Anakatwa village is a five-minute drive from the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium. But the journey takes longer as the scenic beauty forces one to disembark and click feverishly.
After crossing a narrow road over the barrage on Lake Ibangkatuweva, a dirt track leads to the village of 75 families. The setting is such that the stadium, the village and the lake resorts are in perfect harmony.
The first thing that catches the eye is that most of the huts have the national flag atop them. A resident says it was done after President Mahinda Rajapaksa urged his countryman to show respect to the army when it captured Kilinochi from the Tamil Tigers last month.
Agriculture is the main vocation but large plots, quality fertilizers and equipment are beyond many. G. Punchibanda is one of them. To make ends meet, his eldest daughter works as a domestic help in Lebanon. “If we could earn a living here why would we send our daughter so far away,” he asks.
Cricket, for this 70-year-old, is a distant world, way beyond the five-minute drive. “We are too old for cricket. Our children might be able to tell you better. We had ‘elle’ (it resembles baseball and is played with a bamboo staff and tennis ball),” Punchibanda says. “We have heard of Duleep Mendis and Arjuna Ranatunga but have never watched a match. We can’t afford it,” he adds.
Topmost on his mind are rumours that the government might stop women from working abroad as domestic help. “We will have to see what happens,” he says.
Surajith Ratnaeke’s wife, Pradasini, is a contrast. The 20-year-old follows the game on television. “My husband has a welding shop and when he is home we watch matches together,” she says.
Her favourites are Murali (tharan) and Jayasuriya. “They won us the World Cup,” she says proudly. But bigger issues are at stake for the residents, who got electricity a few years back and television a few months ago.
Copra is laid out to dry in front of the huts. One of the side businesses, the residents sell it to mill owners for extracting coconut oil. Pradasini, however, does not have to worry as her husband’s shop, the only one in the area, does good business. Her concern is to send her two-year-old son Dulakshan to a good school.