Pol Roti & Bacon – The ‘Colomba Minissu’ Phenomenon
“Ah Colomba minissu”, “Ingreesi karayo”, “polkatu suddho”. Yes. That’s what we are. People from Colombo. Anglicised by the British colonial enterprise, decolonised by a nationalistic bid that has a mother with the name Celia and a daughter with the name Manique, eating pol roti for breakfast with bacon coz though we are proudly of this country, we are also very much a mix of everything that this country has endured.
Living in a bubble is very possible. Plenty of people do it – even in their own households – daily. The Colombo bubble is rather large but insular nevertheless. They are more often than not the first line of attack in being exposed to most things – attire, movies, food, trends and so called development. Unless it’s tourist destinations like Ella and Unawatuna that had things like wood fired pizzas before it came to Colombo. The most extreme form of this bubble are the pockets of people who speak no native languages, who call Colombo an extension of London & New York and who find ordinary Sri Lankan foods to be exotic fare – “Oh my gawd, thalana batu” (complete with some American / UK / Australian accent). Yet some of these would be enterprising enough to start high end hopper shops, tea boutiques and other ventures that earn them (and the country) good money while others would join the family business and conform or break loose.
Anyhoo. Colombo is in its own world but it nevertheless is very much a part of what Sri Lanka is. It’s that limbo land – the purgatory of identity crises. That’s what Colombo represents. Everything a person desires and everything they aren’t. Sri Lankan by birth. Western by culture. Food is a hodge podge. Language – bilingual with the native tongue in abeyance and some with no native tongue at all. Trying hard to be ‘posh’ while clinging onto some notion of Sri Lankan culture or ‘sanskruthiya’. The result being a stalwart ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ in tiny shorts worshipping her mother before running off to row a boat on the Beira. Black Skin, White Mask. Dear Fanon got it right and Colombo is an embodiment of this conflicting phenomenon.
In this melee, there is the ‘Colombo vs. the rest of the country’ debate. Somehow if you’re from Colombo, with no native village to call your own, then you aren’t truly ‘Sri Lankan’. You are a bastardised version of a Sri Lankan. It’s worse if you have a Portuguese origin name coz though you may be ethnicity-wise Sinhalese, you are still considered less. You know, cavorted with the enemy. (Yea and the rest were practising celibacy apparently but let’s not go there). Yet you will be something the rest secretly aspire to become. Hence it’s a double edged sword. Almost a kind of Master – Sir relationship of bitter subservience and feigned superiority.
Fact of the matter is that Colombo is the capital centre of the country, whatever those lurking elsewhere want to claim. It’s the economic centre, the hub of many industries and the place of the so called ‘posh’ Colombo people. One needs to only see how many commute daily to Colombo from other districts to understand why it’s a hub. It’s not right that only Colombo is developed, but it has been that way for decades now. And to dismiss its people on a basis of insecurity, ego and “bhoomi puthra” national pride is ridiculous. Does Colombo need to wake the fuck up as to how the rest of the country lives? Yes. Does the rest of the country need to get over their petty insecurities? Yes.
But for now Colombo is what it is – very much a part of this country. A good achcharu but nevertheless an integral part. Id est quod id est.