Sunday, 7 August 2011

Evening Walk in Downtown Colombo

The evening was cooler and a lot less sultry, so it was quite pleasant to walk. By the way, this is the sign at the end of my street. The Sri Lankans seem to have mastered the Three Language Formula :-).

I went to a nearby KFC where I found to my pleasant surprise that veggie burgers were available. KFC in Australia doesn't serve veggie burgers but KFC in Dubai did when I was there in 1995-98. It says something about demographics and consumer demand, but I'm not sure what. The burger cost LKR 255, and the counter guy asked if I wanted cheese. I said yes, and the price then came to LKR 285. The burger was only half the size of the Hungry Jack's veggie burger in Sydney, so the PPP equation really holds. For the price of a single veggie burger in Sydney, you can get two half-size ones in Colombo. Hats off to The Economist!

I've been seeing another amusing sight on the roads - buses with the name "Lanka Ashok Leyland" on them. This is amusing because I grew up seeing "Ashok Leyland" buses in India, and I learnt only much later that this was a joint undertaking between Ashok Motors and British Leyland. Now as the model has travelled further, the name has been further localised by prefixing "Lanka" to it.

Looks like the long arm of the Internet equalises the whole world. Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, they're everywhere!

A petrol bunk. Nothing special about it. It's just slightly different from anything I've seen before.

This sign caught my attention for a reason. Long ago, when on a tourist bus in Singapore with my parents, my father pointed to a sign on a ministry building and remarked about the difference between the Tamil word for "ministry" as used in Singapore and in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It was spelt "Amaichchu" (அமைச்சு) in Singaporean Tamil, while in Tamil Nadu, the word is "Amaichchagam" (அமைச்சகம், with the 'g' pronounced almost like 'h'). It was interesting to see from the sign below that Sri Lankan Tamil also has it as "Amaichchu". When it comes to Tamil usage, is the mother country out of step? I wonder how Malaysian Tamils spell the word.

Bollywood-style film posters in Sri Lanka! I love these familiar-yet-different experiences. It turns out this is a hit movie (Mahindagamanaya).

Then I went back to Arpico (the supermarket) for some shopping. I bought some tea for my relatives in India when I go there next week. It was at the shopping centre that I saw my first Buddhist monk in the flesh! He was in brick red robes and was probably doing some shopping himself. I saw another person approach him and bow to him, and I heard the monk say something with the word "Deerghaayu" (Sanskrit for "long life") in it. I love it when I can pierce the veil of another culture, even if only for a moment, and understand what's happening. I'm also grateful that through spending my formative years in India, I've been able to pick up so much linguistic and cultural background without conscious effort. I'm sure if I go to Pakistan, all the conscious and unconscious Hindi/Urdu learning will similarly pay off. I remember reading the phrase "India's cultural penumbra" in some article somewhere that talked about the entire region from Africa to Southeast Asia. It's at moments like this that its meaning comes home to me with full force.

I also bought a T-shirt at Arpico because I found it very interesting. It's part of a series of artifacts labelled "Mother Sri Lanka" (like "Mera Bharat Mahaan", I guess). What I thought was clever was the way they spelt the three words in the three languages of the country - English, Tamil and Sinhalese. In fact, it was the red Tamil "Shree" that first caught my eye.

"Help spread the message of pride and honour of a great nation by purchasing this product."


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