Tripin 2019 - page 83

Very often I see Colombo (in a true
movie flashback scene) through my
grandfather’s eyes, I reminisce of a
time that I was not present for nor a
part of, but it is clear that many city
folk do the same. Reggie grew up
in Kotahena which was essentially
a hustling and fashionable
neighbourhood from the 30’s to
the 50’s – a vintage equivalent to
Colombo 7 today, or so they say. It
was where international trade and
cultures collided with local flavours
and faces. This spirit is reborn in
today’s cafes, bars, restaurants
and events that have renovated
old houses and disused buildings
bringing them back to their former
glory with a distinctly modern voice.
I am proud to see the people take
pride in our heritage, customizing
the past into a more palatable
present, creating something we can
truly call our own.
Being a people who love a good
back story, when locals socialize
the immediate questions focus on
what your surname is, who your
parents are, where you grew up,
who you work for and where you
live now. These questions centre
around communities, families,
neighborhoods and businesses.
So in a city that is very much a
myriad of 6 degrees of separation,
it would seem odd that we would
allow these communities to be
dislocated and shifted. I used to love
driving by Galle Face staring at the
grand oceanic expanse, imagining
it staring right back at me, tiny and
insignificant. Today that same drive
makes me frown with confusion
and frustration as piles of sand
and towering cranes dot the future
site of the Colombo Port City. An
extra 200 hectares of city that will
not get worn with time or evolve
alongside generations. Instead it will
be a retrofitted grandiose plug and
play neighbourhood, emotionally
I’ve watched Colombo change
from a city trapped in a 26 year
civil war, to a city that is a visual
representation of ‘great potential’.
We are a city of opportunity, ideas,
entrepreneurship and hope.
We are also a city of disillusion,
whitewashing and ignorance.
I believe a city has a duty to
connect its society via avenues
of artistic and cultural expression.
Vast parks for fresh air, diverse
sports grounds, entertainment
venues and spaces for a variety
of discourse. Right now we are
not that and I don’t believe
we can expect this from those
in power. We must instead
persevere to create our own
monuments to our present
culture and our future aspirations.
To make Colombo truly what it
has always been destined to be:
a global hub that celebrates the
diversity of our people and the
historic events that brought us to
where we are today.
Photos by Aravinda Diaz
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