A drive through rain-hit Colombo, avoiding sliding back to old Lankan ways and the magic of Maestro Amaradeva


by Retired International Consultant

On November 24, 2015 something prompted me to listen to an Amaradeva DVD after a long while. It was the day before Poya and the sky had cleared after a spell of torrential rain through which my wife and I drove to Liberty Plaza and back home. We spent only 15 minutes at the Liberty Plaza to meet a colleague to hand over a manuscript of a report. It was a lucky thing that my wife unexpectedly decided to accompany me to Colombo. Her presence gave me a lot of confidence as I willed the car to crawl along the wind -swept, rain lashed roads bumper to bumper in poor visibility. I was straining my eyes and neck striving to see through the huge drops of rain that relentlessly hit the windscreen. The wipers were furiously labouring to remove the water but with limited success. The rain started as we were passing through Maligawatta on our way to Liberty Plaza and kept on falling till we passed Galle Face on our return trip home which route we took, hopefully, to save ourselves the mental agony of driving once again through heavily congested traffic.

It took about three and a half hours for the trip- driving for 3hrs 15 minutes to do about a max. of 30 kilometres! Some parts of the General’s Lake Road (I suppose it’s renamed, but pardon me for not remembering the new name, if it was renamed) was already beginning to fill up with, I guess, lazily draining rain water …. The right lane of the Dharmapala Mawatha past the Pittala Junction approaching the Public Library was also filling up as was the stretch of road passing the Public Library. Green Path was already inundated, a fairly long stretch of the right lane beginning as one just passes the Cinnamon Red hotel driving towards the Liberty Plaza; we were inching through the water as if I was driving in an urbanized dola(stream),- with childhood memories flashing through my mind of happier times spent with some of my siblings, wading in the native village ‘dola para’ - and now fearing and hoping all the while, that the car would not splutter to a stop with water getting into the engine.

As we turned in to the Liberty Plaza, I found that the access road to the car park was akin to a small swimming pool but with blackish water. Without venturing into the pool, I tried to figure out if I could back out into Duplication Road; but it dawned on me that no driver would yield, and that it would be a dangerous exercise anyway, and illegal too.

I felt that it was safer to get stuck in the pool, and be on the right side of the law, than be struck in the back even by a slow moving bus or a truck. The car was nursed across the pool to reach high and dry ground to be parked. As I was locking the car, I had already begun to dread the return car-swim to reach Duplication Road, for us to begin the return trip. Through all this chaos, I must say that the security staff at the Liberty Plaza, some in calf-deep water with boots and all, did a very good job of helping the drivers given the difficult circumstance. Their dedication to duty would have been perhaps the sole shining star over the gloomy skies of Colombo in the early part of that night.

Relieved as I re-negotiated the stretch of water-logged access from Liberty Plaza back to the Duplication Road, my thinking automatically and justifiably switched to ‘how well the drainage worked during Gotabhaya R’s stint as the head of urban development affairs, when even much longer bouts of torrential rains had not caused such quick flooding in the roads of Colombo…… and how well the main road surfaces in Colombo were maintained as well as the walkways. And NOW…. the pot holes in Colombo’s main roads are beginning to be evident –yes quietly emerging ….. Just enough for one’s mind to be rudely plucked back in time, to the 1990s and the deteriorating infrastructure in Colombo especially the pot- holed and flooded roads with garbage strewn around. I am hoping and will continue to hope that better sense would prevail and good intentions, the ideas and the rhetoric would be converted into effective action under the current dual-power driven Government. The Government would have to buck up, before a slide-back to pot holes, deteriorating road surfaces, and drainage blocks, begin to gain a momentum of their own, weighing down the road repair-wallahs into a state of lethargy, as by then, they would not know from where to begin the repairs- causing even greater misery to residents, drivers and commuters.

It may have been the stress and tension of the three and a quarter hour round trip from a northern suburb to Colombo and back that prompted me to relax with an Amaradeva DVD on return. I eased into a chair and began to play Amaradeva. It was a heavenly experience after such strenuous three plus hours… As the DVD began to play the second song ‘Chando Ma Bilinde’ the agitated mind began to calm down…..By the end of the second song, ‘Pera Dinayaka Ma Pem Kala Yuvathiya’ the sense of relaxation was taking hold. What maestro Amaradeva can do to a nerve-wracked mind is miraculous. The song ‘Daethe Ellie’ (Holding by the Hand) made my mind float back to enchanting memories of our daughters’ childhood and then with Amaradeva’s voice creating subtle and alternating mental imagery of ageing parents and growing- up children, philosophically conveyed the truism of life -‘anichcha’.

Amaradeva’s rendering of Rev. S. Mahinda’s lullaby, assisted by Nanada Malini, pulled at your heart strings reminding how priceless this land of ours is to us- all Sri Lankans. For me there were two transcending experiences. An indescribable gentle but deep feeling of gratitude to the fallen (they are now in the care of ‘suarabun’-divine maidens or Angels as Amaradeva’s softened voice murmurs to us) for saving the Nation, and a sadness, as their sacrifices are beginning to be calculatingly hushed-up; the other, a re-confirmation of the realization that the political and ethnic barriers have to be transcended to find a sustainable peace in the Country, but, without compromising on national security. This approach if genuinely applied has the best chance of activating the message so clearly and patriotically echoed by Mahinda Thero that the (Sri Lankan) Nation is a gold abode that has to be protected at all costs by Sri Lankans.

The assault on France in France, the worst the country had suffered since the World War II is proof enough that anything connected to terrorism can happen in any country at any time to the detriment of people and society. We can theorize on the political and social causes, but the results could be devastating and destabilizing to all citizens. As USA, Europe, Russia, China and a host of other Nations raise their guard, let Sri Lanka be not caught napping again, ever, in striving to lower her guard unwisely or for political gain. Let the political promises made at the two elections be tested in the crucible of Sri Lanka’s territorial oneness and its security needs; not in the crucible of wish lists of political parties vying for electoral success. Maybe political leaders should listen to songs of Pandit Amaradeva more often for relaxation and insights on Sri Lankan nationhood.


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