Friday, November 26, 2010

The dreary weather in Colombo – I am in desperate need of sunshine

It is Friday and already this week has been quite hectic. Monday was a day of house to house produce delivery after taking Megha (dog) to the vet with a wound in his ear. Tuesday was a full day on the job, with a seminar on the budget in the afternoon blogged elsewhere in Serendipity. This was followed by a book launch of “the suicide club” the author and his family being friends. Got drenched getting there as it was at a (new to me) venue called the Warehouses opposite the Elphinstone Theater in Maradana. It was an occasion to meet friends and relatives, with the dress code being black & white. The book, a biography of plantation life and loves.

Wednesday was a dinner party (baked crab, crispy pork and a super meringue with chocolate topping) hosted by friends that went on past 1.30am and I was stopped for the first time, this on Horton Place being accused of the smell of alcohol. I must confess I did have a favorite malt whiskey and the hostess insisted on one for the road. I did tell the cop I was prepared to go to the station for the breathalyzer though he was hoping for a less complicated solution, so he sent me on my way. I was only about 200 meters from my destination.

Thursday for a full work day at the WTC(our twin towers) and it was straight to another dinner party in the rain by tuk tuk. This time it was string hopper biriyani with prawns, chicken, mutton and a spread. The dessert was also scrummy, but the Laphroig Malt whiskey was the highlight as that was one I used to enjoy in bygone days and not had for ages. This time I had a ride home from a fellow guest.

Friday, was a quick drive back to the farm at 6.30am to pick up the King Coconuts, and deliver them to the Golf Club, and at the same time, take whatever I needed for my night’s trip to Minneriya, including the plastic crates. Then after leaving my cab at the apartment in town, I took a tuk tuk in the rain to the office for a full day at work. I will shortly get back to the flat, pick up the cab, my man Friday and make my journey to Polonnaruwa to oversea the sowing of the new rice crop.

It is raining outside, and I suspect it will be a drive in heavy rain for five hours, which is not easy, but the rains are much less over there, which is what is worrying me as it means my preparations and planting become more of a challenge.

However my weekend in the wilds is what I am really looking forward to, a far cry from the life and work stated above, that’s when reality and creation take place and that’s where my heart and soul lie. It is anyone’s guess how soon I can make the permanent transition. I have to lead this double life to be able to indulge in my desires, as I have not yet found the solution to be self sufficient living on the land.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cock Fighting –" The Hidden Sport" – The most international of them is all over this country

It is amazing that nothing is written about one of the most popular pastimes in the rural areas of Sri Lanka. In little nooks and crannies in Sri Lanka young boys raise fighting cocks. It is not an expensive hobby, so as a pastime, interest, risqué activity or a gambling starter pack for the youth, fighting cocks are everywhere.
Believe it or not this is something done all over the world, and in the scheme of things by people of lower income as it is something they can engage in without too much cost, and with the potential of wagering for a considerable gain. If one looks at European and American history, cockfighting was a common sport, and amongst slaves in America, this was a pastime that was common to take their minds away from their harsh living and working conditions. In short this was their form of entertainment.

Due to the fact that cockfighting is a banned sport, both due to the cruelty to animals and the fact that it is unlicensed and therefore outside the taxation net nothing is publicized about this activity and people carry on this on the QT as they say. Those youth engaged in this are completely ensnared and engrossed in this, and they start out doing it for fun, and the rules are simple. You fight your cockerel with another’s and if yours wins, you have the losing bird. Winning is if the opposing cock runs away in fright, or refuses to fight by cowing down, or if it gets killed in the fight.

This activity has sparked a complete industry, so people go in search of the best varieties “jalaya” is a word I constantly hear for a type of bird. They have sharp talons on their feet that they use to strike their opponent and some if they are let out of their cages just goes in search of another bird just to fight to kill, with no fear. Then once they get a fearless bird there are those who try to breed from that one to raise fighting cocks.

There is a well organized cock fighting underworld that the police have no idea of as it is not a well publicized form of wagering. People come from all over the place for a cockfighting competition which is usually held in a small compound in a not too obvious part of someone’s property, where there are people on the lookout for any strangers in case they are police in mufti, to signal to by way of whistle.
It is a thrill for the youngsters as the wagering is done by the adults and there is a decent reward for the owner of the wining bird, who can sometimes pocket Rs10,000/- for his efforts and even sell his winning bird for more.

I will try and get some photos and also include some cockfighting capers in the future

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So much has happened in the past six months, I was suffering from writers’ cramp

How do I summarize in the space of a blog entry what has happened? Well I don’t know how. It has been filled with trips to places and discovering more, even taking the dogs on the back of the pick up on vacation/ working holidays. I recommend a slow drive up or down the Bogawantalawa cut to Balangoda a road I been for the first time a few months ago and determined to take a picnic lunch and go again to appreciate the varying forests and tea estates of the Bogawantalawa valley and most of all the peace and tranquility.

There have been additions of more calves on the farm, with varying theories of how to maximize the yields from the cows. Generational fights called young vs old with me fighting for the youth for change against the old who blame the youth as being lazy, and the youth saying they cannot take orders from a bunch of old geezers who sit back and do nothing expecting them to do all the work. I lost the skirmish and have to suffer the daylight robbery that is taking place. Its called respecting the elders in Sri Lanka!!!

I have been working all hours and have also been in the thick of the stock market boom in Sri Lanka with not a share to my name, but having safely made millions tax free for clients who I am at pains to explain the world of risk and reward, something very alien to Sri Lanka it seems. Sometimes I have been working in the office till 6.30pm on a Friday, then going to a cocktail function of a leading Conglomerate, chatting with the MD on how he could improve his share price if only he could show more transparency to inspire investor confidence, only to leave for Polonnaruwa at 9.30pm getting to sleep on my bed made of branches in an open verandah at 2.30am.

I still hold my open house on Tuesdays in a flat in Colombo, entertaining a cross section of society, serving Cheeses from all over the world, courtesy of friends and relatives just back from foreign climes, along with a selection of red and white wines. Recent guests have included, captains of industry and commerce, big time jewelers, small time lawyers, designers and artistes; new MPs of the government and opposition, friends and relatives from overseas and all just interesting conversationalists who enjoy meeting new people.

I have had the usual travails on the farm, where instructions are not followed, alcoholics roam, police reports to vouch for the those under my direction, even though I am not sure of their complicity in the infraction. The unreliable staff, agricultural tools, weather, water supply and theft all contributing to chaos. It is surprising that anything gets done on the fields in Sri Lanka given the attitudes prevailing.

In fact this crazy life was even filmed by a film maker from the UK following me one day on my produce delivery route from house to house, then one day at the office in the clouds in the World Trade Center, then on the fields in Hingurakgoda coupled with a trip to see the elephants at the Minneriya National Park, interviewing all those around about what they thought of this vagabond.

All this fortunately with no time off for a head ache! I will just carry on where I left off!