Enjoy Sri Lanka with Romesh Ranganathan

Romesh Ranganathan, 30 Septmber 2015, courtey of http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/sep/30/asian-provocateur-romesh-ranganathan-in-sri-lanka?CMP=share_btn_tw

Cockney Lanka: Romesh Ranganathan in Asian Provocateur.
Cockney Lanka: Romesh Ranganathan in Asian Provocateur. Photograph: Benjamin Green/BBC/Rumpus Media

I LIKE HOME COMFORTS….  

Many of my family still live in rural villages in Sri Lanka, where they have a squat toilet and wash in a well, with snakes regular visitors. Staying at these places should have led to a humbling epiphany regarding my material attachments. What actually happened is it made me realise what a first-world-comfort, desperate little twat I truly am. I actually felt embarrassed at what a big deal I was making about staying in those conditions, while continuing to make a massive fuss about them.

HYDRATION IS SOMETHING I FIND CHALLENGING

I had no idea how much the sun would take it out of me. I spent the entire trip drenched in sweat. At the end of most days, my shirt would have a salt map on it. Yes, it was attractive. I kept forgetting to drink enough, and one day I nearly passed out. The next day I overcompensated, and ended up spending most of the day looking for bushes to urinate in. I came within inches of weeing on the biggest hornet’s nest I’ve ever seen. I actually ran away with my trousers falling round my ankles.

I HAVE MISSED OUT ON YEARS OF EXPLORING MY HERITAGE

I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know my relatives, and I didn’t know anything about the country’s traditions and customs. This meant that the trip was a great experience, but also a stark reminder of the fact that I had not bothered to get to know my background before. What made it worse is that the whole time we were there, all the Sri Lankans assumed that I knew the language because I look like I should. I was a bumbling Englishman in an incredible Sri Lankan disguise. Circumstances aside, I felt pretty ashamed of myself.

I LOVE SPICY FOOD

Sri Lanka’s interpretation of western cuisine is pretty diabolical. Sri Lankan food itself is ace, however, and they bloody love a buffet. Even if you go to a basic-looking cafe, they can knock up four or five different curries for you very quickly. I think it was the third week of the trip that I realised that I had eaten curry three times a day, every day. It was probably then that I knew that I was in paradise. Having curry for breakfast is a thing of beauty. I am considering continuing the practice here.

Trunk with power: Ranganathan takes the scenic route.
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Trunk with power: Ranganathan takes the scenic route. Photograph: Benjamin Green/BBC/Rumpus Media
FRIENDLINESS MAKES ME FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE

I’m not suggesting I met a significant enough number of them to constitute a robust sample size, but I am saying that my general impression of Sri Lankans is that they are friendly, chatty and hospitable people. And I don’t like it. I thought I would be delighted that the atmosphere is more upbeat, but I found myself yearning for the cold indifference of people in London and the south-east of England. I like it when somebody smiles at you, and you look at them as if they are a psychopath. That’s the vibe I love.

I AM LESS ATHLETIC THAN EVEN I ANTICIPATED

I had a go at traditional Sri Lankan martial art, Angampora. They don’t use gym equipment, they tighten their abs with tree hanging crunches, strengthen their fists by hitting coconuts, and increase stamina by carrying a heavy bag of rice across a field. When one of the country’s top masters of the art laughs at you and tells you that you wouldn’t be allowed to continue because a lack of base ability, well to be honest it’s a massive bloody relief.

Asian Provocateur starts 10pm, 30 September, BBC3

Romesh rangaEdinburgh festival 2014: 10 questions for Romesh Ranganathan …. http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/aug/08/romesh-ranganathan-edinburgh-festival-2014-10-questions

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Filed under cultural transmission, elephant tales, heritage, life stories, performance, plural society, sri lankan society, taking the piss, the imaginary and the real, tolerance, travelogue, unusual people

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