By Natale Dankotuwage –
I picked up the pail and flipped it over my head. The cold water rushed down my face. Nearby a cat scrolled along the tall walls that surrounded the Maha Gedera. A crow flew by while the mango tree’s long arms stretched out above me.
It was a sunny day on the outskirts of Colombo. One of those beautiful days that made all your worries subside. It was one of those days that made me want to bathe outdoors, donning a sarong around my body.
Once more, I ran the pail through a larger bucket of water. I raised the small bucket above my head and flipped it over letting the water fall over my head and down my face. Next door I could hear the neighbour running water and the splash of cloth against a flat surface. Someone was doing their laundry.
My mind ran off to stories of my mother’s childhood in this neighbourhood. When she had grown up here there’d been no running water. Rather, they’d have to venture off to the nearest river to bathe or wash their clothes. On odd days, government trucks arrived with tanks of water to distribute to the houses. People would rush to the trucks with their large buckets.
My mother and father have simple beginnings. Both raised in large families of nine siblings by parents with a limited income. When they lived on the Island, river or outdoor baths by a well were a common occurrence.
When I visit, I relish these little things that they once did and do no more because wealth has gifted them with other facilities.
They’d gone West in search of material pleasures unfulfilled on their tropical Island. And, in many ways, they succeeded in appeasing their thirst and the journey was well worth it. Yet, sometimes, I find myself judging otherwise, especially on those days I bathe outdoors with the sun against my back.
There are literally some things that money cannot buy. And what’s most astonishing is that often those moments are far more fulfilling than all the material luxury the West has blessed us with…
The West has given them many comforts this Island couldn’t provide. But the simple warmth this Island provides is surely irreplaceable. As I spend my summers here and when I discover a simple pleasure of no monetary value, I always think – they must miss this. Because somewhere deep down inside of me I hear an ancestral cry – I missed this.
Maha Gedera – the home of your grand parents, parent and their siblings