that something has gone wrong. It is simply a way of saying “move over Lewis, I’m just about to overtake you”. This act of arrogance confidence happens everywhere, even on a bend in the road where no corner mirrors exist; the kind of confidence that would allow one to squeeze in between two overpowering trucks with just a 5cm gap on both sides. Being on the roads of Sri Lanka kind of reminds me of life. You never know what to expect and yet, if you are confident and experienced enough, you might just be able to wheeze your way through. Just maybe!

Hospitality, from my 2011 experience and therefore biased belief, is the kind that has black coffee knocking at your door at 9am in the morning every single day. Hospitality whom I’m talking about here is Auntie, Dinushee’s dear Mom and my kind host. As if knowing already that I would take a culinary adventure anywhere I go in the world, Aunty had prepared what seemed a feast at three in the morning although we had never met before. I quickly learned that Aunty expected me to be home for dinner each evening and I was very obedient with this curfew.

My experiences back in 2011 and 2015 respectively made it easy to pick Sri Lanka as part of my sabbatical in 2020. The people, culture and cuisine; there was so much to absorb, plenty to be in awe of. So, for the last 3 weeks, I had been travelling, observing, cooking and partaking in the joys of eating; all explored in my next post. Travelling alone has allowed me to also delight in the kindness of human nature. I recall the strangers in the middle of nowhere who helped find my way back to Sen Wellness in Rekawa, the bus conductor who assured me that he would let me know when we were close to Dambulla and the tuk tuk driver who taught me the art of negotiation as we drove up the west coast of Sri Lanka. These experiences have added flavor and light to my adventures, and why I highly encourage travelling alone; to burst our personal bubbles, understand other people’s culture and explore ideas that may cultivate our own.

Fast forward to the present moment. I sit at the airport waiting to board, in what looks like a tense environment as the coronavirus pandemic makes its way worldwide. As my sabbatical comes to abit of a pause in these uncertain times, I can only smile by the chosen background music at the airport – the monks chanting – for the wellbeing of everyone, I am most certain. A comforting, beautiful and positive sendoff, Sri Lankan style.

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