Monday 26th September started very early in the Ja Ela house. 4.20 am to be exact as the son’s in-laws rose to prepare for the lorry which was to transport what it could of the yellow post-it note labelled furniture and boxes to the Pelawatta house.
The Most Auspicious time to enter the house was 10.20 am and to move furniture or ourselves in before the prescribed time is considered unlucky. We were running the gauntlet of the Monk’s advice anyway as Gate Late the builder – whilst bringing about 15 workmen into the house over the past few days, was still not going to have the house ready for us to move into yesterday. Jaia, the son’s father-in-law, was nominated to stay there last night but much was to happen before we deserted him to his lonely vigil. (He has just phoned this morning to say he didn’t sleep a wink last night!)
Firstly think West Cork Time and double it. Jaia and Sumitra woke me at 4.20 am but I was able to get back to sleep until around 6 am by which time they believed the lorry had abandoned us. In any event the lorry driver and lad arrived at 6.30 am. And so began the task of cramming what they could into this vehicle.
Meanwhile Sumitra was busily preparing for the blessing of the house and the Buddhist traditions which must take place to ensure harmony, peace and success in the couple’s new home. Food was cooked, white rice and coconut, some small bottles put aside, oil, leaves gathered from one of the coconut palms in the garden. The leaves were dry and brittle and shredded and folded into smaller strips. Some fresh white flower heads which cascade over a wall on the lane, were neatly snipped off and dropped into a small plastic bag. Sumitra swung the plastic bag over so it ballooned with air and neatly twisted and tied the top to keep the flowers as fresh as possible. We did not have the brand new clay bowl needed for the ceremony so a call was made to Sumitra’s other daughter who lives near the Pelawatta house to have one delivered to the house for our arrival.
The first drama was before we got to the main Ja Ela road. We have to cross a railway line which has no safety barriers. There was a queue of traffic in front of us all trying to cut across on to the main road. The bell was ringing warning of the impending arrival of the train and it was a case of do we go or don’t we go, in case the train arrives first? We did go and the train didn’t arrive first.
The next drama was when we were on the motorway. Locals mainly don’t use the motorway as it has toll stations on it but it saves us a great bit of our journey and the traffic is light compared to the main drag.
Suddenly the son, driving, called, ‘Will you look at the size of that – it’s huge – it’s enormous!’ I twisted and turned from my back seat vantage point looking all around me for a huge truck, lorry or car. Well that’s what you would expect on a motorway in any other country.
The enormous beast was a very large lizard, looking like he came from a prehistoric age, was at least six foot in length with a large swinging tail and he was crossing the six lanes of the motorway, (three in each direction) without fear or favour. He was on his own territory and with his head erect, and ignoring the line up of cars, which had been commanded by a policeman to halt, the lizard continued looking neither right nor left, but headed in a completely straight line to the muddy river which bounded the other side of the motorway.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get my camera phone out quick enough to snap this.
The lorry had arrived at the Pelawatta house by the time we got through the traffic. The traffic is crazy but this is an island approximately the same size as Ireland but with a population in excess of 22 million and I think each and every one has at least one car or tuk tuk or scooter. Everyone is going somewhere.
I remember being told not to ride the clutch when I learned to drive. If you learned to drive here – and I pity anyone who has to – you need to be taught how to honk your horn. There are ‘let me through there please honks’, angry ‘get out of my way now honks’, and continuous honks which mean ‘I am coming through no matter what and you have been warned’. Drivers just press the car horns for any little thing and it becomes a language which accompanies any journey here. And I think my son is the only one who knows what indicators are for in this country.
We arrive at the Pelawatta House in good time for the ceremony. Sumitra’s other daughter has sent a driver around with a brand new pristine clay pot. We are almost ready to begin the blessing which will be detailed in the next blog.