Monday, March 14, 2016

Inside and outside in Borella

The coconut for tonight's dinner is being hacked open and the glare of a pre-thunderstorm sky is white with heat and loft. Roof tiles rough and hot and in some distance, maybe as far as Independence Square, a loudspeaker. 

The streets. Murky, muddy, dusty, noisy. Every horn beeping its greeting. Every umbrella opening to the rain or sun. Borella Junction, where once, confused, I walked up and down the block of its busiest street without a notion of direction, taking finally the wrong bus, the one that took me to my destination in two hours instead of twenty minutes. The one I'd been instructed to take, mistakenly, which I'd fought then finally panicked. A conductor with his rare boggle of deep disapproval when I asked to take this bus to Moratuwa. 

Borella Junction on a hill. Borella Junction the kernel of an old village. Borella Junction, its old streets stop at the hill bottom but not a full stop, where they become Ward Place or Borella Gardens or names the smell redolent of colony and gardening. Later nominated as Colombo 08, Borella Junction with its hidden markets, its upscale malls, its banks of commerce and banks of pedestrians. Its doorway caves to hide from rain with the crowd. Its shops with hair clips and bananas and phone repair and kotti. 

Outside most is hidden. Stands behind walls on lanes semi-locked. Outside, where the old village stood, commercial places are public. Places of procurement. Hidden in the alleyways and lanes, the private courtyards. The quiet curves. The gentle rises. The verges with subdued activity or sitting or snifting or serving. 

Hidden in the courtyards the softened wards, their public places borne of still hamlets, their dogs and children sleeping or stepping in shadows and sun. In courtyards where stones tumble in pale bright, where cooking noises presage aromas, where bodhis sprout and margosa trees start as shy saplings. 

Women working early grinding in their kitchens. Men climbing ladders early taking building tasks. Women later with their bags and skirts and hair. Men in midday in white sarongs and tops waiting for their lunch. 

Some music from some places. Intoxicating, clever, rhyming, maundered. In tune and time with waves of traffic and the wind, in streets with no horses or hoses but concrete and cobble and asphaltish aromas and kotti and corners and underground walkways. Borella where riots tore asunder a society. 

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