Friday, December 31, 2010

The light at the end of the road

It was like stepping into a warm embrace of a loved one after a long and tiring journey… that’s how I would describe what it felt like when I stepped into Lux e toile – our digs for the night – after our arduous journey of nearly twelve hours. The title of this post seems even more fitting because the name of this place means Star in French. The last time we were in Jaffna this place was full and we only came in for meals. But this time around we were lucky enough to get rooms and what a marked change it was from the hell hole I was staying in during my previous visit.

Firstly the rooms were large and the beds were comfortable had clean sheets and there were decent towels laid out. The air conditioner worked properly. The toilet was clean it had hot water and ohhh god a pressure pump which assaulted you with a heavenly gush of water when in the shower. And all this for just 6500/- per double. Now in terms of design this was not the four seasons but for me it sure felt like it.

What really surprised me was the enthusiastic welcome we got even though it was 11.30 in the night when we stepped in. If it was any other hotel everyone would have been surly and would have wanted us to get to our rooms and sleep instead of even offering us a decent meal. Instead these people were willing to wait up till we had a drink. Made us bite and then made sure our dinner was warmed and served at 1.30 in the morning. Now that is what I call service from the heart.

And of course the highlight of the journey can be summarized in two words. Foood and drink!!!

Firstly I had the opportunity to drink Palmyra arrack which was awesome. I found the liquor absolutely smooth and delightful to the palette. I drank it with Coke but I was told the ideal way to drink it is with a little bit of Soda in it. That way you can enjoy the natural sweetness of the liquor itself.

They made us these bites past 12 mid night and it was delicious...

Breakfast with vege Maturai curry

Once again we had the Maturai curries in green and red. But piece de resistance was the crab curry we had for lunch the next day. Out of this world! Heavenly experience! These are some of the phrases we could use to describe what a good traditional spicey Jaffna Tasted like. After eating and eating till we could not breathe we begged Vetri the jovial owner of the place if he would be kind enough to pack the left over gravy for us because we wanted to take it with us and eat it with bread in Puttlam looking at the Lagoon. I think he was delighted by our request and packed everything for us which we ended up eating the next day at office with bread. And I heard it was awesome. Sadly my colleagues did not think it was fitting to call me to share in the leftovers. Urgh when I think of that I can wring a neck or two. So they say every dark cloud has a silver lining and it was the same in this case. No I would not do this kind of journey again but I must say in the long run it was worth it just for the crab curry.

P.s. For those of you who want a decent place to stay in Jaffna Lux etoiles can be contacted on 02102223966

Green pol sambol another Jaffna speciality

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Groan Rattle and Shake (aka the road to hell).

Thud! Thump!!!! Groan thud rattle thud thump! Bigger Groan!

This is how I would describe the last 300 kilometers of my journey up and down from Jaffna to Omanthai.

If you (like me) are thinking that a quick drive to Jaffna and back in two days might be a nice idea. Think again. It was one of the worst decisions I have ever made.

The last time I went to Jaffna was in February and roads were far better than what I experienced ten months after. And I thought it would have improved by leaps and bounds. Guess I too swallowed the PR blitz about Uthuru Wasanthaya hook line and sinker. We left Colombo at 12 in the afternoon which in hindsight was not a good thing to do, as we were stuck in traffic and had progressed only 16 kilo meters in the first hour. It was 7 by the time we hit Vavuniya to refuel. From this point on the journey could be described as nightmarish. Not only because of the pot holes but also thanks to the pelting rain. Driving through elephant pass was scary in pitch black as thick sheets of rain kept visibility low; the fact that the rains loosened land mines and made them float did not help to reassure us too.

We finally arrived at our destination at 11.30 in the night and left for Colombo at 3 the next day to arrive 10 hours later as we were driving against the traffic. It seems the best way to get to Jaffna these days is in one of those Luxury Buses which charge you only 900 bucks one way. And you sleep or watch some tamil movies without having to worry about the condition of the road. And once you get there you can always hire some kind of van or tuk-tuk. Well at least next time I will know better.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The 4th floor

Generally in the local context when someone says 4th floor one is bound to tremble as it means we are talking about the fourth floor of the CID where many atrocities have been committed. But fortunately for me this post is about something which completely the opposite. This is a place I stepped into completely by accident because I pressed the wrong button on the lift at the Sarasavi Book Store in Nugegoda. Not many would notice it as it is away from the public eye in a side lane. But its actually five floors packed to the cieling with books. And on the fourth floor I found a treasure trove of local and regional authors. I have never seen such a wide range of books and authors till I stepped in here. For the first time in my life I found two other books on writings of Arundathi Roy. Plus there were books by local authors I had never heard of who held a lot of promise. Of course there were also all the books by the more popular local authors as well. And there were also two comfortable sofas strategically placed inviting you to sit and browse through all this amazing material for hours. Sadly I was not able to spend sufficient time at the place as I was called away. I can't wait till I can go there again. Even though the parking facilities are horrendous. It is still worth it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Probably the most unappreciated singer in history – Sixto Rodriguez

Someone referred to him as the man the wood stock generation forgot and a truer word could not have been said about this talented american of Mexican descent.
The sweet strains of Sugar Man assaulted my ears when I visited “D”s blog and from the first time I heard it I was hooked. I had not heard of Rodriguez before and was overwhelmed by the amazing talent I saw in all of his other work on youtube. The amazing thing is that even though "Sugar Man" was not familiar to me I was sharing it with a friend from South Africa and I was told that it was very popular over in that country. This made me search for more about this artist and it was amazing to realize that I had stumbled across an unsung hero who was only popular in South Africa New Zealand and Australia. If you want to find out more about Rodriguez then you could do so here. There is also a far better written blog post on Rodriguez here. All in all I think he can be and should be equated with the greats in music including Dylan and Hendrix. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Simple American who loves to sing - Don Moen

This post has been a long time in the making and guess it is well past is sell by date. But still I want to post it in appreciation of one of the nicest Americans I have ever met. Don Moen to those of you who don't know him is to "praise and worship" christian music what Brian Adams is to pop. I was happy to be involved doing the communication for his concert which happened a couple of weeks back. Now I must confess I did have the opportunity to say hello to him in passing at a pre concert dinner function.

What I found amazing was that even though he was a celebrity I have never met a more down to earth and simple person in my life. He just kept mingling, posing for photographs and shaking hands with everyone. Even at another workshop with local youth he had given everyone his own personal email. Now I never heard of a star do that till now.

I really felt sorry for him at the actual concert. To be able to pack 4000 people into an arena made for 3500 people they had to remove most of the self standing fans. So it was hot. Really hot. So much so that it was like a sauna. Even I was feeling faintish and dehydrated. But he came on stage and sang his heart out for two whole hours though he had a flight at four in the morning to Chennai and then to delhi and then a 12 hour bus ride to their next concert performance.

I sometimes wish I had this guy’s humility and humbleness.