It’s more exciting this way. Photo by Tashiya Mirando
I am not leaving. About a year or two ago, I wanted to live in England, a country I love, for personal reasons, but now, I have made up my mind to stay here. This is my country, this is my home, and I don’t want to live as an alien in another country. However, these are not my only reasons.
Sri Lanka has huge potential, with or without the war. Financially, I feel I will be able to have more independence in Sri Lanka. True, maybe I can earn more, at least at first, in a job in the first world, but at what cost? A 9-to-5 rat race to take the train back to an apartment miles away from my far-flung friends, while mingling with commuters who only smile during three months of the year? No thank you.
If you’ve got the smarts, you can make it here. In Sri Lanka, the chance of creating a successful business is much greater for me. Partly this is because of a privileged upbringing, a cultural fit, a social network, and business savvy friends and family who would support me with their acumen, if not their capital. If you have a business idea, like Indi said, it is likely it has not been done here before. And even if you are fed up – like me – at the stupidity of voters at the last election, stupid people are easier to make money off of. Besides, even if some things start to go to pot, the sheer magnitude of the economic growth in India will pull us along.
Apart from financial security, at the risk of sounding redundant: the natural beauty and diversity of this country is absolutely amazing. It is Friday afternoon today. For the weekend, if I don’t feel like partying it down in Colombo, I could go to the beach, or to hills, or to the jungles. And, it will only take me about two hours to reach each place. We have the highest number of public holidays in the world. If this was one of the many long weekends we have, I could do the beach on one day, the jungle the next, and the hills on the last, all on the same weekend. Again, I am talking about my point of view. I am sure it is a lot shittier for some, if not most, but this is my experience.
Then again, retiring here is a lot better than retiring in the West. For one thing, help is cheap. For another, people respect their elders. It is not cold. People are friendly and generous and helpful. So, why not just live abroad, and return here to retire? The answer is because it is not easy to rebuild a social network when you are sixty or sixty-five. And, everybody needs friends and family. Heck, just ask Mahinda.
As developing countries go, people in Sri Lanka are generally healthy, and well educated. And more importantly, they are well dressed. Many people are bilingual, some are trilingual. The cuisine is great and you have access to at least three different varieties in most towns. In Colombo, you have access to probably the best restaurant scene in
South Asia. Alcohol is cheap.
Plus, the girls are good looking. I admit, many of the village lasses may need a crash course in the use of deodorants and the effective removal of body hair, but Rexona and Bic are working on this national problem. Besides, Sirasa is doing a fantastic job of making the daytime TV watching females of this country as insecure about their looks as those in the West. I see the conversion from naturally frizzy hair to dead-straight bonded hair as a sign of improvement. Okay, so Sri Lankan girls don’t put out as often, but heck, isn’t that what the NGO-sector is for?
And what about the war, you may ask? Well, I don’t believe in the Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. I know it is easy for me to say this, because I am rarely directly affected by the war, but I look back at my grandparents’ experiences during the World Wars and I think my parents’ generation had it so much more boring compared to them. By contrast, you could take any one of my four grandparents and write a story based on any one of their lives, and it would be interesting. Sure, they had tough times, but their stories are the stuff of legend and book-deals and movie contracts. We are living in interesting times, and if you are a creative minded person, like a writer, or an artist or a musician, there is no better inspiration than living in the time and space that we do. _________________________________________________
Ravana is currently co-writing a book with Gothabaya called Arms Trading for Dummies (Or How To Screw Your Fellow Man) with a foreward by Anura Banda.