Happy and energetic: the front view of Colombo. Of course there is an underlying history of trauma, uncertainty, mistrust and political instability. I ran into the darker side more than once yesterday.
Having been asked by one too many tuk-tuk driver whether I was married and where I was staying, I decided to walk the kilometre or so to the Galle face Green (a spacious area by the sea with kites, ice-creams, food stalls and a few shady palms).
Of course, as it would happen, my walk was interrupted by a protest of Buddhist monks outside the Indian High Commission. The street was filled with bright orange. The wall of the building was lined with soldiers. I hesitated. But crossing six lanes of Colombo traffic seemed more risky than walking past a pack of monks.
I asked a soldier if I could walk past - and if I could use a camera. He gave me the traditional Sri Lankan head wobble that looks like it should mean no, but signifies consent and agreement.
And so I proceeded with care between the soldiers and the monks. Getting out the camera, looking very confident and asking a few people along the way what was happening seemed to create a good cover as an international journalist and suddenly I was part of the mosh pit of journalists capturing the leader's press conference.
Unfortunately I couldn't understand a word of it and no one responded to my calls for an English translation. But I think I gathered that the monks want the Indian govt to ensure safe travels through Tamil Nadu (TN) following attacks on Sri Lankan monks in TN - assumed to be connected with LTTE or sympathizers. You can see a real journalist's pictures here:
I had visited a Buddhist temple in the morning and read the inscriptions denouncing greed, hate, violence, gambling and promoting giving and sacrifice and self-understanding. Not sure what a rally of angry Buddhist monks says - but it doesn't bode well.