That handlebar moustache

The picturesque Galle with its azure skies, the rippling waves, the sea breeze, coconut trees, tropical foliage and the fort on one part of the beach, are perfect for a holiday and photo-bombing of friends and family.

To report a Test at the Galle International Stadium, with its backdrop of the fort and the sea, is a sensory delight.   -  Getty Images

Monday morning blues had just waned when the Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Chennai to Colombo gained elevation. The crew said their ayobawan (warm welcome in Sinhala) and it was time to watch the safety instructions video played on the mini-screen. Among the three caricatured figures playing the usual tropes of fastening seat belts, latching onto oxygen masks, inflating water-floaters and crouching low for a crash-landing, one individual caught the eye. And then it dawned, the man in the centre, with a handlebar moustache, was inspired by the late Kottarappu Chattu Kuttan, who worked for 72 years at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo.

Hailing from Kerala, Kuttan had crossed the seas and reached Sri Lanka in 1938. Eventually, he joined the hotel, where he climbed the rungs from waiter to doorman, a job from which he never retired till his death in 2014.

Kuttan, who was featured in travel magazines and in the pages of several Malayalam newspapers on Sunday over the years, is seen as the public face of Sri Lankan hospitality. To see his caricatured version on a flight promptly drew in a word that the ancient island of Serendib (as Sri Lanka was called in the distant past) gifted to English: serendipity, meaning happy coincidence.

A place of beauty, a joy forever

Galle, a coastal town, 128 kilometres south of Colombo, has a pastoral air, fringed by the Indian Ocean and liberally sprinkled with history as evident in the Fort area. There are two ways to get to Colombo — the old road that hugs the coast or the Expressway, which cuts through green landscape dotted with hills, tea and cinnamon plantations. The Galle Fort with Portuguese and Dutch antecedents is a throwback to a colonial past and inside various ethnicities co-habit with warmth and grace.

The Sinhalese, Europeans, Tamils and other communities live in quaint homes adjoining narrow streets. Arched doors, windows with mini-gardens on the edge and a dominance of white and yellow shades reminds you of the Portuguese quarter in Goa’s Panaji and the French area in Puducherry. To report a Test at the Galle International Stadium, with the fort and the sea as the backdrop, is a sensory delight. The azure skies, the rippling waves, the sea breeze, coconut trees, tropical foliage and the fort on one part of the beach, are perfect for a holiday and photo-bombing of friends and family.

Laugh your boredom away

Cricket press conferences can be tedious at times. Platitudes are mouthed, the ‘I think’ prefix is used with monotonous regularity by almost all players and the cliché — getting the process right — is thrown around as if it is the greatest utterance in the sport. But at times correspondents get lucky as accidental humour pops up to everyone’s delight.

During the course of the first Test in Galle, Abhinav Mukund squared up to the media. The opener making another comeback to the Indian Playing XI had just scored a 81 as Virat Kohli’s men tightened their grip on the contest. He spoke about his days in the domestic wilderness, trying to find a path to the national squad. And when a reporter asked about his bond with Kohli since their under-19 days, a stumped Abhinav smiled, paused a bit and said: “It was a long time ago. I am 27, he is 28. The understanding? What can I say?” And then without covering the microphone, he asked the Indian media manager Gaurav Saxena, “What do I tell him?” The innocence of that query had the entire press corps in splits.

More was to follow when Sri Lankan off-spinner Dilruwan Perera came in to answer queries. The host media manager was not in the vicinity and cricket manager Asanka Gurusinha suggested that questions may be asked. And as Perera warmed up with two answers and was hearing the third query, the media manager walked in and said, “presenting Perera, questions from the English media first.” Perera was surprised and the next second, Gurusinha started laughing and the cricket correspondents followed suit. Never did so much laughter bellow inside a press-conference venue.