10 September 2012


The sun kissed island in the Indian Ocean wakes up peacefully to a new dawn. A cockerel heralds the arrival of sunrise. The single runner on Galle Face is embraced by the rising sun, a majestic rising ball of bright orange. Soft light bathes the ocean as millions of star bright light beams reflects from the morning tide. Far away sails from little fishing boats returning with the morning catch flutter gaily. Buses start to roar down Galle Road and the city awakes.
The young boy bathes by a roadside tap, his body covered in white foam from the soap his mother applies vigorously on him. The same soap the mother uses to wash clothes out of the bucket in readiness to dry in the morning sun adding to the brilliant colour that is only native to a tropical country. The lush green foliage, the stretches of paddy fields spread all over the country, the advertising billboards, the colourful private buses, all unique only to this paradise nation.
Bells ring island wide. Bells from places of worship both Buddhist, Christian and Hindu, all added to by Muslim prayers broadcast through speakers as old as time. It’s a new day.
As the sun rises, so does the temperature, the tropical coolness of the morning soon replaced by the humid heat that accompanies the bevy of school children in their starched white uniforms. The train station soon becomes a hive of bustling humanity. Ladies in bright coloured saris and bright umbrellas stride along. Already sweating, breasts heaving with the effort of running for the morning bus, the little damp patches appearing in every ones arm pits; the men normally in short sleeved or rolled up white shirts, world market pants and their old leather satchels.
Teachers, clerks, government servants, young executives all jostle each other to get a seat on the bus or train. School vans roar by with young curious faces peering out of crowded windows.
As the first morning rush begins traffic coming into the city from all parts of the island builds up and the humidity and heat almost brings everything to a standstill.
The upwardly mobile add to the traffic chaos in every micro car possible from Maruti, Suzuki to Toyota. Motorbikes with father, mother and many times two children weave in and out of the traffic dangerously. Strangely the only one in a helmet is the rider.
My day has already begun. Up early, I have dropped my daughter to school and let myself into office at the usual time of 7.15am. The office is a converted motel with a beautiful garden in the middle. The garden brings relief from the humidity, but is a haven for mosquitoes. My first act as soon as I walk into my office is to switch on the air conditioning to keep at bay both the heat and the mossies. I hear the support staff come in and soon my second cup of coffee for the day arrives. If still hung over from working late the night before, I send the driver for the islands miracle hangover cure, the king coconut. A coconut that yields water rich in nutrients. Two Paracetamol are washed down with the coconut water. All while I power up the computer and check my mail in readiness for my early morning calls to clients. Couple of the early birds like me in office wonder in for a chat, an offer to share their breakfast or for a quick chat and smoke. Late morning after I finish my calls I step out of my office, use the restroom, and turn the corner to where the swimming pool area lies. Quick light up of second cigarette for the day and the third cup of coffee. Check also the small cannabis plants we have grown. Dismay to realise that one of the support staff has cut the grass over the weekend and destroyed our little project. She knew very well what they were, but the excuse always she had no idea. This is our little punishment for not contributing to the little cards with boxes she brings along for pretend charities for us to contribute to. A hundred rupee note changes hands as a box is ticked.
The real workday starts when the still blurry eyed creative gods grace us with their presence at work. After collecting what ever is ready for client approval from studio and creative, I am usually off for my routine client visits. The sun is up, so the first act of getting into the car is to please request the driver to set the air-conditioning on full. They don’t like it as it burns off the precious petrol they randomly siphon off at night for sale.
Client meetings over, I return to office. Late lunch for me as I first pick up my daughter from school to go home. Today was Pork sausage, papadams, pol sambol, red rice, mallum, fired sprats and beans cooked in rich coconut gravy. This time is precious for me as this is the time I have some quality me time with my daughter. The domestic is from the south, the food therefore is delicious. Southerners in the island nation are extremely good cooks.
After lunch it’s time to switch my mobile off for a quick power nap. Heaven help anyone who dares disturb this precious 30 minutes of absolute peace in my bed with the soft drone of the air conditioner lulling me to sleep. I get up stand under the cold shower with the water on full and I am back in office by 3pm. When I walk in back to my office the envious and angry look of the other three A/E’s who are in my team is obvious. Quick visits with them to all the other departments to check on work in progress and another round of calls to clients. Sometimes an internal briefing or another meeting at clients. By 4.45pm as in every office, the minor staff begin to leave in time for their bus or train. They travel far, working after five means for them, hardship and inconvenience in getting home.
By 5.30pm everything is quiet in office again. The time when the actual work begins. I spend a good two hours writing my call reports, briefs and finishing any other paperwork. By then I have forgotten how many cups of coffee I have finished for the day. Then it’s walk about time. Chatting, fooling around with only the hardcore who remain, the 20% in any office that does the actual work. By 8pm we have adjourned to our nearest watering hole. Many glasses of the local arrack is drunk, all accompanied by various items of food called bites. Some form of protein fried in onions, green chillies and devilled with liberal dashing of chillie powder. Pork is the protein of preference.
The hardcore amongst us return to office by about midnight. Last check up of work, one last coffee and smoke for the road before heading home. Luckily for me, five minutes down the road. The five minutes also is due to the now deserted roads allowing the fastest possible speed to travel in a car from point A to point B. Quietly slip in home, other than for the noise of the garage door opening, another long cold shower and bed.
The night is cool, the bed and the arms of my wife are soft, like the soft scent that arises from her body. Paradise.
I am in Paradise, no not the Coldplay one, I am in my Paradise Isle.
Sri Lanka.

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