The heart of a country lies deep down in its roots, and can be challenging to find in a world that is constantly and rapidly evolving. Many would say that time travel is impossible, but is it really? Because I found a place where time really has stood still.
It was my first visit to Anamaduwa with the Red Dot Team and based on what I had heard in the past from colleagues who’d been to The Mud House, about two hours north of Colombo, I was really looking forward to it. The biggest question was would I be able to survive two nights away from civilization, without things that we today consider as basics – my phone, TV, motorized transport and coffee?
Despite the fact that we reached The Mud House a quarter past midnight, much later than we had intended, Tom and Kumar the owners of Mud House still gave us the warmest of welcomes and ushered us with torches on a walk through the shrub jungle for our dinner. The dining area looked quite medieval owing to the kerosene lamps and candles that lit the vast dining space.
Once we destroyed our dinner, we were each shown to our huts. Mine was outside the main compound and as a result we boarded a Mud House tuk tuk for our last form of motorized mode of transport.
The next day after a healthy herbal soup (Kola Kanda) and one of the best and simplest of local breakfasts we made our way on our bicycles to a large ground where the staff of Mud House along with the villagers had a full day of Avurudu (Sri Lankan New Year) Games prepared for us.
With games like ‘Kotta Pora’ a pillow fight where two contestants have to maintain their balance on a log while trying to knock their opponent off, tug of war and Kana Mutti, where a blindfolded participant has to find their way to a row of clay jars and smash the one with the lotus flower inside, the games were all planned masterfully and traditionally. By the end of the day we were all knackered and to help us rejuvenate, we were all brought cups of Iramusu Tea, a herbal drink that has a multitude of benefits that includes the purification of blood and helps with developing a clean system.
At the end of the games, rather than being gifted with the usual cheap gifts you’d expect at a sports event, the winners were gifted jars of local condiments from the village such as Lime Pickle, Achcharu aka Sri Lankan Pickle (consisting of pickled onions, chillies, and other goodies) and also something truly special – a bottle of pure wild bees honey (together with waxy bits). To me the honey was the pick of the lot and was the symbolic ‘heart of Anamaduwa’. Every taste I took encompassed the flavours of numerous flora of the region – it definitely is something that I’d only bring out on the odd special occasion.
You may ask, well did I survive two nights deprived of technology? Well, after I got home and switched on the TV, it seemed so alien that I had to switch it back off. I honestly can’t wait to be deprived of technology once again.