Why I Want to Stay in Sri Lanka

It's more interesting this way. Photo by Tashiya Mirando

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.


28 thoughts on “Why I Want to Stay in Sri Lanka

  1. “isn’t that what the NGO sector is for?” – made me laugh out aloud. Nice post mate. Very true about the quality of life in the UK too.

  2. Living in SL does seem tempting, more so the older I seem to get, but the crux of the matter is that I would never be able to find employment in my particular field of work. The best I could hope for would be to become a lecturer at a University there and collaborate occasionally with other researchers and leave decent research to my sabbatical years out of the country. Effectively, four years of undergrad and these three years of postgrad would be rather wasted.

    I can see why it’d work for you though!

  3. can u buggers stop posting things like this! My resolve to stick it out here is being severely, severely tested…especially by that part about the good looking girls (and a walk in nugegoda confirms that that situ is only getting better)….sigh…my excuse is I need some cash in my pocket and some experience and most importantly a dual citizenship so I can travel without being analprobed by every visa officer for every damn country….trying to convince myself two years is really not that long…damn…

  4. hey i loved this blog…thanks so much for putting my mind at ease about moving to SL. i was getting worried about the war and crime situation there….but after reading this, it just reminded me that this is exactly why i didn’t mind moving there in the first place. in the U.S. at the moment but will be moving to SL in the near future for family reasons. the in-laws are too old to be moved abroad and being able to move about freely even if your using a cane is a “luxury” that they have in SL. you have all your relations and friends there.
    i’m getting a lot of negativity from people when they know that we’re moving back, but this post just banished any uncertainty i might have had. i’m not sri lankan either (hubby is) but i do absolutely
    love the country.

  5. that’s a qool idea. trip thing. after the bloggger meetup this’d be great.

    and, ravana, well exactly. but it depends, kinda. but one thing, SL is really cool, and that’s only one thing i think..

  6. Wait… there’s a blogger meet up? When? Yeah, the trip things sounds cool, although I think maybe we should break the ice at a meetup first.

  7. From my comments in Indi’s blog and some other forum I post in:

    ” I love my country, but hate the assholes who are running it to the ground. Corruption has become audaciously blatant and no one seems to want to stop it. I am sick and tired of it, and I want to leave, but I know I will never come close to finding a place that has Sri Lanka’s mix of the exotic, the eccentric, the gorgeous and the downright strange. For better or worse, this is home.

    I’ll probably move to study in the US or Canada at one point. But, unless the shit really hits the fan here, I don’t see myself making a permanent home anywhere other than Sri Lanka”

  8. Ravana, I must commend you on a wonderful post. I think it captures reality here and I must admit that I seemed to catch a layer of meaning there that most other commentators did not. I hope it was intentional, it was very subtle and hit the nail on the head.

    Personally I’ve had this sense that this is where I belonged. At one point, I even had reservations about other people who left the country for good- thought of them as part of the problem. I don’t now. In fact, as a Tamil, I’m sometimes even happy when I hear of other Tamils I know leaving the country. That’s how much things had changed over the last few years.

    Yesterday though, I heard about the order for people to vacate the Pettah lodges, I began to rethink my decision to stay here. I don’t ever want to leave, but the writing looks like its on the wall. I have even been told by Sinhalese friends to have a valid visa and a valid ticket ready at all times. I think after the news yesterday, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

  9. Good to hear aadhavan. The less extremists we have in Sri Lanka the better and with you gone, there will be one less Tamil racist living amongst the Sinhalese and yet hating on them with venemous bile.

  10. Nope. Just the Tamil racists like your good self – Tamil racists who live amongst the Sinhalese people yet bag them out day in and day out like there was no tomorrow. Tamil racists who live amongst the Sinhalese yet pine for and advocate a Tamil-only state, Tamil racists who live amonst the Sinhalese yet provide lodging, board and support for terror acts that kill scores of civilians. The sooner folks like that say “ta ta” to Sri Lanka, the better for all.

  11. How I got fitted into the above category by your good self, only you will know. Care to even demonstrate one of the above allegations. In the absence of even an iota of reason to believe it, it’s shameful race based generalization. What was that about racism???

