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Life goes on in war-torn country

Life in the rest of Sri Lanka goes on. The echoes of the battle in the north between the Tamil Tigers and the armed forces are heard across drawing rooms and pubs and at bus stops and boardrooms, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Feb 03, 2009 23:54 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Life in the rest of Sri Lanka goes on. The echoes of the battle in the north between the Tamil Tigers and the armed forces are heard across drawing rooms and pubs and at bus stops and boardrooms.

But Lankans go about their lives as normally as possible for a people who are witnessing bloodshed for 26 years.

Colombo for one is all prepared to celebrate Independence Day on Wednesday. The placid waters of the ocean in front of my apartment have been active with the Lankan navy’s ships and fast attack crafts streaking across for practice routines.

Fighter jets have roared above the Colombo skies on practice sorties; tanks and cannons positioned are on the sand of the lovely Galle Sea Face.

The Independence Day celebration here is more on the lines of India’s Republic Day with a show of strength from the military and the President taking the salute.

Of much less martial nature was the third edition of the Galle Literary Festival, held at the picturesque city of Galle on the southern coast. Authors Germaine Greer, Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s List), Ameena Hussein and Pico Iyer held book reading sessions and interacted with guests.

From India, MJ Akbar and Tarun Tejpal chaired sessions and took questions on identity and journalism. Tejpal introduced his new book The Story of My Assassins to the international audience.

Friends who stayed and mingled with the academic, literary and the largely expat crowd t found it an intimate affair. “It was not a heavy-duty festival. There was debate and dialogue over issues and people moved from one venue to the other attending sessions and, talking to the authors over leisurely lunches,’’ she said; all this against the silhouette of the magnificent Galle Fort.

The Indo-lanka cricket series is also on amid much dancing and drums at stadiums. The security around the cricketers is tight but not overwhelming.

Sanath Jayasuria and Nuwan Kulashekara could casually walk into the hip Rhythm and Blues pub on Duplication Road on a packed Saturday night.

No one hounded them. (I was the only one staggering up to them asking garbled questions which I now do not remember)

The 39-year-old had a quiet Chivas before someone handed him a bottle of champagne. “Hey, but what about the situation in the north?’’ (Yes, I did manage to remember this one) “I am only a cricketer,’’ one of the two answered.

Life in Sri Lanka goes on.