A fatal intersection

Three small shops in northwestern Sri Lanka no longer exist.

I was born and raised in a little community in Kuliyapitiya, a typical agricultural area with three small tanks (wewa), which watered paddy fields, within walking distance on three sides of my house. Of course, there were also three Buddhist temples, almost within walking distance from each other. It was a typical village in the North-Western province, a part of which is known as bat kooralee or 'rice province'. Where there were no tanks or paddy fields there were coconut plantations, big and small. Not surprisingly, much of the 'coconut triangle' is also in this province.

Ethnographically, it was a unique village because a considerable number of Sinhalese Christian families lived there, contradicting the conventional wisdom that Christians lived mostly in coastal areas. The village was unique economically too, with a semi-industrial character due to the three coconut-fibre mills in the area. Two of those were less than a mile from my house. If you did not have paddy or coconut land, you could make a living working at those mills. In that sense, the village was atypical. But this 'self-sufficient village' was destroyed within five years of political violence.

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Himal Southasian
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