Sri Lanka, amaze me!

If the aim of travel is enriching oneself, I had the most enriching trip in my life very recently. This was to Sri Lanka. And I say this after travelling to 14 countries round the world. Travellers always want to see places different from their home, and I dont blame them. It does seem like the best value for money.

So, please note that I say, SL was the most enriching of my trips, it wasnt the biggest bang for my buck. That, probably would be Hungary.

Anywho, when I got married, I, in all my naivety made a promise of at least one-vacation-a-year to the wife. She very subtly reminded me in August that we  hadnt made any plans and it was already past the half year mark. So we decided to go some place most Indians never visit (we were wrong about that) - Sri Lanka.

In my head SL would just be a poorer copy of Kerala. I was partly correct about that. As our plane swooped in to land, as far as our eyes could see on either sides, were coconut trees. Vast, literally forests of Coconut trees. So much like Kerala, but definitely not a poor copy.

Private transport across SL is super expensive. This in spite of fuel and vehicles costing exactly the same as in India. Heck, even their oil provider is Indian Oil (which is renamed IOL Sri Lanka, yeah, smart). On our way from the airport, as we entered the city, we did get caught up in traffic. Ah, good old third world country, I thought. Only, there was no honking, no rash driving and almost no motorbikes on the road (Could a SLankan answer why this is?)

Now the enriching part - The roads, barely felt a bump on the roads. The traffic! I have never had cars stop for me while crossing the road in India. There are just too many cars and too many people in India, I thought as I crossed that road in Colombo. I am like the mother of that naughty kid in school. Everyone says he a menace, but the soft hearted mother I am, I cant find faults with the kid. My attitude towards India is the same.

The beaches, they are beautiful! The heritage buildings, the monuments are all well kept. They all seemed Indian or British, which is obvious considering it was Tamil kings who ruled SL for most of its history apart from the British who came in during the 19th century.

My point being, this country, a small island, war ravaged for 25 years, a part of the Indian subcontient, was more European than Indian. Again, I love India. But Sri Lanka probably has all the beauty of India and its people minus the filth, the honking, the dirty and encroached footpaths and the deafening noise of loud speakers.

So, what are the Sri Lankans doing right?

1. They controlled their population.The population of SL, the entire island is less than one such island in India that is hundred times smaller than SL - Mumbai. The population density of Colombo and Berlin (one of the lesser populated cities of the west) is almost the same!

2. They made education compulsory. SL has amongst highest in 3rd world countries (98%!)

3. They made cheap medical care available for its rural folk.

4. Resulting higher value of human life and better pay for even menial jobs. In a country full of Coconut trees, coconut is still costlier than in Mumbai. The reason - the wage of the person who climbs up the tree in SL is much higher than in India.

On our way back to India, we stopped at Chennai. We went around a little bit. Chennai looks a lot like Colombo. Only it's not. It took us a few hours adjusting to that fact. Less than 1000 kms away is a city that is so much cleaner. How? While sitting on the beach, looking far out in the Indian Ocean, the same ocean that is shared by both cities, we thought what should be done to make our cities that pretty.

1. We cant reverse our population. But we can try to diffuse the population to other cities. We have to come up with newer better planned cities. We need at least 100 cities of the same tier as Ahmedabad and Mysore. At least 100.

2. We have to make 2 types of education available. We dont want everybody to become an engineer. But we want everyone to read and write and think for themselves. Most engineers from India cant.

3. Improve the quality of cheap medical care in India. Govt hospitals have to be run better.

4. Improve quality of 3 things in the public domain - Potholes free Roads. 24/7 Electricity. Potable water supply. That is it. It is not that difficult.

Or maybe it is. Either way, we cant stop trying. It makes no sense to be a superpower if we cant even have 24/7 electricty. in 2015!

We had to catch a flight back to Mumbai from Chennai. We were crossing the road at the slow lazy pace only a tourist can manage when a Tata Indica, honked at us and woke us from our slumber-like state. We were truly home.

Note: Every morning I wake up and open my window I feel great. I am proud of my country. It took me 3 months of contemplation to write this post, call my naughty kid, well, naughty.

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