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  • Writer's pictureNiranjana

A storm in my teacup - a Monsoon in Ceylon

The Mumbai skies unexpectedly turn a murky grey, amidst the summer season, and I'm reminded of a similar stormy skies that chanced upon me on a similar summer afternoon two years ago. The Ceylon summer of Sri Lanka.

The plane was hovering over the stormy skies of Sri Lanka- or Ceylon as I want to call this beautiful pearl shaped land floating amidst the oceans.

The skies streaked with lightning, and far below I could see the frothy waters of Arabian Sea, as we flew lower to the faint twinkling lights of the Capital - Colombo. “Do you know the birth name of this country?” quipped my walking encyclopedia partner. “its called Serendip- way before they called it Ceylon, or Sri Lanka as it is known. A land of chance encounters”.

What a magical way to put it, and rightly so, because Sri Lanka is anunassuming world of unexpected surprises

We visited Colombo just as the monsoons had set in, and the sky was set to the stormy grey as we explored the city by day, starting our day from the city museum to the much revered Gangamarya monastery , an architectural delight where Thai, Chinese and asian styles merge together to celebrate the holy.

The entire temple is dotted with Buddha statues gifted to them from all over the world. I counted up to 186 and then gave up soon after, just to savor the architecture and detailing on the walls. What I love the most about these monasteries is the smell that wafts around it- incense sticks, and lotus flowers and sticks of cinnamon coming together magically with the monsoon winds – there’s magic in the air. A serendipitous find- the lotus essential oils are a must buy- the fragrance lingers all day, and now I’ve a corner that smells of Sri Lanka in my house .

The day was set to grey scale, and balmy as thunder rumbled not so far away from the Arabian waters. Lunch was Sri Lankan meaty rice ( some local version of the burger for my vegetarian partner) and a tender coconut cocktail to slurp on at the Old Colombo fort cafe in the old Dutch Hospital province. The province is an old hospital that’s restored into a quaint shopping arcade of sorts- They also house the Colombo cafe, the famous Barefoot line and the Ministry of Crabs. I loaded up on some coconut shell wall masks and pots of oils and started walking without much purpose into the promenade – just as the storm struck and the skies poured down on me.

My partner reminded me that we’d not done the most revered thing Ceylon is famous for- The tea! And tea goes just right With the rains. we half ran through the seaside to the end of the marina to the terrace of Hotel Mount Lavinia just as the skies broke into a hearty monsoon shower.

I remember that evening in vivid detail – The rather frightening but beautiful sight of the rains lashing at the choppy sea waters, while we sit at these old fashioned bamboo chairs,  sipping broken orange pekoe tea served with milk and old fashioned scones. A picture postcard moment of a storm in my teacup!

Fueled by the tea ( their tea is weak by Indian standards, we’re used to our mother’s strong brew) we decided to go rogue and chase the showers down the railway tracks that snake through the promenade. Weighed down with shopping bags, we walk all of 8 miles down the coast of Colombo, also befriending three old monk friends , on an evening walk- on the way.

After washing ourselves down in our beach cottage AIRBNB ( It’s called Gayathri’s Beach cottage), my partner takes me for a surprise dinner to Colombo’s lesser known Flamingo House. The ceiling of this restaurant is painted with a dozen flamingoes streaking across them, and the place has a pallor of calm, while the storm brews outside. I almost felt like Alice in Wonderland, we we made our way through our main course of seasoned Duck over flamingo rice ( Egg Kothu for the eggetarian) in this place that almost seemed like a secret stowed away. Another chance encounter- Serendip?

I remember a certain line from the menu card that still resonates with me. Everything about this house seems poetic. Colombo may seem unassuming, but she’s quite the charmer.

We hailed a cab home , and cruised through the seaside roads in silence, as the occasional train chugged by us ( they co-exist too- the roads, the rails and the waters.)

Ceylon goes to bed early and at 10 O clock, and we felt like the only two people awake, with only the storm and the thunder claps, singing us a lullaby. The monsoons had just begun, but so had our journey.

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