The phones started ringing, sms beeps came fast one after another, and the New Year dawned in a cacophony of bursting firecrackers in Colombo. First to call was Anjie all the way from Sydney, Australia but I was fast sleep and by the time I reached for the phone I lost the connection. There was not much point going back to sleep – most of Colombo was out partying and thought there were no sane/boring folks like me who wanted to sleep. They were stepping out of the dinners, parties, and nightclub hopping to call and sms me.
January 1 is a double whammy for me – as it happens it is my birthday too. Not that I ever grumbled about my birthday being the first day of the year. I grew up feeling special to have a birthday on the brand new day the year started. I felt no different today. Squirrels were already up and squealing their lungs out, the birds were holding their cabinet meeting under the barren avocado tree, Shoe flowers on my one and only flowering bush were opening out and the arecanut palm tree was casting shadows on my neighbour’s wall. Blue skies a lovely morning, no complains.
The view from my bedroom
Being Buddhists, there was never a problem of low cash after Christmas revelries for birthday gifts. Gifts arrived by post, telegrams instead of sms and I was lucky to get hampers in woven reed baskets from my maternal great grandmother/grand mother with all the yummy sweets I liked. There was always a new party dress from my seamstress aunt and story books from my school teacher aunt.
Most 31 December evenings we’d sit on the beach and watch the last sunset – a fiery orange red ball that slowly disappeared below the horizon. Then the focus would shift to the fisherman pulling their outrigger catamarans to sea and wait to see the row of lights near the horizon come on like a belt as the lamps got lit one by one on the boats. Hikkaduwa was a sleepy fishing village then – no hotels, no tourists, no glass bottom boats –just a wide beach, a sea full of live coral, little rock pools with slimy green seaweeds and a myriad of coloured fish evading our attempts to catch them.
My father never got tired of telling me that as all good things my life story began with love and a pair of loving genes. On that memorable day for him, the train from Colombo decided to move into express gear at Hikkaduwa railway station. Inside was the midwife that my father was waiting impatiently to meet. His panic was assuaged by a clerk who found him a new nurse and his Dr. brother, Richie, practicing in the next town stepped into manage the delivery. Uncle Richie who lived well into his nineties would always remind me rather gleefully “I was the one who pulled you out.” Apparently “I saw the light of the evening without much trouble,” and his brother’s comment “it’s another daughter,” had little damping effect on my father as the soothsayers said I was a Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) who would bring luck to the family. So Lakshmi became my middle name. Many years later even when things went wrong at Hikkaduwa I’d get this plea from my father “can you please come home for a couple of days even?.”