By Purba Ray Oct. 18, 2018
Lanka is not Ram’s favourite holiday destination, but I somehow convinced him to make a trip again. I promised him it won’t be like his last visit – no building bridges and fighting 10-headed macho men. We hired a cabbie to take us around and he reminded me of home. He fleeced us. I miss the days Hanuman would fly us around.
It wasn’t easy convincing my husband Ram to plan a vacation in Lanka. Phew, men, amirite?! But the long Dussehra weekend was just perfect for a break. I had to show him pictures of sunny beaches, women on these beaches, serene hills, stunning landscapes, etc. I mean, sure, his last visit there was not pleasant. The poor guy had to do a walkathon all the way to Lanka, get a bridge built by an army of monkeys to cross the sea, and engage in a fierce battle with the king who had kidnapped his wife.
Strangely I don’t have any ill-will toward that 10-headed chap, Ravana. The guy understood the concept of consent even when it wasn’t fashionable. The man had strange tastes though. Wore too much gold and didn’t even bother to trim his nose hair.
If it weren’t for that dork Lakshman, he wouldn’t even have to abduct me. Couldn’t he have just friendzoned Surpanakha like the rest of us, instead of chopping off her nose? Moron.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that Lakshman insisted on following us to the jungles. I was looking forward to some couple time with Ram. His Barjatya-sized family would never leave us alone in the palace. And the palace food was making me fat. They never used olive oil. Ugh! So when I decided to accompany Ram, I had already formulated a diet plan that would get me back to size zero.
But no! Thanks to my BIL and his humongous appetite, I had to prepare four-course meals that took ages to prepare without pressure cookers on wood fire. While the boys would go off gallivanting in the wild, I was confined to the hut.
THANK YOU RAM.
In a way my unplanned visit to Lanka was a nice break from the monotony. The ride in the flying object wasn’t too bad, even though I regretted dropping off all my jewellery as a GPS tracker for the husband. After years of being married to him, I had little faith that he could find anything, leave alone his missing wife.
Since my last visit was mostly confined to the fancy Ashok Vatika resort, I hadn’t seen much of Lanka. Also, it was way back in 7292 before some chap called Christ. I am no longer the same woman and Lanka has got an uplift.
It was with mixed feelings that we landed at Colombo airport. My face hidden behind oversized sunglasses, I was praying no one would recognise me. Though I look way different than my pictures in tacky calendars – my hair is no longer plastered with oil and I don’t walk around wearing nine-yard sarees, with my hands folded. Thanks to my punishing workouts and Keto diet, I look rather good in my jeggings and an off-shoulder Zara top. Also there is no Lakshman tailing us.
THANK YOU RAM.
Our first stop was Galle Fort. It is pretty as a picture with cobbled streets, heritage buildings with white facades, eateries, souvenir shops, boutique hotels that you can cover on foot in just one hour. And then look at each other and ask, now what? So you admire the tiny three-wheeled chariots painted in vivid colours. They call them tuk-tuk these days. Click pictures to post them on Instagram.
I noticed Galle has more firangs than locals. Ravana would have loved this place. That guy always had a thing for fair-skinned maidens. Uff, I need to stop thinking about him.
Especially now that my Ram is a changed man. I have long forgiven him for making me go through purity tests like I was some piece of gold. Also, it was kind of adorable that he never changed his relationship status to married-but-ready-to-mingle even when we were living separately. We are the archetypical modern couple now. We share chores, party separately, profess our love for each other on Facebook, and set #couplegoalz.
Our next stop was going to be Ravana’s kingdom now known as Nuwara Eliya, located in central Sri Lanka. It got its new name thanks to the superhero Hanu Man who burnt the city with his inflamed tail. They had no fire engines those days.
As I reclined on the car seat, bracing myself for the long drive to the hills, the image of Ravana, his glistening dark skin, muscled visage, his handlebar moustache kept swimming before my eyes. The butterflies in my stomach were chorusing in unison. Got to stop thinking about that guy.
Part II: What Drove Sita To Move In With Valmiki Yet Again?
A lot had happened since Ravana was hit by the fatal arrow. Such was the allure of Sri Lanka, it attracted tourists from Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Portugal, who then refused to go back. In India, we call them relatives. Back then, they were known as invaders. The greedy Brits seized power from the Kandyans and the island was finally united under the British in the 19th century.
Yet Ram remains a rockstar in India and is often used as an excuse to unleash violence. And Ravana is buried firmly under the debris of history.
