Ashan, Chamara and Sampath
I took all these photos except one last year, at the popular Negombo bathing spot known as Mora Wala in the Pitipana area, beyond the fisheries harbour. According to my notes, it was the fasting month for Catholics, and the sea was getting rough as one could see from its muddy hue. But the location was crowded.
This was Sunday March 25, 2019. Then came Easter Sunday, and the world turned upside down.
The one with the three smiling young men was taken last week, when I revisited Mora Wala, in the Pitipana fishing hub of Negombo, after a break of one year. Mora Wala is always crowded on weekends during the brief lull between monsoons. Just like last year, there were boys with snorkels, families with frolicking children and proud owners letting their dogs dump those nasty ticks into the sea.
The difference was that a major beach cleaning effort was going on while the bathers were having fun. There was a group of 22 people, including six foreigners, picking up plastic bags, bottles and other refuse. Ashan Weerakoon and Chamara Anuruddha Fernando were busy with their group, which included Pitipana resident Sampath (left to right in the picture).
Just like last year, there were boys with snorkels, families with frolicking children and proud owners letting their dogs dump those nasty ticks into the sea
Chamara’s group is called #Change The Nation 2020, while Ashan runs a recycling company called Shanthi Sustainable. The former collect the refuse and give it to the latter for recycling. It’s a convenient and eco-friendly arrangement.
Sampath, a local resident said he was inspired by the effort to join hands and help, though he thinks the ultimate solution to this garbage dumping is to “change the thinking of the whole nation.”
Watching the cleaners and the revelers, my mind flashed back to last year. What I took last is published now because I want to remember these people. I don’t know if they are dead or alive. Catamaran fishing is now a thing of the past, but one sailed serenely across the narrow estuary into the open sea, giving a ride to a couple of tourists. I remember a scale model sailing here last year, on that Good Friday. You can see its creator, boat builder and story teller A. I. Fernando, standing on the beach. He began telling me about his life as his model craft, built with painstaking detail, sailed parallel to the beach.
The boy with the snorkel was curious about my DSLR and came close to have a look. A little further away, a group of young men were swimming like bottom dwellers in two feet of water. They jokingly called themselves the ‘crawling club.’
I remember the boat builder telling me about his Muslim friend in Kalmunai who lost his life in the tsunami.
Looking back, I wonder how many of them are still alive. The mayhem caused on Easter Sunday, April 21, by the Islamic extremist bombings inspired by ISIS shortly after this these photographs were taken, claimed 251 lives island-wide, many of them in Negombo. Scanning the faces at Mora Wala last Sunday, I looked for familiar faces, those captured in my photographs. I didn’t see any. But that doesn’t mean they became bomb victims.
Looking back, I wonder how many of them are still alive. The mayhem caused on Easter Sunday, April 21, by the Islamic extremist bombings inspired by ISIS shortly after this these photographs were taken
The vibrant, almost festive air over here, and the beach cleaning group as busy as bees carried a very positive message – that life will continue no matter what. If terrorists believe they can halt the flow of life with their machinations, they are sadly misguided. They can only interrupt it, and only very briefly at that.
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