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Sri Lanka Up-Close and Personal

Sri Lanka Up-Close and Personal

As someone who would like to create the world we want to live in, I have written about Sri Lanka repeatedly.  Sri Lanka that I saw from New York through social media since 2022 is very different from what I see in person today. I am here on sabbatical and teaching at Peradeniya University. During my travels in the past two weeks, I saw no lines for essential items such as food, cooking oil, baby powder, or gasoline. I saw no Aragala or protests. Although consumer prices are extremely high, life goes on. People go on trips. They are not starving. I saw more panhandlers and homeless people in New York than in Colombo, Kandy, Peradeniya, Kurunegala, or Kegalle.  According to the cafe owner in the Peradeniya teaching hospital, a family of three can have three meals a day for about LKR 1,000 or USD 0.30.  He sells lentil cakes or fritters (wada) for LKR 20 each and a cup of coffee for LKR 80.  That was my lunch yesterday. 

What most people do not realize is that the water is boiling slowly in the pot while the crabs are dancing. IMF loans run the country while the corrupt rulers and priests are still at their old games. Dollar is around LKR 320 today. People fear for their provident funds although the president says that the domestic debt restructuring will not affect the member balance of any superannuation funds, including the EPF.

My trips around the major cities in Sri Lanka proved to me once again that this is a beautiful island that can be a paradise. Lush green forests everywhere.  Beautiful beaches and a resourceful sea around the island.  The weather is friendly enough to allow the farmers to cultivate two seasons.  The talented young people make this land worth fighting for. I hope they understand

The national airline is a shame and disaster. My plane from Abu Dhabi to Colombo was in a hangar for 3 days in Abu Dhabi as the airline had no money to buy the needed spare parts. Creditors were not selling parts on credit until the previous bills are paid. I was originally supposed to Land in Colombo on the 4th of July but did not land until July 8th.

I am sharing a room in this ancient stone Bangalow built by the Brits to house the Superintendent of a nearby tea estate with my wife Usha, some black ants, and a few mosquitoes.  A whole bunch of monkeys are sneering at Usha through the glass windows while chewing on stolen guavas.  The place is majestic.  Beautiful flowers of many colors, giant banyan trees, birds and the bees, and sweet-smelling fruits everywhere. But the place is a dump. No Wi-Fi, frequent power outages, a big pool that has not been used or cleaned in ages, and a drunk caretaker who was sleeping during the midday when we first arrived. It took us 3 hours to find him.  You want a system change. Change those habits. Force people to take their responsibilities seriously.  In the hands of efficient people, the university can turn this bungalow in to a money pit. Perhaps one day some rogue politician may claim this as his own and make a few bucks. 

The way forward is for the people to rally around the educated, honest, and experienced people and help them defeat the thieves. But no elections are in sight. And the traditional politicians are benefiting from the prevailing conditions just as the beggars are benefitting from their chronic wounds. 

Viva Sri Lanka!

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