Monday, August 01, 2005

A Fulfilling Life

A Fulfilling Life

It has been a good "break" for me in Colombo, even though I'm now in the thick of another complex project. I'm finally back in KL, for at least a week, and as usual I'll have to spend a couple of days to get my regular life in order again.

I had a lot of good conversations with taxi and limousine drivers in Colombo during the past week. The driver who sent me to the airport on Friday evening was Vije. Vije has been doing his present job for the past 17 years and is happy with it. As usual, all these working class people that I meet are happily married with kids.

Vije himself is blessed with four children. He expressed surprise that I'm still single and as expected, started extolling all the virtues of married life. (Come to think of it, the only people I know who are constantly complaining about their married lives are middleclass professionals who are earning good money but are somehow finding their lives inexplicably empty).

I told Vije that I agree with him that married life can be very fulfilling and do not dismiss the possibility that perhaps someday, I'll also be happily married like him. At the meantime, there are "more important" matters for me to attend to...

Vije, like the majority of Sri Lankans, is Buddhist. So we ended up talking about Theravada Buddhism--the main school of Buddhism there--and the kind of religious education that children in Sri Lanka has. Most of them go to Sunday school for Buddhist classes and are taught very early on basic meditation techniques--so central to the practice of Buddhism.

Vije himself practices Anapanasati--or breath meditation whenever possible. In Sri Lanka, every full moon day is a day of worship ("poya") and is a public holiday--so there's at least one public holiday every month. Religion is very much an integral part of Sri Lankan life and I admire that very much, even though I'm not a very religious person myself. Well, at least not in the conventional sense.

Like every other driver I meet in Colombo, Vije also offered to take me on a day tour to Kandy--that ancient cultural capital of Sri Lanka, located at an altitude of over 1500 feet above sea level in a scenic mountaineous region not too far away from Colombo. I'll probably make a trip there someday but at the moment, I feel that I need to know Colombo better first. After about four trips there, I am beginning to feel more at home, and even look forward to my next visit.

I am fortunate that I get to meet nice people wherever I go, and Vije is typical of Sri Lankans that I've met here: warm, friendly and hospitable ("Are you from Japan/China/Korea/Singapore?"). Whenever I tell them I'm from Malaysia, they will always have good things to say about it and will never fail to mention that their largest cellular operator, Dialog Telekom--which went public recently--is owned by TM.

Over the hour-long trip to the airport, Vije and I chatted about everything related to Sri Lanka from the Tamil Tigers to Arthur C. Clarke. As usual, I get to learn so much about the country I visit from taxi drivers. It is one of the pleasures of travelling alone--when you have no one else to talk to, you just talk to strangers you meet on the road. When you don't feel like talking, you just read. You are educating yourself all the time. Now, who said single life can't be fulfilling?

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