• Abhilasha Iyer

Sri Lanka Memories In the Times of COVID-19

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

THE MILD SUN SHONE through the windows of the Sri Lankan Airways flight as Archit and I polished off a breakfast of eggs, bread with marmalade, and dosa, before proceeding to play a game of chess.  The two girls, Saanvi and Siona sat in front of us with their mother, Smita auntie. Cheered on by his little brother Arham, Archit beat me hollow and challenged me to a new game! Thankfully the plane landed before I suffered another checkmate. 

Daddy and Mummy, Smita and Nandini aunties and Sandeep and Alok uncles bundled out of the plane in a group. We, the five kids, walked leisurely, soaking in the sights of Colombo airport, till my mother’s voice rang out, ‘Kids!’ End of slow walking. We collected our baggage and headed out in the pre-booked cab to the town of Weligama where we had booked guest rooms in a guest house owned by a man named Jeevanta.

Our room was on the first floor of the guest house which sat amidst a lush green field, ringed by a muddy river to the north and Jeevanta uncle’s timber lodge, ringed by coconut palms to the west.

Once we had freshened up, Jeevanta uncle greeted us with a bowl of fruits that we devoured happily, followed by fresh coconut water drunk straight from coconuts he had plucked that morning. Eleven coconuts, one for each of us, followed by eleven more!! Water over, we were sad. Something was missing… till I suddenly remembered what it was.  ‘The malai!’ I cried triumphantly, ‘It has not been cut out!’ Jeevanta uncle recognized the word and gave me a warm smile. One by one, he cut open the coconuts and scooped out the cream which we ate with much relish.

After a bath, a late breakfast and a game of football, the parents were ready for a nap, but we kids were still full of energy! The five of us met downstairs and decided to play ball in the grassy field that stretched out in front of our apartments.  After an hour of running, jumping, catching and falling, we were exhausted and muddy. We lay on the soft grass next to the river and chatted till our parents came down. Jeevanta uncle came out too, and his words brought a smile to our faces. It was Beach Time!

We walked out of the entrance of the estate and down a narrow lane, flanked by flower orchards, coconut and sugarcane plantations, that spilled on to a beautiful beach.  Though I had a cut behind my ear, a raw cut, and the sea water could hurt it, I was not going to pass up on the opportunity to splash around! Mummy said I could only play if I had a Band-Aid on the wound. So it was, and the next second, five maniacs were going berserk on the beach – splashing around, jumping with the waves, collecting the beautiful shells….

An hour just flew by. We were totally exhausted but could have carried on. However, darkness was upon us, so we had to head back to our rooms. We showered, changed and headed out for an evening in downtown Weligama. Weligama was a quaint, colorful town with brightly lit shops, decorated with beautiful shells, selling candy, juice, t-shirts and souvenirs. Every family bought a few items. We kids spent a hundred Sri Lankan rupees on just candies.

After we chewed on them, we realized how hungry we were; after all we had not eaten since our late breakfast! Luckily, we spotted a restaurant close by and went in. The items on the menu looked unfamiliar. Everything seemed to have coconut milk! So, we ordered whatever we thought sounded interesting. When the food came, we dug right in. Everything tasted different but delicious, made even better by the coconut milk! All the food was gone in half an hour!

It had been an exhausting day and though it was just nine in the night when I entered my room, the minute I hit my bed, I was fast asleep. 

The next day, we were up at seven. We were going snorkeling! I couldn’t risk entering the water, but I was excited to be going anyway.  I sat in the boat as the others, wearing flippers and breathing masks, jumped out. Fish, tiny and huge, swam around the boat. We were in the shallow part of the waters. I could see the colorful fish from above but seeing them from a boat wasn’t as much fun as seeing them from near. Twenty minutes later, everybody heaved on the boat, drenched from head to toe.  We took autos back to the guest apartment. After we bathed and changed, we packed our suitcases, which were now laden with the things we had bought during the trip. 

Saying goodbye is never easy. But as we boarded the plane, I waved a final goodbye to Sri Lanka, fondly remembering all the experiences of the short vacation. When we reached Hyderabad, we kids started walking leisurely, this time not because of happiness but because of the sad realization that our Dussehra break was almost over.

But those small moments, Jeevanta uncle’s smile, the cutting of coconuts, water splashing around beaches, they would all be there with me forever… Until I travel to Sri Lanka again… 

About the author :

Sai Prabir Iyer studies in Grade 5 in Manthan School Hyderabad.

He describes himself as hyperactive and curious, naughty too (don’t forget)! He excels at academics, enjoys sports and also love reading books. "The thing that takes us into different worlds, just through words are books." - Sai Prabir

He love vacations and dreams of becoming an author and with the money he makes, aims to help those in need. Throughout this lockdown, he has been writing a novel which he hopes to get published someday. "Online classes that are hectic but fun, reading and watching television (nobody lives without it these days!). And, of course, participating in the Qshala family quizzes on Sundays, the thing that is the most fun in these times of crisis!"

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