The colonial legacy is visible everywhere on the Sri Lankan railway. However, on the air conditioned Colombo-Jaffna Intercity express you will probably forget you are still in the island country. It was in this train that I was cruising towards Jaffna. The railway line had recently started after a pause of twenty five years during the civil war. I wasn't aware that Jaffna would take me on a trip back in time...
Jaffna was the original home of many separatist movements, LTTE being one of them. Since I was traveling alone, well-wishers had warned me. 'You don't speak Tamil. That could be a problem in Jaffna. Be careful machang ' said one.
All these warnings hadn't mattered. But inside the comfortable air conditioned compartment, uneasiness started to set in. I hadn't even booked a place to stay.
'This is stupid', I told myself.
But I landed in a beautiful house built in 1934. Read on to find out...
But that afternoon I found myself in 'Lotus'. This beautiful house in Nallur, close to Jaffna town oozed of old world charm.
At ten dollars a night on Airbnb, the charm was multiplied by at least a few times.
Over the next few days, the house reminded me why I love travel. For it is the opportunity to lead many lives in one.
Entering its leafy compound was akin to stepping into a gentler time. A time that has passed us by and will never come back.
Conversations with my host's mother intensified my borrowed nostalgia for Jaffna. She would reminisce of days before the war, when 'boys used to play cricket next to our house'. And I would almost see myself as one of the 'boys playing cricket'.
The house was a treasure trove of stories.
This was one of the few families which had stayed put even when the fighting between LTTE and the government forces intensified. My host, an articulate man of my age, narrated how he and his siblings would hide beneath the staircase during air raids and crossfire.
During those evenings, even lighting candles in the house was risky. Any light from the house would have alerted the LTTE of the occupants in the house.
Lotus, mirrored my mood in Jaffna, the one that of quiet questioning.
No surprise then, that nearby the house was a pond filled with lotuses. As a ritual, I would spend a few minutes every evening staring at the timelessness of the pond. Like Jaffna, it too, had stood the test of time.
Days in the house would end with a book in hand, curled up in the small and cosy bed.
If I could, I would have carried the breeze that rushed in from the window every night. The same breeze that brought promises of intriguing stories, every single time.
Intriguing stories from a city called Jaffna, the one that is deceived by destiny.
How did I manage to stay in this house?
Jaffna has few hotels and probably no hostels. Even the YMCA was booked and I could not afford the two expensive hotels in the city.
With almost no expectations, I turned to the Airbnb app. It is a service that connects travelers with locals who let their rooms out.
Surprisingly, ‘Lotus’ was one of the listings for Jaffna. I booked in almost no time.
To be honest, I hadn’t expected Airbnb to work in a town like Jaffna. But it did.
It is a service I recommend to every traveler. A hotel experience can never match up to the variety that houses have to offer. Plus, great quality places are available at very reasonable prices.
Want to give it a try (and I think you should)? Create a profile by clicking here or the link below:
Creating a simple profile in two minutes will give you free credit when you travel next! So what are you waiting for!(the line from a million advertisements).
Follow my journey on www.theoddtraveller.in as I travel to 12 different countries to take a challenge in each one of them. These odd experiences should end up in some learning for me and who knows, may be for you too.