Beyond the spectacular scenery and the enthralling ethnic enclaves you will find the most extraordinary facet of Batticaloa, the people. Warm and benevolent, Batticalonians interact with international travelers through a pleasant blend of curiosity, kindness and respect.
Basic English is comprehended by a multitude allowing for any number of short congenial conversations (most signs are in English, too, making it a breeze to get around town).
The practices of begging and haggling have yet to take hold in the city making the exchanges lighthearted and enjoyable. Moreover, as eager as they are to speak with foreigners, the people do not approach guests in an overabundant or rude manner. They sense the right moment to extend a cordial “Hello! Where are you going?” and also know when the conversation has run its course.
Why are Batticalonians like this? It is no doubt a combination of their good-nature and the fact that they have never seen westerners in person barring the NGO folk who flooded in after the tsunami and have since long gone.
Regardless, the “street hospitality” makes wandering around town both comfortable and exciting. Take advantage of this by visiting the local market and through people watching.
For the latter, I recommend a park bench alongside the lagoon on Customs Road.
The early 17th century Dutch Fort is a must for history buffs and is also among the best locations to photograph Batticaloa’s signature Kallady Bridge.
A hot spot for male teens and young adults is the cinema. If you have never witnessed a Tamil film, Batti is a fine place to do so. Just be sure to check in advance if the weekly feature has English subtitles.
Still, the magic of Batticaloa is its authenticity. At a time when globalization is evolving at a rapid pace replacing local traditions and heritage with an interconnected web of common practices and amenities, this corner of the world remains pure like the source of a fresh spring.
You would be wise to come now while the city retains its naturally beauty, cultural wonderment and social generosity. I’ll be back.
This article was written by Frank Justice, a guest teacher in Village Empowerment Academy in 2012. 1st part of his article and 2nd part of this article are already online.