Ja Ela, where I have stayed before, is a more rural area but within easy access of the railway line and transport is via tuk tuks if you don’t own a vehicle. Not many do. There are stalls set up on nearby roads where you can buy most of the basics. There’s also an excellent tailor on the road and a seamstress along the red sandy lane from this house.
The day begins with the bread van’s melodic Viennese waltz music awakening even the Doberman who stands guard in the grounds. She starts barking before the music begins and as soon as she recognises the sound of the tuk tuk’s engine. She has a sweet tooth and loves the fresh sugary buns, long pointed finger-like twists of bread all freshly made. The bread van whirls around these streets several times a day until darkness falls at 6 pm.
The van carries a variety of breads, but mainly white bread. Its buns are coated with a glazing and there are also cup cakes and fairy cakes. The bread is as light as a feather.
There is a cricket ground further up the road and the routine for the men in this house is to rise shortly after 5 am and walk twenty times around the cricket ground before returning to the daily chores. Many more do this same walk and as cricket is a national sport the cricket ground appears to be a meeting and gathering place for different age groups.
There’s also a Buddhist Temple thanks to the daughter-in-law who helped the monk set up by giving him a computer. He earns money from consulting astrology charts on line and passing the advice on to paying customers. From this he has a living and so has earned enough to build the temple. His recent purchase of loud speakers is causing problems in the area. These polite, gentle and reserved people, who don’t complain about anything, have gone in groups to ask him to consider the elderly, the sick and the children who need their sleep before school.
He is genuine in his wish to spread the news but over-zealous as regards volume. Here the main faith is Buddhist and Catholic with the Muslim population smaller. And there are Sinhalese and Tamil living happily side by side. The Tamil lady who did some dressmaking for me two years ago and who lives along the lane is Catholic. The Buddhist population are as concerned about the hours of music and sermons from the temple. I have got that I know the temple music off by heart.
But we are to move within days to Pelawatta, where there will be no bread van doing its rounds, there will be no loud speaker from the temple but there will be a bin collection where there is none here. Rubbish, and there is very little of it as nothing is wasted, is burned in metal bins in the garden. In Pelawatta, the shops are all within walking distance, and in fact most of what we need and want will be within easy reach. The most beautiful parks will become the venue for the men’s daily walk.
Till we move the routine is the walk around the cricket pitch and then the steady sweeping of the leaves on the red herringbone brick-laid paths in the grounds of this house.
Sumitra’s routine is cooking first thing and there is always a pot bubbling on the stove, even at 5.30 am when I got up this morning. The dog follows her up the lane as she picks flower heads to place before the Buddha’s statue in the large sitting room area. Today’s flowers were a circle of white jasmine and a large yellow trumpet of yellow hibiscus at the centre.
Yesterday evening she served the Buddha a cocktail of lime juice, sugar and water. I thought she was going to drink it as I was offered a spoonful to taste. When she was satisfied it was just right it was carried through to place before the Buddha’s statue. I don’t know what happened to the drink.
Prayers are said reverently morning and night. Food is placed before the Buddha too and I it has just been explained to me that the dog is given the food that has dried overnight in the bowl in front of the Buddha.
Each person has their own cup, plate and bowl. The son and I are given cutlery. One knife, fork and spoon was unearthed for me on my arrival and place in a white plastic box on the kitchen table. We each wash up our own dishes and utensils under the running tap over the kitchen sink and leave them to dry in the air on a wire plate rack. Sumitra, her husband and sometimes the daughter-in-law eat mostly with their fingers as is the custom in this country.
Today Sumitra and I are being dropped off at the beauty parlour. I have struggled with many things here as I am not technical or practical and the language is difficult. I have a phrase book now but my pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired and sometimes Sumitra dissolves in laughter at my attempts.
I have had lukewarm showers since I arrived here. Have had to wash my hair in lukewarm water and it was only when I asked my son’s help as to how you got hot water in our bathroom, that it was discovered the water heater light was all that was working. The heater was not working. Hence the trip to the beauty parlour to have my hair washed in hot water.
Solar panels for hot water are being installed in the Pelawatta house on Saturday. And we will probably be installed in the Pelawatta house on Saturday as Anne Barre forecast in August. But I have come to learn that nothing happens in an orderly fashion or how you would expect it to. It is all in the hands of the gods, aka Gate Late the builder.