Spice island or bland nation?

Located strategically in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka was a hub in the maritime silk and spice routes for millennia. It drew traders from the East and West for both business and pleasure. Notable among the attractions were spices – their many aromas and flavours forming part of the tropical-paradise experience. The traditional Lankan curry contained up to 13 spices and herbs. Most plants were not native – cardamom came from South India, cloves from Indonesia and chilli all the way from the Americas. Cinnamon was Sri Lanka's unique contribution to this delightful mix. The origins did not really matter: the islanders knew just how to mix the native and the foreign to achieve legendary results.

It is worth recalling these aspects of Sri Lanka's heritage as the country embarks on national integration and reconciliation after three decades of war. For the war not only devastated the economy and blighted the prospects of a generation; it also nurtured high levels of insecurity, insularity and mutual suspicion. Dissent came to be considered decidedly unpatriotic and everything foreign was suspect – especially if it emanated from the Western world. Today, it seems the spice island of lore is in danger of turning into a 'bland' nation, with xenophobia the only condiment in use.

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian