So true!

Mostly Bright Ideas

Easter approaches once again, and as usual, it arrives at the far edge of a forty-six day cloud of confusion. At least for me.

Thinking back on it now, I’m not surprised that I found the entire season incomprehensible. I was baffled by far simpler things — carbon paper, reversible shirts, and those tiny cereal boxes that you could pour the milk directly into. Still, I went to Catholic school, always completed my religion homework, and attended Mass on a regular basis when I remembered to go. I should have had a better handle on the Easter story. But as with many other life events, I looked forward to the time when the holiday would be over, and I’d have another whole year to figure it out.

The trouble started with Ash Wednesday, an otherwise regular school day, except that we were expected in church early that morning. At some…

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Thoughts Appear

Riding a mechanical bull is difficult business. There’s no saddle, stirrups, or horns to help you stay on. (Horns tend to poke drunk people’s eyes out.)

Also, the bull is super smooth and slippery. Imagine a Slip N’ Slide in the shape of a bull and covered in beer instead of water. (Oh, God, I hope it was beer.)

Here are the steps I recommend for maximum riding time:

  1. Start the evening off with a text from The Hipster herself wishing you luck.
  2. Eat a light dinner (so there won’t be much to throw up).
  3. Have a curiously strong drink.
  4. Have 2 more curiously strong drinks.
  5. Wish you’d eaten something more substantial for dinner.
  6. Watch everyone fall off the bull in the first 2 seconds.
  7. Pray that you make it to 3 seconds.
  8. Watch one girl spend 5 minutes just trying to get on the…

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IMF does not need a European. Why?


The reason for the current European soverign debt crisis is quite simple really-Ten years of naive belief that the Greek debt was as low risk as German debt. Banks were nonchalant about their lending to countries whose underlying economic strength was far from comparable to that of the Germans. Somehow ,throughout this period this practice was encouraged politically too.
The rhetoric ever since the crisis began has been almost entirely about how irresponsible Greece , Spain and Ireland have been. But how does a loan exist without both a lender and a borrower?! All along the penalty of these loans has been borne by the borrower, with the lender walking away scott free.The debt crisis may remain unresolved until the the debt is restructured to have the Lenders bear a portion of the consequences. Have a European at the helm of affairs and you may as well write this option off.
Not just that, post the world war II, Europe and the US shared the spoils by distributing the leading positions among themselves, leaving the IMF to the western world to lead. At that point in time the US and Europe together represented over 60 pc of the world’s economy. Today they represent less than half. When DSK was appointed in 2007, the IMF lent largely to Asia and Latin America. Here it made perfect sense to have a western director.How could an Asian impose stringent conditions on an Asian country. In today’s world, where Europe leads the the annual borrowing from IMF, the exact logic should apply.

Hikkaduwa


Hikkadduwa
Light Blue waters, white sand , colourful fish and a large coral reef.
We stayed a Rita’s hotel. Not your top option and you should have no difficulty finding a place in Hikkaduwa. I do not rate Rita’s high , well because there was really nothing out of the usual about the place. But the place is affordable and clean.
While Hikkaduwa has a lot to offer,what one must do is, Snorkel. You would have to be retarded not to. It is as if you are on a highway and on your left and right you have ‘Finding Nemo’ and The Little mermaid’ playing on large screens. When I say fish, I don’t mean the drab things that lay prostrate on your plate. I mean colour. Just the wildest mixes of colour you have ever experienced. These fish almost seem trained to be show fish. They slow down so you can catch a glimpse , speed away just when you want some more.
You will find several places to rent your snorkelling gear. Go to “ The Reef’s End Water Sports “ for the best prices and a little chat on Lankan politics. The shop is run by an old couple , who will invariably ask you in for tea if you are the accommodating type.
Snorkelling can be a little difficult at first. But once you get used to breathing through your mouth and ignoring your nose, you are good to go. Once you have got the hang of it , hire a boat that will take into the ocean and wait on you. This should cost you around 1000 SLR for an hour. Make sure you hire a pair of flippers , it makes staying afloat a lot easier.

Hikkaduwa has quite a colourful night life. The shacks host parties every night. Some are good the rest aren’t . Take your pick. If you do go dancing and find your self hungry after, go to a Roti shop. Roti’s are flattened wheat dough fried with a meat stuffing. This goes very well with beer or after.

Getting to Hikkaduwa


This was certifiably the worst bus ride of my life. Sri Lanka is blessed with some of the best drive-by sceneries and a Government that dotes on every road that it ever built like an Indian parent his/her child. But somehow bus drivers consider it their birth right to drive around like as if they were in a video game on God Mode.After an hour into the ride, my stomach turned upside down and my patience had packed up and left. I started to device plans to flagrantly murder the bus driver. Drowning him in my bus ride induced vomit seemed like the most creative yet practical one at the point. But then I figured he’d be dead in a bit given the way he was driving. Why bother.
Well enough of that then and on to “how to get to Hikkaduwa”.
The painful thing about SL is that traveling from the hills to the beaches requires you to travel back to Colombo and then onward to the beaches. So here goes- From Dalhousie , pick up a bus to Horton(easily found) .From Horton, you may take the train to Colombo( 1:30PM), or simply catch a bus ( this will take you 3.5 – 4hrs , brace yourself). There are A/C buses available , small though. From Colombo, buses are available to Hikkaduwa and found in plenty.
DO NOT take the 7:30 PM train from Colombo to Hikkaduwa. This is a cargo train and takes 4hrs to cover what would other wise take 2hrs.

The climb up Sri Pada


There are many paths to the sacred peak of Sri Pad, a mountain of immeasurable significance in the central highlands of Sri Lanka.
The name Sri Pada of course refers to the resplendent impression of a footprint which crowns a large granite boulder on the summit. “Peak of Adam” was the moniker given to it by muslim traders and somehow continued to be known this way and has been documented as the same by travellers like Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta.

There are several paths to the sacred peak , but the one most popular with pilgrims is the Hatton approach. These are a pile of over
5000 stairs all the way to the top. But believe me when I say the number of stairs just do not matter. Somewhere between the scant waves of respirational relief and cold hallucinations you tend to lose all sense of mathematical ability. My issue with stairs are fairly straightforward. Steps force you to cover a specific height every single time; my pace is decided by an incorrigible block of stone and this just doesn’t sit well with me and
evidently the 20 others who were on this self destructive mission to Adam’s Peak.

We started at 2:30 AM on a Wednesday morning, what can only be called the “you brought it on yourself” fest of the year. Now , the start is
extremely deceiving. The steps are small , wide and in fact gentle. The first 20 minutes to half an hour is evenly punctuated with shrines and options to make offerings. Do make sure you keep a few coins handy.

After the 30 min mark, the climb hits you in th efface almost from no where. The stairs are narrower , steeper and far more in
number.What will really get to you though is that for the next hour or so , ever time you look high up to your left, you see the unfathomable peak ,almost elusive. Note that I said left, the peak is not in front of you. You need to cover a large distance laterally ( while the stairs remaining to be the vertical  equivalent of a battle ship), before you see Sri pada above you.

Make you sure you take a break every 200 steps or so,although this is bound to get more frequent as you go up.There are little benches for you to rest your knees at regular intervals.

Soon, every step will take an eon to cover. You will startto hear every string of muscle on thigh weeping, begging you give up and the
sit the fuck down! You consider having to cover the last stretch on all your fours.

I  must  paint a very gory picture of the Sri Pada climb. It really is .But , like a friend put it , once you start, there is no giving up , simply cause  returning half way never seems worth it. Besides, the return is just as daunting!

The peak is really the size of your living room. The space left after you placed a coffee table and a recliner at best really. But what you are there for is the sun rise. And rise it does.  It is almost as if the Big cahuna sends in his courtiers first to announce his arrival with a tinge of orange on the east side, just so you know it is time. Then slowly, very slowly , he struts into the horizon in all his glory. This is one huge “aaaw” op. Soon the weather changes from teeth chattering cold to a swelter that we are more familiar with.  And  almost instantly, people clear the peak, almost as if running to escape the wrath of the sun.

Here a few things you must not forget to carry with you. Warm clothes, water( lots), maybe a cola and a sleeping if you intend on spending the night on top.

In Kandy


We stayed at the Majestic Tourist home in Kandy. You can make your bookings for Majestic and several other places in SL on Hostel.com. Joseph runs the place along with his wife. The rooms are utility based , with single beds and a very clean bathroom. Joseph is a Malayalee who went to the Gulf and returned to Kandy to start Majestic and has been running the place for over 11 years. Verbose, to say the least , Joseph seems to have been around. If you are in SL for a short while , he will tell you exactly what to do and where to go. He will also help you out with your travel , but make sure you confirm the train timings with the railway station (to which the number is easily available), cause we experienced his lack of familiarity with the railways first hand.      

