Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Unbungalow : Maradanmaduwa Wilpattu.

It is very rarely that you can get a Wild Life department bungalow when you need it. Which means you are left with the fancy lodgings which has sprung up around the national parks. Whilst they are definitely more comfortable it just does not cut it for me. Nothing can compare to the bliss of waking up inside the jungle away from it all.
Fortunately there is a new lodging facility which is fairly new which has escaped the eyes of a majority of those wild life lovers who generally fight tooth and nail for the available slots of the Wildlife Department Bungalows.
How on earth is this possible? Because it is disguised as a dormitory!
To be honest it is a dormitory. A fairly large one at that because it can sleep 60 people. If I am correct that is the largest lodging facility available inside a national park in Sri Lanka.
The Exterior view of the Maradanmaduwa Bungalow
 By the beautiful Maradanmaduwa lake just 09 kilometers from the main entrance to the Wilpattu national park lies the stately Maradanmaduwa Bungalow. It is a misnomer to call it a bungalow. But somehow it just does not feel right to call it by any other name.
The beauty of this place is that even though it can accommodate 60 they let it out to small groups of people on an exclusive basis.Which means it is the next best thing if you are unable to book a bungalow.
The Maradanmaduwa Bungalow consists of two large upstairs blocks connected in one end in the shape of a V. Downstairs is the dining living and kitchen area and believe it or not a little meeting space with lecture chairs, podium and a small public address system - I did not check if it works though - making it a perfect venue for an official outing or retreat for a medium sized company.
The upstairs of each block consists of a large dorm with 30 bunk beds and communal toilets and showers. However the sleeping area is enclosed unlike the usual Wild Life Department bungalows which has only a half around it. Now if like me you are used to sleeping in the open this is going to create a problem. Also if all the bunk beds are full I am sure it can get really stuffy. But we were only a group of thirteen and the caretakers of the bungalow allowed us to put mattersses on the verendah and sleep which was far more comfortable. Also unlike in the usual bungalows the caretaker does not do the cooking if you come in a large group say twenty thirty people.You are supposed to cook your own food using their kitchen which seemed to have all the facilities of an industrial kitchen.. Personally I felt the caretakers could have taken care of the building better but I must admit taking care of such a large building is a tough task for just two people. But I must compliment them on their cooking skills which was outstanding. 
The moon reflecting off the lake 
The beauty of this place is in its location. Firstly it is situated in a picturesque setting. Secondly it is just a couple of minutes to the main entrance instead of a couple of hours – which is usually the case in Wilpattu. Thirdly even though it is close to the entrance it is reknowned for sightings of elephant, leopard and bear. It might not be the ideal bungalow for me but it is definitely a great alternative.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Amazing Racist by Chhimi Tenduf-La. An amazing read.

They say a picture paints a thousand words. But can the reverse happen?
Can words bring a myriad of scenes alive in your mind? I did not think it was possible till I came across the book "The Amazing Racist” by Chhimi Tenduf- La. I know the name is quite a mouthful… fortunately the book was too but in quite a delectable way.
“Curry for breakfast was a bad idea. I burped up Cumin. Farted our the turmeric. My sweat was chilli powder and Garlic, and the little pee spot on the inside of my khaki shorts had a hint of coconut milk in it”
These were the opening lines of the book. It just made me go wow and stand up on edge. Even the hairs on my arms stood up. Somehow the words captivated me unlike the start of any other book I have come across.
Not even God of small things or Shantaram.
For a moment – just a moment - It made me wonder if this was too good to be true. With such a great start so full of power and passion (and turmeric) would things fizzle out to something insipid at the end? It has been known to happen to me. For instance I could not get to the end of “Eat Pray Love” or “The life of Pi” for that matter. But in this case it was just me being pessimistic.
It just kept getting better and better.
It made me want to drop everything I had to do, lock myself away and just read and read . That is exactly what I did. Well I could not exactly lock myself away as I had daddy taxi duties to perform. But I did not answer phone calls. Did not respond to text messages or even look at incoming emails. I even caught myself reading it while waiting for the traffic lights to turn to green. Only once before has a book consumed me this ferociously and that was when I was reading the lost symbol by Dan Brown.
It is an amazing story, simply but cleverly written. It is so simple that when you read the plot in the reviews you tend to go "so what?"
I am someone who takes great pleasure in admiring the style of writing and looking at certain segments as one would view a painting. And in this book I found not one but an entire gallery of such words to admire and appreciate.
"The four men sat in a circle around a potted tree that dropped araliya flowers at their leathery feet. Around them, coconut shells dipped in kerosene burnt light and mystery into proceedings. Each of the men, Gehan included, wore cologne so strong that the aroma battled with that of the dried fish, chilli and onions being fried downstairs. The sparkle of fireflies got lost in the collection of thick gold chains, watches and bracelets on display” was just one such passage.
I found the manner he weaved his words about Sri Lankan culture with a mildly cynical twist absolutely fascinating. I generally high light passages which enthrall me to enjoy later. But in this case I had to give up after a few pages as there were far too many of them. If I were to continue I would end up highlighting a majority of the book.
I am not going to write about the storyline because however much I try I will not do justice to it. It is quite complex. Light in certain parts and dark in the other but the twists and turns of the plot were gripping. In fact the story made me laugh. A lot… so much so people were giving me strange looks as I was laughing to myself whilst reading on a treadmill. And certain parts made me angry and I caught myself saying "serves that bitch right" out loud. Something I rarely do at least while I am reading a book.
This is an amazing first novel by this author who is currently residing in Sri Lanka. To me this book is in the same league of “The God of Small Things” and “Shantharam”. First novels that were iconic.
I am so glad to hear that the author is already into writing his second novel because I am craving for more. If the first one is this amazing I can't wait to see how he is going to better it. But something within me says he will. Kudos to you Chhimi!