I was born and grew up in Colombo city, in spite of all that it has to offer, in spite of all those places that help make Colombo my home I have always wanted to live in Colombo in the 1940’s.
A time when we were still under colonial rule, and yet a time when Sri Lankans had a greater sense of autonomy than during the times of the initial independence struggles. A time when walls in Colombo 7 were just three feet tall parapets built just to demarcate a land boundary and to amplify the beauty of the colonial or vernacular house behind it, as opposed to the 10 feet tall walls we now have which in the name of security (and rightfully) obscure any sense of beauty or serenity.
A time when an individual was always secure in society by the protection he or she receives from the family, neighbourhood and community. A time where moments after school were for play and family evenings and not tuition classes, times where a lot of ‘old school’ things like reading books were clearly one of the best pastimes, houses which were so well naturally lit and ventilated and the house that helped harness family and neighbourly relationships, a time possibly when the rowdiest of thugs used to conceal their lit cigarette (or beedi) and hide it behind their backs and show nothing but the most respectful body language when a woman passed by.
Certainly a time when politicians were genuinely servants of the people and corruption wasn’t as rampant and bloodshed wasn’t such an everyday cliche.
Times when time itself passed slowly and people felt more purposeful and focused as opposed to being exposed to one too many things and thereby consuming one’s childhood and youth without one’s own knowledge.
I doubt if I will ever get an accurate description of how life used to be then, apart from books which best illustrate such a time in Colombo.
I found this video which is an absolute gem in terms of showing how Colombo used to be in 1976.
Sadly, not much seems to have changed from a developmental point of view. Same old CTB buses, same potholes in the roads where water stagnates, same old trains and of course the traffic jams. And besides, Colombo, as one would expect seems to be much greener then than it is now.