Phew, there’s so much knowledge you can get from Wiki. Only if Ram could have googled “how to rescue your wife”.
Yet Ram remains a rockstar in India and is often used as an excuse to unleash violence. And Ravana is buried firmly under the debris of history. Perhaps Lanka is ashamed of a king who despite his 10 pairs of eyes that could see more, 10 heads that could think more, took all the wrong calls. It led to an apocalyptic ending.
Sometimes I blame myself for it. My charm brought out Ravana’s inner Delhi boy, the kind who paint “Munda Jattan Da” or “Dad’s gift” on their Pushpak Vimans and shoot a couple of toll boys on their way. Who knows! I was so busy crying. Sigh. Why am I thinking about him?
When we reached Nuwara Eliya I realised it looks nothing like Lankapura that Ravana had seized from Kuber. (Snatching things that didn’t belong to him was an old habit of his, it seems.) It now looks like a miniature of the hamlets left behind by the British. It is home to some of the finest tea estates where you waste hours tasting different teas with fancy names and arrive at the conclusion that the tea grown in Darjeeling is superior.
But it’s stunning nevertheless. I almost fell off the cliff while clicking photos of gushing waterfalls on our way to Nuwara Eliya. There were so many of them and the best part is they had no uncles frolicking in their Lux Cozy chaddis.
The highlight of my trip was supposed to be the temple named after me (Seetha Amman). I thought it’d be grander than Siddhivinayak, but it’s quite tiny. Just when I was practising my favourite filmy line “Sita, naam toh suna hoga?”, I was told the temple has no entrance fee, no long queues, no thieves to steal your chappals.
I was expecting to be mobbed but no one recognised me. Should have dressed traditional, dammit, and used a bucketful of oil for my hair! I was heartbroken but looked forward to our next stop: Horton plains
The reserve had a nine kilometres trek which takes three hours to complete. But we were sure we’d complete it in an hour. All that vanvas walking should’ve helped. However, the trek is full of suspense. There are stretches where you don’t spot any humans for miles, and with no signage, you wonder if you’ve got lost and paid an entrance fee of 6k Sri Lankan rupees to die of starvation. And what if someone attacked us? Ram hadn’t even carried his bow and arrow. What a guy!
On our drive back to Colombo we made a night’s halt at Kandy. No exciting stories of sugar rush from here. But in Colombo, all we did was eat. With the healing power of Digene we could take on Kumbhakarna in an eating contest. Since we are dignitaries from India, we also paid a visit to Lanka’s most important ministry – Ministry of Crab.
Having accumulated so many calories, I wished we could walk back home to India just like the last time.
As our aircraft touched down in Delhi and everyone started running toward the exit as if the plane was going to self-combust, I was filled with mixed emotions – relief at finally returning home, but a wistful feeling gripped me for a great vacation was coming to an end.
I might have looked kind of funny half-smiling, half-crying when we stepped out of the airport. (I’d do this a lot in the past, every time I’d have to touch Ram’s feet.) Bharat was waiting outside with a “Welcome Home Bhaiya and Bhabhi” placard. And then I committed the biggest blunder.
It was like being hit by a wall of smoke. Unable to stop myself, I breathed in some more air. My insides were now filled with smoke. I was coughing and wheezing. Is this my pati parmeshwar’s idea of slyly arranging a purity detector for me again. I had only checked out half a dozen men on the beach at Unawatuna and thought of Ravana a 100 times. I silently wailed.
Hey Ram, this is déjà vu!
My eyes were stinging now and I felt so helpless. After all these centuries of staying put with this %*%&)()#*^$## IS THIS HOW HE REPAYS MY LOYALTY? I stuck by him despite him always hanging with his bros. I replaced my heart with stone and refused to listen to the entreaties of men for centuries now. I even ignored my hot gym instructor’s passionate GM and motivational forwards on WhatsApp.
Why should I stay with this man? Certainly not for the sake of our sons. Luv and Kush are happily settled in the US.
I promptly took out my mobile and changed my relationship status to “It’s Complicated’ on Facebook. Maybe I’ll move in with Valmiki. I always had a thing for authors who don’t bathe much and tie their hair in a bun.
Nearly funny, almost liberal, rarely serious, Purba likes to keep a safe distance from perfection. Unfortunately she has an opinion on everything, fact or fiction, beginnings or ends, light or heavy, long and short.