                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Head out to Kandy town for a dinner. You can walk it from Majestic. It should take you half an hour, but the walk along the lake is brilliant. Do not be distracted by the KFC you see as soon as you hit town. Hold on to your horses for another couple of feet and you will find “ The Pub”. A travellers watering hole , The Pub serves excellent alcohol , has large screens that play live sports and has a very friendly staff. You must try the Beef BBQ and the local arrack. Well, I didn’t really like it(the arrack), maybe because it was a little too fruity for my taste. Nonetheless, give it a shot.
The minute you step into Kandy , all you see are cars and workshops. There are more Toyotas here than you would ever find in California. There were brands that I still cannot identify. There were classics like the Minis , Austins, VWs and larger cars like the Range rovers. Joseph, who owns a beetle,tells me that there are large number of beetles here and their associated workshops. He tells me his beetle is in one such workshop , getting its starter motor bush replaced. He promises to take me the following morning. Joseph at first tells me about his Volkswagen. Either he wasn’t sure of what it was called , or assumed I wasn’t . Either way, he starts to describe the beetle to me. If you haven’t met me, then you do not know how much i loathe the beetle. When you do meet me, you will notice that i spend a good amount of time bitch slapping the car. Really , thats all i talk about. And Biryani. Anyway, the second i identified his little mystery car, i puked a little in my mouth.

 I can’t begin to list the foibles in this car , but this is not the appropriate space.                                                                 
I do not have a modicum of respect for the car, and hence, the sight a beetle , naked , prostrate , ripped to bits will be a fun sight. And so i tag along. The shop as promised had only beetles. Red, yellow , black , white, grey. Good lord , they were everywhere. It was as if Hitler’s littles spawns had taken over Kandy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 This was easily the most disgusting sight of the trip, closely followed by the half masticated piece of beef in my friend’s vomit.
My trip to personal auto hell and back and a coffee later, we were off to Sigriya.

To Colombo and then Kandy ( Sri Lanka Part 1)


We chose to fly Air India Express to Colombo largely due to it’s convenient arrival time , not to forget the modest charges. I cannot really say that I had a good flight, but then again what else do you expect on a no frills carrier. Here are a few pointers- Please make sure you convert your Indian Rupees to Lankan Rupees while in India, simply because no one buys INR at the airport. You just end up stuck with a lot of Gandhis throughout your trip. Or do what I did. I found a black marketer selling currency at a reasonably rate (2.3 SLR to 1 INR). Here was how I found him. There is a Taj hotel information counter as soon as you clear customs on the left side, hard to miss. Ask the guy at the counter to help you out and that is exactly what he will do. Do it discretely and you have nothing to worry about.
From the Airport I took the free airport bus to Everivattu stand in Katunayike.Given that I planned on spending no time in Colombo on my way into Sri Lanka, I got off the bus at Kotuwar Bus stand. This bus stand is a 5 minute walk from the railway station which was how we intended on getting to Kandy. The trains in Sri Lanka have largely three classes, the observation car(this is the first class)- The observation car is a carriage at the very front of the train with its front end covered in see through glass. You are the face of the train and the view ahead of you makes the ride altogether very enjoyable. But here is the catch- the observation car is so popular that you need to make the booking 12 days in advance and given that the Sri Lankan railways have no online interface, you have to do this in person. Or, use this website .www.reddottours.com.The next is the Second Class, where you have individual seats and are extremely clean and private. Finally the third class, this is like the Indian second class, only cleaner by a large margin.
Mind you the train booking counter is closed between 12:30 and 1:00 pm.Given that this is the time you are most likely to get here, you might have some waiting to do.If you want a good Lankan meal , eat at the “The Crown”, across the street from the railway station. The biryani was sweet with larger than usual rice grains.It came with a dried fish pickle which was to die for. The biryani was accompanied with an insipid deep fried chicken. Also try the fish curry. This tastes exactly like the Kerala fish curry , only darker.
Once we bought our tickets , we had about an hour to ourselves. We headed out to the ex-servicemen’s club on Bristol St. The Ex-Servicemen’s club allows foreigners to enter and a chilled Lion beer is available at SLR 150.I went on the day after the Lankans lost the world cup to the Indians. I attracted a lot of angry stares.