I watch a crow on a branch of a massive tree intently, who stares back indifferent. Because my Kingfisher flight from Chennai, India to Colombo in Sri Lank has been delayed three times already and soured my disposition, I pick up a pebble and hurl it towards where she perches, missing wildly. The crow simply hops sideways, seemingly mocking me. I resign to waiting outside the terminal in the building tropical heat and order a cup of machine brewed tea from a food stall.
So I am minding my own business, sipping the hot brew when the crow directly above me (I will not swear it was the same one that mocked me 3 minutes ago, but I know, I just know it is her!) crows loudly and voids her rectum. The aim is almost accurate; my right shoulder. I feel moistness and utter shock, drop my cup, scalding my leg in the process and look up, enraged. I utter a profanity and feel my shoulder, my fingers coming away with white-gray, stinking, disgusting goo; I retch at once.
Ayoo, says a dark fat Tamil man sitting on a massive tree root nearby, giving me a toothy grin and bobbing his head violently, ayoo. This is good luck, don’t mind, my friend. A bird shitting on one is a sign of good luck. Don’t mind, no? I glare at this good natured man; since when were we friends and does a crow qualify as a bird anyway? I am not sure who to strangle first, this Tamil or the crow. Instead, I scurry towards a pay and use bathroom close by, fumbling for change. Thank God I did not check in my bag so I had a handy change of shirt with me. After a bit of clean up and change of shirt, I am a little mollified, feel guilty at being mean at the Tamil (not the crow) and return to the tree to make amends perhaps, but the tree root is now occupied by a harassed mother trying to pacify a wailing toddler. I hurry towards the safety of departure terminal, warily stealing glances at tree branches above to make sure no further good luck omens lurk there.
Colombo airport, when I eventually land there 4 hours late, is a refreshing departure in efficiency and cleanliness from airports India wide. The smart looking female immigration officer offers a charming, hospitable smile and allows me stay for 30 days in her country, free. I am out of the airport and into the waiting hotel vehicle in less than 20 minutes from touchdown, including purchase of a SIM card in the lobby. The roads, although busy, are well maintained, with clear markings in Singhalese. The Village Park Hotel in Watala is shabby but will do for the purpose I am in Sri Lanka; to provide relief to victims of devastating floods in eastern Sri Lanka.
My hosts are Haaris and Zaveeni Jamil of Al Zahra Foundation, a remarkable couple whose foundation is relentless in coordinating and distribution of aid relief to the poor and marginalized in Sri Lanka. It is to their home that I head next day for lunch and a meeting with a section of poor mothers that get educational aid for their children. I hoist a 3 wheeler and off we go weaving through traffic.
I sense, then see the driver observing me through the rearview mirror; he gives me a gaping smile missing several front teeth. From which country, my friend? he asks. Now, this country has just concluded a savage war defeating the LTTE, the only country I know that has eliminated a tenacious terrorist group successfully. Still, the uncertain reputation of my country triggers a safe response from me, India, I reply. The guys eyes light up and bushy eyebrows shoot up, Ah, Katrina Kapoor! Ah, nice girl. Ah, nice sexy body! Startled, I stare at him but respond Katrina Kaif, you mean? Yo, yo, very sexy! Then the nut closes his eyes, as if in ecstasy and crashes into a pothole. Although I receive a nasty jar, I am happy to see him back to reality, driving with open eyes.
Derrick, the driver, wants to know if I am married, if I have children and how many, how old, if I am here on a business; I humor him with vague responses and he falls silent. When we are close to my destination, he asks if I want a good time while in Colombo; gums flash. I pretend not to have heard and hide behind my sunglasses but watch him wearily. A very good time? Gums shine again followed by a lazy knowing wink. Mercifully, we are at the Jamil residence and I pay him off. He looks disappointed and sad, wants 100 rupees more than the requisite fare. I let Brother Jamil deal with him; take refuge inside the house.