Random Clicks in Kilinochchi

Going up North for work was so interesting in 2010. North was reviving and there was this wonderful joyous exuberance – especialy among the young.

The only setback for me was that I often had to put my camera through the window and plead with the drivers to slow down as I tried to frame, focus and click.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But am so glad for the memories.

We actually stopped here to buy mangoes and his smile shows all the joy of closing a good sale.

Education is highly valued and children on their way  to school or getting back is a common sight. Often the bigger sisters and brothers keep an eye on the younger ones.

Fences dividing gardens were made of dried palmyrah leaves. This is a sight that stayed in my mind from my first visit to Jaffna in the 1950's flying on Air Ceylon.


And then there were the school girls who did a welcome dance. This wasn't street click but I had to answer a lot of questions and pass muster before I could click.  Why was I taking photos -- to remember them of course as I do today.



The first time I saw Elephant Pass

It was in 2010 on a hot July blustery day that I first set foot in this little strip of land that connects the Jaffna Peninsula to the rest of Sri Lanka. It is a place of haunting beauty and the memory still lingers on in my mind. The salt lakes were nearly dried up, the wind howled a thousand stories I didn't want to hear, not only of elephants of yonder but of battles fought, lives lost.

Both the Sinhala name "Alimankade" and Elephant Pass remains in my mind tied up with lumbering victimized elephants. Earlier there had been a narrow ford and the elephants were driven into the Jaffna peninsula through this shallow waterway that separated Jaffna from the mainland. This was bridged and given the name Elephant Pass.


Elephant Pass has been a strategic military base since 1760, when the Portuguese built a fort, which was later rebuilt and garrisoned by the Dutch in 1776 and later by the British. For the Portuguese the conquest of Jaffna meant they strengthened their control over the pearl fishery and had greater control over the supply of elephants from Vanni, increasing their domination over the island’s elephant trade. 


The Dutch too when they came into power continued the sales of elephants that were inhumanly caught in Kraals. The Dutch held annual sales in Jaffna and buyers from Coramandel and the Bengal coasts came for these sales.


A military base was built there in 1952 by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) and many fierce battles were fought here. Monument on the side of the road pays tribute to the Sri Lankan soldier Corporal Gamini Kularathne who sacrificed his life to save his comrades.



The Sri Lanka Army finally captured the pass on January 9, 2009 as part of the campaign that led to the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.


Talking to Kingsley Premachandra

I had been dragging my feet for months, and the voice inside me was rising to a crescendo about the jobs around the house that needed to be done. On “Me Time” life is serendipitous


Gotukola Kids


Saturday mornings are for lying in – there's birds chirping on the lawn, noisy squirrels on my barren avocado tree, and I can just about see the "Thalagoya" (monitor lizard) sunning on the wall. I am slow to emerge from layers of sleep, trying to hold on to the view in my head of the breathtaking beauty of the Knuckles range, the Randenigala dam, the glimpse of Adam's Peak on the edge of a blue sky – an aerial view from flight to Batticaloa. Breaking this lazy morning reverie, the door bell rings. Mentally, making yet another note to get that door bell changed, I was ready to chase a salesman. Doe like eyes, hesitant not sure of the reception, he stood there, the ubiquitous plastic bag in one hand and in the other a bunch of greens.

Would you please buy this last bunch of gotukola?

What's your name?

Tharindu Udayakumara

Do you grow them?

No, my mother buys them and we sell them again to make some extra money for the family. This is only Rs.10 (1 US$=LKR 115 approx)

How much do you make a day? Oh, about Rs.200

A little girl puts her head through the door and smiles coyly. She is a little princess – Is she your sister?

Yes, her name is Niroshani and she is nine years old.

She corrects the brother — It is Niroshani Dilki

How old are you?

I am ten and she is 9 years.

Go to school?

Yes to Revatha , I want to be a doctor.

And Niroshani Dilki?

The smile is wide and the eyes light up

I want to be a teacher.

Any more in your family?

Yes, eight

Eight kids?

No, there is my mother and father, and my elder brother , and baby sister and grandfather ( that only makes 7 but I didn't add properly at that time).

Achchi – where is she?

She died.

Where is your brother?

He is looking after my baby sister who is three as my mother has to wash clothes and cook.

And your father?

He is a labourer

Do you help your mother?

Yes, we wash dishes, sweep the garden, the hand goes protectively round the sister.

May I take your photo?


No smiles for me?

The smiles are enough to warm the cockles of my heart.

They turn to walk away hand in hand. He turns back and repeats I want to be a doctor. My thoughts ping back to another boy I met at the Kotmale Internet Radio Station. He too had walked up the hill selling gotukola and stayed on fascinated to learn about computers. By the time I met him he was posting information on a website in Sinhala, Tamil and English and for a good measure was teaching the rudiments of flash to his buddy. Both his parents were estate labourers. He too had a dream. ...

Gotu in the Sinhala language is conical and Kola is leaf . Scientific name is Centella Asiatica. In Sri Lanka it is made into a finely finely sliced salad with onions, fresh coconut, flavoured with lime and a pepper dressing. It is also cooked into a curry with coconut milk and is popularly taken in the morning as a local watery porridge –Gotukola Kanda –made with red rice, coconut milk and the extracted juice from the leaves. My gym serves this and is great after a workout. There is at least one posh restaurant in Colombo that has on the menu as an elegant upmarket soup — no doubt flavoured with cream.

Mine went into a not so finely sliced salad and it tasted pretty good with my crab curry — ahh to be in Lanka:-))