So, this trip happened in the midst of my work schedule. Like I am packing four hours prior to my flight, taking calls after checking-in to the airport, setting out-of-office mails, settling disputes and pacifying my boss. And then bam, the Delhi-to-Chennai flight takes me out of the work mode. I was wearing proper winterwear, replete with jacket and sweater and scarves and socks and the moment I landed at Meenambakkam airport, I fought with those fabrics and got them off in the midst of a call. A call from Madhouse, of course.
Madhouse trip 2019 was on.
Let me introduce you to the cast that went to Sri Lanka. There were Pal, Slo, Ash, Jiggy, Sal, Saumi, Chan, Ag (also Silver, because Ag in the periodic table is the symbol for silver, so…yeah we are nerds of the highest order) and of course, yours truly.
To get you acquainted with the group:
(Namesake) Ash arranges trips and Pal accompanies him. Jiggy makes expert comments and Slo smiles at them. Sal has our back in case something runs out or someone runs away, or gets upset, especially Saumi, who has everyone’s back almost all the time. (Milo-lover) Chan finds strays to pet and ways to entertain Silver and me. And by entertain, I might also mean annoy, like the way he annoyed the hell out of me by first petting Betty (okay, she was a pretty sweet doggie) and then naming her after me. And scaring the hell out of both Silver and I at two in the night on a forest trail adjoining the two cottages in our Nuwara Eliya resort. But then, Ash is also a good contender for the annoyance award owing to his super weird songs.
Talking about annoyance, let me start from our first day in Kandy.
When Silver banged on my door for the nth time asking me to come out, I will honestly say that it got me a little miffed. I mean, I did ask her if she wanted to go first. She was happy enough to let me go and I told her I like to take my time…
So when I got out in my towel, I was even further bugged because the door was open. I asked Pal if she could close it and she looked at me as if I had just arrived from some other world.
“What?” I asked her.
“Why are you in a towel?”
“Because I just came from the shower? And umm I will get dressed if you close the door?”
“No, I meant why aren’t you packing? We got to leave this place.”
Poor Silver had been trying to tell me that the owners were shoving us out. So, it turned out that MMT had played us. It was a classic case of CID as Ash would happily tell us since he is from the hotel industry as well. And by CID, I did not mean Crime Investigation Department. It is short for ‘Check-In Denied’. Pretty cool, right?
No, it was not cool at all when I had to dress up hurriedly and re-pack my bags because the owner of the cute property with a cute terrace told us that he was renting it to some other group for the day and they were coming any moment so we had to leave. But at least, I got to bathe. Others had to take their lunches without a shower (I know, it’s a first world problem, but it is a legit problem when you have been traveling the entire night).
But wait, that’s not all the mishappenings. Not even the worst of it. Let me go in no particular order:
- Pal goofed-up on her passport number on her visa.
- We broke a bed.
Sorry, two beds.
Okay stop right there, dirty minds. I swear the ply just gave in the moment we climbed onto it. And it wasn’t me, duh.
- We paid a whopping amount just to climb some 300 stairs.
- Jiggy lost his specs in the waterfall (who asked him to wear it to the water in the first place, I will never be able to tell)
- We ate at an attractively decorated restro in the midst of a carnival and had some atrociously bland food. (I know, a very Indian issue, but life without spices is not really life, is it?)
- The boat that took us snorkeling in the middle of the Indian Ocean lost its anchor about thrice. And the constant right to left bobbing of the boat in the water got some of us pretty seasick. (One of them was yours truly.)
- One of us couldn’t climb onto the boat. (Ummm, that wasn’t me. I was the one who kept freaking out when they put me in the water and refused to let go of my snorkeling trainer’s hand.)
- One of us couldn’t see the water stuff too clearly because she did not wear lenses and specs weren’t allowed and she has an atrociously high power and yet she chose to snorkel. (This forever unprepared genius was doubtlessly me.)
