Thursday, November 26, 2015

I am the cinnamon peeler’s wife. Smell me.

Dear Dan,

Today has been a fun fun day filled with so much variety!

We began the day with a scrumptious breakfast and I’m really excited to try and make egg hoppers with you! After this, we left Kandy for Dembulla. On the way, on my annoying requests, we stopped at a spice plantation. The gardens there were full of spices. My initial contact with this beautiful landscape of spice trees, was through the words of Michael Ondaatje. In The Cinnamon Peeler, he took me to a place with the sweet smell of cinnamon oils on my skin and the fibers of cinnamon bark stuck between my incisors, without having left my room in Delhi. Didi brought back his book – Running in the Family – one vacation when she was home from college. I had eyed it suspiciously  for a while before shyly flitting through a few pages and soon after falling heavily in love with his words. I loved (of course) that the book was small – it would fit in one hand so I could lie down and hold it in my right hand while my left stayed warm and tucked away. I loved (of course) that it told a story of his formative years in Sri Lanka through words weaved in a tapestry of poems. And I loved (of course) that he used smell and touch in his poems. Senses I couldn’t get enough of. And can’t.

I was so so excited to visit a spice garden! I woke up from my partial drugged stupor (so as to avoid vomiting and what not) to a heady sensory input from trees of cardamom, cloves, ginger, turmeric, cocoa, nutmeg, asparagus, citron, vanilla, aloe vera, avocado, sapota, mango, jackfruit and more! It was heavenly! But you should’ve seen me when we got to the cinnamon plant. Bua announced with solemn hilarity: “Aa gaya tumhara cinnamon.” And that was all I needed to plant myself at its roots and analyze it all I could. Mostly though I pictured a cinnamon peeler – his hands orangish-yellow with a lackluster morbidity embedded into his fingerprints that comes with prolonged use. I imagined the smell of his hands, and the smell of his wife’s body. And I imagined Ondaatje watching cinnamon peeler after cinnamon peeler (or perhaps smelling their wives?) before he wrote the words that planted this dream of visiting Sri Lanka in me.

“You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler’s wife. Smell me.”

Turmeric - ginger's cousin

Sri Lanka for me

It's so cool how cardamom grows!

Nutmeg - the fruit, the seed, and the flower.

A vine tree!

Life's problems getting fixed with this awesome balm of power.
After this sensory experience, we headed to another amazing one, which in addition to being historically rich and charming, was also a very sweat-inducing one. Well, that’s what happens when you climb up a steep hill to go explore caves from the 2nd century (B.C.) with relics of Buddha preserved under a sky of cave paintings as old as the caves! It was such an important piece of history, and I’m glad we got to experience it. I wasn’t glad about how hot it was, how many mosquitoes were buzzing around us, and how I had to cover my shoulders with a sweater in that heat. But those were small matters. The breath-taking views, the fascinating monkeys on our trek up, the beautifully preserved pieces of history, and the inspiring company made up for the discomfort of sweating a liter of sweat.

The golden stupa outside

Buddha and Mangoes

It was quite the experience watching the clouds floating by above his powering figure.

Many steps to climb up this hill!

Much sweat to drip!

Many monkeys to observe

Until finally!

We get blue skies, a steady breeze, and...

...the entrance of this enchanting cave temple!

2nd century statues in caves discovered in the 12th!

Cave paintings in their original form

Family portrait

Strong Team!

Why, humans, why?

After Dembulla, we debated whether or not to head to the elephant sanctuary and national park and with the help of some insider information about the location of the elephant herd, decided against it and fitted it into our plans for tomorrow, and headed for our hotel in Sigiriya. Once at our hotel, the first sight that greeted us was, as Phuphaji aptly put it, dramatic. I mean all we needed was some LOTR music, and we would’ve been set. We climbed up these Pyramid like steps to get to the main lobby, which overlooked a gorgeous infinity pool set in the middle of a paddy field with trees surrounding it. Right ahead, we could see the super dramatic Sigiriya Rock – home of lore, solace, and shelter. Around us, paddy fields with straw huts everywhere. In the lobby, there were gigantic art pieces with elephantine themes. One painting, the size of our entire apartment, had a dinky looking string in front of it and a demure sign warning admirers of large elephant heads to keep out in order to avoid electric shock. I was quite confused by this consequence of touching a piece of art. Of course, as a teacher of children, I thought - what a terrible idea! And of course, as a lover of touching art work, I was cross at possibly being electrocuted for following my passion of touching art.

The dramatic view that greeted us - that's Sigiriya Rock in the far background

Rat shaped coconut?? I don't mind me some!

Elephant or women in harmony?

Umm...don't touch that painting!

Seriously! Don't!
Anyhow, our room is very sweet and the hotel is gorgeous! Today is Poya Day (full moon day) and it is very auspicious for Buddhists here who believe that today is the day to practice 10 precepts of Buddhism, unlike other days, when they just have to practice 5. Our driver and guide, Sampath Hemant is very learned in these matters (also in history, geography, trees, birds, flowers, politics, and  economics - to name a few) and gave us the low down. However, he did not prepare us to not be able to have a pina colada by the pool (Poya Day = Dry Day). It turned out fine though – we got delicious fresh king coconut water and I pestered the swimming pool helping man to cut it open for us so we could eat the yummy insides of the coconut. From the refreshing pool, we saw some pretty birds (they were equally likely and unlikely finches and pelicans) and we definitely saw 3 bats hanging from a tree. We heard a saxophonist serenade us and I saw a very sweet old couple waltzing with silent knowing smiles as though no one was watching to a song as they walked back to their room.

A beautiful relaxing intense fun day.

You would’ve loved it all.

And I love you,


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.