June 13, 2014
Despite being our third day in Colombo, we had yet to explore the city outside of Mount Lavinia, so today we headed downtown to check out the Pettah Market. With high hopes going in, we were quite disappointed to find out that the market was nothing like the famous ones in Bangkok or Shanghai. There was nothing of particular oddity or souvenir-worthy to be found. Mass produced plastic crap seems to have destroyed what authenticity may have previously existed. Walking around Pettah was still a reasonable way to spend the day and get a flavor for Colombo, just not as memorable as hoped.
Walking back in the direction of Mount Lavinia, we went along Galle Face Green, which may as well be called Lover’s Lane. On each bench of the grassy expanse that extends a few hundred meters along the coastline there was a couple using, without exception, large umbrellas strategically positioned to hide the hanky-panky going on beneath. I asked Kim and her friend Emily who was with us if they wanted to engage in a three-person variant of this tradition, but was unfortunately declined.Our wanderings had chewed up the whole day, so we had to hurriedly get cleaned up back at the guesthouse and make our way back downtown for the wedding reception, which started at 7pm. We had no idea what to expect and based on the experience from the previous day’s ceremony were ready for anything.
The reception turned out to be a Bizarro version of a typical Western wedding party. Apparently someone in charge was very hungry, because the couple came in and hastily went through four or five traditional steps in a matter of minutes. To our surprise among these steps was the cutting of the cake, which was done well before we’d eaten anything. Sarmi’s brother then gave a quick toast – the one and only speech of the night, and which, despite being well done, was met with a dead silence after completion – and the couple went to sit on an elevated love seat styled throne in the center of the four hundred or so guests, where they spent practically the remainder of the night essentially on display for the guests to ogle.
Just as we were getting ready to eat, out came a Bollywood-style dance group of five girls and five guys to give a little show. We didn’t understand why the attention was being diverted from the couple of honor, but at the very least I enjoyed the sight of the first truly sexy (by my Hollywood influenced standards) Sri Lankans I’d come across in the whole trip.
Less than fifteen minutes after the couple had arrived and with all the ceremonious riff raff out of the way, the buffet was opened. It was even better than the lunch from the previous day, and to our relief beer and wine was served. That is, until we’d had only a couple drinks each and was informed at about 9:30 that there was no more alcohol left.
At about that time came the highlight of the event for us: the dancing. Tamil dancing was a real experience:
- The style doesn’t appear to have any rhyme or reason. All you have to do is enthusiastically flail and jump about to the music and you’ll fit in. In my mind, this is the way human beings were meant to dance. No rules, just pure enjoyment.
- Oddly there was very, very little mixing of the sexes. The guys danced together in groups of 4-6 on one part of the dance floor, while the girls did the same in the other.
- The guys were much, much more enthusiastic about dancing than the woman. By the end, most were absolutely drenched with sweat.
- While some older men danced, I don’t recall seeing a single lady over thirty out there.
- Us few Westerners were very warmly welcomed into the dancing action, as each dance clique picked one of us westerners (eight in total) to join them.
- The music was all pretty sweet Bollywood-style high paced tunes.
Shockingly, at about 10:30pm and without any further ado, the DJ cut the music and announced the party was over. This did not mean, it turned out, that we could leave. Instead, after being more-or-less ignored throughout the whole ceremony and reception, all of a sudden we were assaulted at all sides by Sri Lankan guests asking for pictures and coming by to shake our hands and congratulate us on our awesome dance moves. The number of Facebook friend requests, photos, and compliments each of us foreigners got was overwhelming. It ended up being another hour before we actually got out of the place. Though we very much appreciated the kind words and attention, eventually we couldn’t handle it anymore and had to make a hasty departure akin to celebrities escaping from the paparazzi. Once again, the incredible level of friendliness of the locals had amazed us. Just as in the rest of our time in Sri Lanka, we could not have felt more welcome.