- The hotel guys were starting to charge us extra for overstaying because the water sports started late and we wanted to, of course, still do them, and one of us went in last to shower and spent an inordinately large amount of time to do so because she had to write her name on the sand five times before leaving Bentota. (You still wonder who this might be? It’s me, bro.)
- We spent the final night standing in a never-ending queue and cracking slapstick comments and later rushing with a hasty dinner at 1:30 am to our respective flights to respective cities. One of us got delayed for about five hours and she got stuck with a bunch of kids who didn’t let her sleep a wink. And yes, that person was me.
So, that was that.
What were you expecting in the post? Some picturesque description of how beautiful Sri Lanka is and where all you should go and what you should experience in order to make it worth the while? If I tell you that, what will the tour operators and lonely planets of the world do?
But okay, let this not be a waste of your time. Let me run the places briefly by you. If you are into history and mythology, basically the culture of a place, then you can go to the Dambulla royal cave temple and the tooth relic of the Buddha. You will see a lot of Buddhist rituals, even some cultural dance. You can visit the legendary AshokVatika temple where ‘Mom Sita’ (no offence) was rumored to have been trapped by Ravana (I made it a point to read up on the Asura literature before visiting this place, but even if you know the basic Ramayana, it will do).
Fan of tea plantations and strawberry farms? Well, you are at the right place. We had some amazing strawberry ice cream and shakes in a strawberry farm in Nuwara Eliya. Ramboda Falls and Gregory Park are other cute places that will make you love the destination you chose even more. Then you have the oldest post office in Sri Lanka with a beautiful colonial façade. Post a letter from there. Stare out at the aquamarine blue lake. Try and figure out whether the sky is turquoise or teal. Maybe the gem museum will help you with that. Sal almost paid with his kidney buying jewels for his wife in Colombo. (True story!)
Okay if I have been all about slip-ups and goof-ups on this entire trip, perhaps I haven’t learnt to count my blessings yet. Because, of course, there were the good things…
- We received a warm welcome to Sri Lanka what with orchid garlands and all.
- I got a fab dress and shorts in a steal deal. (Yeah, I am girly to the core sometimes. Totally middle-class girly.)
- We did some jigs and funny dances in a cute street in Galle.
- Watched a club match in Galle International Cricket Stadium.
- Played cricket with the locals.
- Had some rich and tempting dark chocolate, hazelnut, raspberry and blue bubblegum ice cream at a place called Carnival Café in Colombo.
- Had ice lollies in Galle.
- Had some more ice cream in Nuwara Eliya.
- Had ice cream at every chance we got.
- Watched people betting on horses and matches with the intensity of investment bankers.
- Played Suspense (that’s a card game) to death. Played ‘Contact’ and Monopoly (GoT themed). Pictionary. Twenty Questions. Atlas. Pretty much all sorts of games you can devise. Of course, volleyball and throwball on the beach count as well. We guys do play a lot.
- Karaoke-ed to our favorite songs. Sang along tunelessly and shamelessly and happily to all sorts of lyrics.
- Chilled with cocktails and desserts at the beachfront (did I mention we were at a beach front hotel?) and at the swimming pool.
- Oh wait, did I mention the duvet fight at 3 am? It was Silver and I vs Chan. There was one duvet kept on Chan’s bed (Chan, Silver and I were sharing the same room- can you imagine our superb luck? :for the uninitiated- that was sarcasm: ). And Silver and I wanted it. I remember telling Chan that there was another duvet kept in the closet, but then where would the fun be in that? Instead, we had a neat little tug-of-war where he naturally lost the battle after totally upending the bed and the carefully arranged sheets. Kudos, Ag! We make a nice little team.
So, when it was time to head back to the Colombo airport, my eyes were droopy and the news bits of Delhi hitting 1-2 degrees during the day already had me in its grip. Gone were the hours in the swimsuit- beachfront lazing, cocktail sipping and sunbathing. It was time to head back into the grind and collect enough moolah for the next adventure!