The Sound of Silence?…

Sri Lanka is a noisy place. It is as though everything is competing for a small space of recognition in this busy world. The temple with its drumming, the took-took with its honking, the shrieking of crows, the constant chant of a Buddhist shrine. You might think this makes Sri Lanka unbearable but it is one of the charms of the place.

It isn’t disorderly instead it is layer after layer of sound that makes the country so interesting . Where else can you hear an elephant call, the speaking of three or four languages, the crash of the waves, and the call of a muezzin in one day.

My weeklong voyage across the country has allowed me to experience a lot of the voices and sounds of this diverse and vibrant nation. In Dambulla we experienced the story of Buddhism with trips to Sigiriya and the Dambulla Caves. Monkeys added their voices to the tale watching each visitor carefully and plotting to separate them from their food.

In Trincomalee we heard the crash of the waves upon a crystal clear beach. Spoke with Buddhist monks about Michael Jackson, and the giggles of school children curious about the white people visiting their classrooms. The hum of a ferry and fishing boat guided our trip and deposited us at a town where the sound of learning had been silenced by war. Citizens were just returning to the town after its destruction, a make-shift school bell rings across an empty school yard and the hum of electricity had finally returned after the torment of war.

In Arugam Bay the lingo of surfers from around the world entered our lexicon of sound. This welcome sound heralds a sense of return to normalcy for this beach community that has been rocked by Tsunami and political unrest. Sitting around a table, beneath a palm thatched hut drinking Arrack we share the stories of our voyage and learn about the experience of our host who has had to hide his ethnic identity from his neighbors in order to survive economically.

Making our way back to Colombo we hear the influence of colonial powers- the English, Dutch and Portugese with the ringing of church bells and the clock tower at the Galle Fort. Once again, crashing waves help to define the place as they emphasize the size and strength of the stone walls that protected the fort and its inhabitants from the wrath of the Tsunami.

This short essay is a feeble attempt to describe the experience of sound in this lush and thriving land. The return to the sounds of Colombo are welcome to my ears. Perhaps I have become Sri Lankan?


Video in a Hindu Temple:
Unawatuna Beach:
SL v Pakistan Cricket match:
Kandy Esala Perahera parade:
Coast of Matara from Buddhist Monastery:


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