10 April, 2021 – Kohuwala, Sri Lanka

By Shalini Jayasinghe

Today we decide to go for a drive; a small outing. Masks on, palms and fingers covered in sanitiser, and off we go. My daughter takes a wrong turn. At this time of the day, she is used to driving to work and even though she has not driven to work for many months now, her mind wanders back to the route she knows. She has forgotten that I am in the car beside her, and that it is a Saturday. But I sit back and enjoy the alternate route, discovering new shops that have appeared during the past year, on either side of the road. We will get to our destination whichever way.

There is a place in Mirihana, where wax candles have been moulded and unmoulded for sale. These lovely creations are made by differently-abled youth and adults. The small store is quiet and empty when we enter, enjoying a lull after a busy Easter period and ahead of Sinhala and Tamil New Year holidays.  The students have gone home and the staff back to their towns and villages.

Candles are neatly arranged all around; tea lights, floating and marbled candles, unity and paschal candles. The marbled ones look like marshmallows or faluda to me. I buy one little pastel pink angel, not more than two inches tall, for my granddaughter. She is just two and a half but she loves to blow out the flame of a candle, when it is lit for her. I lovingly hold this delicate little angel in my palm, all the way from Mirihana to Kohuwala, to bring it home safely for Amisha. Tall candles with poinsettia and daisy flower motifs sit in a bag beside me.

On the way back, we pass the busy streets of Nugegoda. Street vendors and New Year shoppers are having their day in the town. Stalls with firecrackers, little clay pots to boil milk, and betel leaves, line the roads. Masks on, and hopefully sanitisers out, people are selecting gifts of rubber slippers, combs of banana, and curd with treacle for the festive season ahead. We inch through the traffic, my daughter and I, and when we reach home, put our hands and masks to wash.

In the evening I look out the window, caged back in. I see a teenage boy cycling down the road, with his mother trailing behind him. I wave at the boy. He waves back. He asks his mother if she knows me. She does not. But, she looks up at me, and tells me that she admires my ivy wall. We chat. The boy asks if the ivy is poisonous. I tell him “it’s okay, we don’t eat it!” We have a laugh, and they continue on down to the road.

Each and everyone is trying to stay safe on this little island of ours, while wanting to get out and about to see their friends and loved ones. With the New Year ahead, I wonder how long this freedom will last.