  12. Oh look who pulled out the racism card. How surprising. The history of your postings all over Kottu shows quite clearly what sort of character you are. And in my opinion, the sooner you leave Sri Lanka the better. Did you expect everyone to go “aww, please don’t leave, we would be nothing without you aadhavan”? Seriously?

    Sri Lanka does not need hypocritical, self-centred and racist red necks such as yourself. That might sound harsh, but it’s the truth and you know it.

  13. I’m chaffed that you’ve been following me. If my position which has been interpreted to be ‘moderate’ by others constitutes “red necked” racism, then that says more about you than it does about me. Cheers.

  14. Shut it, Federer. Aadhavan, is far from a racist, and is one of the more rational commentators on the blogosphere.

    Aadhavan – I read about the Pettah scene in the Daily Mirror, I think. By that account, that is pretty shocking. There’s no excuse for that. They just can’t do that. And if they do, well, they just have to go.

  15. Ravana, thanks for the compliment.

    Yes it is shocking. I wish someone really protested it. Civil society response has been muted and the TNA is behaving like they can do little else besides doing a circus in the well of parliament. I have always thought that fairly affluent upper middle class Tamils will never be subject to this sort of thing, and maybe we won’t, but this prayer by a German theologian comes to mind…

    ““In Germany, they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist…. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew….. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist…. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Catholic…. Then they came for me – and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.”….. Martin Niemoller

  16. Thats true man,there is no place like Sri Lanka.You could find everything in Sri Lanka,elephants,deers,birds,mountains,ancient civilizations,terrorists,corrupt politicians,thugs you name it,i love my country

  17. great post! i’ve just made the decision to leave sri lanka for a couple of years and i think it is disillusion that’s prompted it. disillusion with the war, with the potential in post tsunami sri lanka that did not realize and just general apathy towards political and social mediation. we are being polarized, by wealth and race and little (effective little) is being done about it. or at least it appears that way. as a member of the ngo community i just felt that all efforts to effectuate change seemed futile. i guess you right in saying that it really depends on what your doing, where you work and who you know.

  18. even i was always wanting to live abroad when i was in srilanka..but ocne i came here i realised how much i missed in my beautiful country and reading your post made me want to go there even more..and start a my life back again in my country…nothing can beat lanka…from natural beauty to culture to the ppl its just a gift…its sad the war takes the good things off and makes everybody focus on it…but it will go away one day or another I hope! thanks for a wonderful post! enjoyed it thoroughly!

  19. bright side to SL

    * video prices are 1.8 dollers compared to 20 usd and we get the dvd by two weeks
    if u get caught drunk driving we can pay a bribe and get out
    criket match days are holidays
    if thursday or tuesday is a public holiday, automatically the middle workingday become a unoffical holiday
    country with the greateast number of holidays in the world
    we can still punish our children without social workers taking them away.

  20. more bright side

    * food, dishes, nets, tools, & cosmetics grow in the backyard
    * bicycles and dirt roads are made for each other
    * monkeys (mixed blessing)
    * I’ll second that Sri Lankan women tend to be lovely — SL must have the world’s highest per-capita yardage of gorgeous long shiny hair.

  21. Ravana,
    Thanks for the blog. This helped me to think clearly and make my decisions. I have been living in the US for the last eight years and now convinced that I must go back home. I am prepared for all the conflicts and hardships that I may face in Sri Lanka. I am determined to give my contribution to make things better.

  22. Sir,

    Since last 1 year I have searched many historical places, for that I have a team of my own friends & now I am intrested to reasearch on life of ravan & their living palces for that I want ur help

  23. I so totally agree with your reasons for living in Sri Lanka. And my reasons are so much similar to yours too.. Us Sri Lankans never really start appreciating the homeland until we’ve been away for sometime, gotten bogged down by the ratrace that most of thhe modern world has been submerged by and realized what a truly unique culture Sri Lanka possesses and how relaxed and rested one can be while still having to juggle a tough job and hectic workschedule.
    Home is where the heart is!

  24. hi ravana i am so happy to know that there are people who think a like i have been in canada for the last six years and feel so lonely i live my life every day thinking about my country srilanka i want to go back and settle for what may come i am sri lankan in my thoughts and ways so now i know after being away how much i have mist

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