A Journey from Galle to Jaffna

This may not be exactly about the conflict, but it is about our differences. It does however, talk about our Jaffna trip and is just something I wrote for last week’s paper.

A Journey from Galle to Jaffna

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As someone who is usually quite fond of traveling, I at first dreaded the week that consisted of a trip to Galle, then Jaffna. They are on either corner of Sri Lanka, the South and the North. The short trip to Galle followed by a long bus ride to Jaffna seemed more stressful than it ultimately proved to be.
Sri Lanka being such a small island, not much changes from city to city, province to province. We see the same culture, religions, languages and complexions that vary from fair to dark, but are so Sri Lankan and easily identifiable. Outfits change between jeans, sarongs, sarees and salwaars. The seafood curries become vegetable dishes and the rice is either yellow, buriyani, red or white. All these differences exist, but more importantly, they coexist.
All areas of the island are scorched by the burning sun and are then drenched by the monsoon. Men in sarong enjoy glass after glass of plain tea or something much stronger, no matter what their race.
Galle and Jaffna, their distance quite impressive, are so similar too. The Galle Fort is infested with shops, restaurants, churches, houses and cafes. The Jaffna Fort is abandoned, left to various kinds of birds. Yet, as the sun sets, wisps of dull purple and pink covering the once blue sky, it is the same sun, and the same country. I watched the sun set in Galle, discussing life with someone I hadn’t shared much with before. And I watched the sun set in Jaffna, discussing life with someone who has many untold stories. There was a sense of ‘oneness’ as I missed the actual moment the sun disappeared into the salty water in both Galle and Jaffna, as the wind blew through my hair and the day suddenly got darker.
The water in Galle seemed sweeter, while that of Jaffna was bitter. Yet, they were both so new to me, having had no exposure to anything but the water in Colombo. The game of cricket played in Galle, was also played in the North.
Among all these similarities, silently lie the differences; the differences that can and have torn people apart. The sign board of shops in Jaffna rarely had Sinhalese words. Evidence of a conflict that ended not so long ago can still be seen in Jaffna. Galle is ten steps ahead of Jaffna, with cafes and restaurants that are not even slightly Sri Lankan. In Galle I heard words familiar to me, in Sinhalese or English, words I understood. In Jaffna though, words were limited, Tamil being a mostly unknown language to me. The dress also changed. Jaffna was full of Salwaars and Pottus. Anklets dangled with each steps, and girls fearlessly rode around on their bicycles. The ice cream we had in Galle was what was found in Colombo, they came in plastic containers. Jaffna offered ice cream that never failed at giving you a sugar high. It was sweet, in fact, too sweet.
The speeding buses and puttering three wheelers could be found in both corners of the country. The food was good in both Galle and Jaffna; different, but delicious. And the ever-present saltiness of the sea breeze enveloped me in both towns. There were friendly smiles, a silent friendship between strangers.
It is easy to look at two people, one from Jaffna, the other from Galle and see a thousand and one differences between them. The accent, speech, attitudes, beliefs and attire will be completely different. People saw these differences and highlighted them. They still try to do so. Yet, beneath those differences that separate us, hide similarities that forever tie us together.
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3 thoughts on “A Journey from Galle to Jaffna”

  1. Dear Shailee,Well, what Ican see here is the two extremeties of the country from the eyes of someone who, having traversed both, is confident enough to talk about the similarities and differences between them. It's a nice work, really, and I feel it's similar to this week's article in the Nation Free by you, is it not? Because I do remember something like it in the Free ;). Well, firstly, you are very right to say that they have their surface similarities. And that you experienced similarities of a similar sort in both places, while in Jaffna and in Galle. You were on the verge of discovery of two people in both places, and these two people were discovering you as well and what lies within your mind in the most far-removed of locations.A coincidence or what?Also, well, yes, lemme tell you, that Jaffna bus tour was a monster in itself, and I have indeed been to the south with my family when I was really, really young (and fell in love with the pink reflected by the setting sun onto the salt pans the same way we all fell in love with the pinks dashed across the Jaffna sky.) I feel, all in all, like it's taken from a magazine on travel that really can explore what another person feels from your own point of view. Not overly journalistic and descriptive, I mean, but lovely in its own way.Especially your finale.We all are only human beneath our tough outer coverings, whether from north or from south.Vasika.

  2. Hi Vasika,Yes, this is the article that was published last week; the unedited version.Just to give a background, I wanted to write about Galle. And I wanted to write about Jaffna. So while thinking of these two articles, well, why not one?And they were both so new to me. Even though I had been to Galle just three or four years ago, it was completely erased from my memory. And Jaffna, that one previous trip wasn't enough to really see Jaffna.This was more than just work for me though, this was what I actually saw. I think this is why those who travel the world, manage to write book after book about their travels. Because each place is so different but yet so similar.

  3. Hey there, Well, job well done to be honest, I mean, seriously, this looks like it came out as a travelogue that praises both sides without just saying the pros and cons of two tourist spots.Kudos on that Shailee!

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