Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Not Goodbye

OK, you're going to think me a right old sentimentalist when I tell you this: I couldn't bring myself to say "Goodbye" to my friends in the Polla, the market. It was just too hard. I couldn't do it! I tried, I really tried, but I found it impossible. Stupid, eh? But even now, as I write this, I'm reliving it and it brings tears to my eyes. "How ridiculous" you must be thinking! Well imagine how ridiculous I felt. See, I didn't just think of them as anonymous stall holders, I thought of them as my friends. Even though they didn't know my name nor I theirs, they were still my friends. After a year of getting to know these guys - visiting their stalls once a week, negotiating to buy my fruit and veg, having a little chat and a laugh with our limited common language and lots of gestures, being treated with familiarity and respect, and never being taken advantage of - well, let's just say I felt we had a bond. Good people. So I wanted to not disappear without a word or explanation or wish of luck. My last chance came three days before leaving Sri Lanka, at a time when the market was at its busiest. Was that a good idea? Who knows, but it gave me the cover for circling and approaching and retreating, shaking, without being noticed. I knew that I wouldn't be able to bring myself to answer that question "when will you be back?" or "when will I see you again?" with "never," because that's what I truly think it will be. Crazy? Oh well, that's me. This is a theme that repeats itself with my every farewell from this beautiful place.

These are a few of those friends. The banana lady with her son - she was always generous, carefully selecting fresh, fat, tasty hands of Embul plantains for me. The grey-haired lady with the ready smile who sold me big grapefruit-like Jambola. The tomato guy with an eye for the ladies, who was reputedly always quiet when his wife was around, here pretending to plant a kiss on the dark-haired Jambola lady. The lady with the packets of herbs and spices who I only ever actually bought from, in large quantities as presents, a few days before leaving. And the papaya girl, always in that blue dress, who would carefully select and put aside a ripe and a not-so-ripe papaya in anticipation.

More photos from the Polla

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