The trip to the east coast a few days back (business as usual) was inauspicious to begin with. The wipers got stuck – thankfully, just as we were making our way out of Flower Book, as the rain had continued through most of the night and no wipers working would have been a major hassle. So luggage is switched to an alternate vehicle and we set off. Five or six kilometers down the road I reach for the mobile in my stash-bag and ‘shit!’ – it aint there! Runa, my trusty navigator hasn’t transferred it with the rest of the luggage. And so we turn back while I make a call on Runa’s mobile to tell the folk back home to get the bag, get on the bike and meet us halfway. That done, we get back on the road to the east – a good forty-five minutes behind schedule, messing up the appointment for breakfast in Monaragala. Oh well!

I’m not going to flog the long dead corpse – again! Suffice it to say that the landslides have not abated nor has the indifference on the part of those in charge. So the drive, in spite of the perpetual drizzle that somehow manages to enhance the early morning vibe, is fraught with little obstacles. Smaller slides have caused piles of earth and rock to be deposited on the sides of the narrow road and this inhibits the usual steady pace. The larger rock deposits have been moved to the sides, but still create a ‘one vehicle at a time’ scenario. Fortunately traffic on this stretch of road is rather sparse or the going would really be tough – not to mention hazardous.

Brekkers is delayed- but that’s how it goes at times. We get to the east and meet up with the Sheriff, who gives us a rundown on the fast deteriorating state of the region. Regular attacks on the Tiger camp just north-west of our area of work, the ‘in your face’ extortions and abductions by the Karuna goons (you got to be a moron oblivious to the obvious to even think they don’t have state support, given their indifference to the STF), the claymore mine explosions on our daily route that got some of the STF guys we know and all sorts of other incidents that make our work with the victims of the tsunami, hazardous – to put it mildly. The next trip, coming up in a couple of weeks to check on the projects all the way north from where we are to Kayankerni (just south of Kalkudah) will be a lot more risk-prone, as this is getting into the ‘hot-spot’ region. For now, however, we have to ‘hand over’ a small hospital and doctor’s residence that we have reconstructed after the waves demolished the buildings, check on the balance houses to be completed (around 100 left out of a total of nearly 650) in this small village and then head south to check on more houses, kindergartens and other centers south of Arugam Bay to Panama.

The drive to Panama is nearly aborted due to the flooded causeway, but the Sheriff relishes such challenges, so after a brief recce and advice from the waders that we watch make their way across the fairly strong flow, we take the plunge and plough through the waters – very motor-boatish – and make the other side without incident. Work done, we head back to find that the water has risen a bit, but get over the causeway and back to base. It’s getting to be that crepuscular time of day when the sky is usually tinged with shades that range from orange to crimson – but not today. The gloom and drizzle make for a dull sky and damp feel, quite unlike the usual ambiance. But that’s cool too!

We shower and get the comfy gear on, turn on the I-pod in that phenomenal Bose dock that sounds like you wouldn’t believe, get the stash out and check out the Sheriff’s new power-bong – a beautiful bit of innovative and brilliant craftsmanship that is at once aesthetically pleasing, functional (and how!) and a work of art. It’s something he picked up on his recent vacation in England. The material that goes in is of a very high quality, home-grown sinsemilla and the effects combined with Paquito d’Rivera coming through the Bose is enough to make Java manifest and utter his first words of the day.

Heeey maaan, is dis what Milton describe as ‘Paradise Regained’?

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