Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trinco revisited........!!!

Trinco revisited....................By Sharm de Alwis

The change in the climate and the physical features was discernible as we crossed from the North-Western to the Eastern Province. This was my fourth visit to Trinco.

I had first been here as a lad of nine when my father was stationed as Captain Adjutant in the R.A.S.C. camp situated in the Portuguese fortress, Fort Frederick, built in 1675. That was the time that the Armistice was to be signed, bringing an end to the bitter World War ll.

The childhood memories I latched on to were the hoary tales of Lover’s Leap, the Swami Rock, Marble Beach, China Bay, the spacious living, the velvety, smooth sea, excursions to Pigeon Island and striking up acquaintances with the soldiers. Life was on the easy track and people would exchange smiles and pleasantries with strangers.

My second visit was when we went to Trinco on our honeymoon which lasted one whole month at the cost of only six hundred rupees for the entire duration including petrol! Petrol in 1970 was only Rs. 2/40 per gallon and a bottle of pure bees’ honey which was purchased in Dambulla cost only five rupees.

Trinco had remained idyllic and bathing in the Hot Springs, taking a boat ride to Muttur to pray in the majestic Hindu temple, enjoying platters of seer fish and jumbo prawns washed down with copious draughts of Adam’s ale as I had temporarily abandoned Bachchus are thoughts I have held dear to my heart.

Driving out of Trinco to Nilaveli, the environment looked ravaged. Hulks of homes where once the chatter of kids and parents made life meaningful dotted the drive. New houses were being built to bring back the gladness of paradise but it will take years for Trinco to smile again. Grief has had a long cry.

One of the first things we did was to take a boat ride to Pigeon Island. At ten in the morning we were the first amongst the pigeons but within the hour its fame as a choice resort asserted itself with clutches of tourists coming in to dip in the natural pool formed by crag and coral.

Palmyrah fences and also improvised fences with the use of straightened out barrels and stems of coconut and palmyrah fronds were the feature. The clusters of plamyrah palms rising majestically in close proximity of coconut trees made my heart bleed to think that we humans have not been able to take a lesson from nature.

The Nilaveli Beach Hotel where we spent three nights lazing our cares away has an abundance of slim berry trees around it. It was akin to living in the forest but with creature comforts. Hemingway would have found it a part of paradise.

The compelling lure of water - is it a throw back, I wondered, to a time in pristine history when man was once a fish and a woman, a mermaid. The fine grains of unpolluted golden sands mocked the beaches at Dehiwela and Uswetikeiyawa.

Life is as leisurely as the sea waves that sweep gently over the beach. I would be up hours before the crack of dawn, spend an hour mulling over the past, the present and the future. My 15 and 13 year old grandsons are, normally, avid ‘explorers’ and although I tried, they would not be awoken an hour later, fatigued by long swims. The other three grand-children have yet not come of age for ‘manoeuvres’.

Trinco’s natural harbour, the fifth largest in the world and one of the most beautiful was of great strategic importance to the Allies during the Second WW and lies resplendent now that the guns are silenced.

Although exuding a passionate sensation of liberation, Trinco is yet shedding the scabs of war with a myriad roofless houses and road surfaces that are now being speedily repaired.

Home-spun tourism is apace and the floating populace is enraptured by the skyline composing golden glows of sunrise and the setting of the sun, the rapturous turquoise blue waters stretching its allure for miles on end and the sea food of all types at fetching prices.

New buildings sprout in a feverish hurry and Channa Daswatta or Amali de Mel can lend fresh architectural thinking to give an aura of luxurious living within means. Right now, Trinco is a tinsel town with thosay kadays and cheek by jowl stalls selling showy trinkets to prove that "all that glitters is not gold".

Trinco awaits flattering advances from high life style gurus to improve her cosmetic beauty as well as to generate the engines of economic growth that had been stifled for decades on end. Paradise Road, Saskia Fernando Gallery, Odel, Gandhara, Beverley Street and other Gallery Boutiques together with Abans and Arpico will find niche markets from the insular as well as the floating markets.


Thursday, December 24, 2009


Train services: Announcements requested in all three languages

By Kusal Chamath

Foreign tourists and Tamil speaking people who travel by train on the coastal lines face many difficulties when announcements at the railway stations were made only in the Sinhala language. The passengers stressed the need to deliver announcements at all Railway Stations in all the three languages for the convenience of travellers from the North-East who visit the South as well as foreign tourists who are presently compelled to make constant inquiries from fellow passengers or from employees of the railways dept. A foreign tourist Peter Harvey, who boarded a wrong train and was stranded at Panadura, said that a man at the Aluthgama Railway Station misled him when he was waiting for the Galle train and that he boarded the Kandy train. He said he got down at Panadura when the fellow travelers told him that he was traveling in the wrong train. However, he excused the man who was not probably conversant in English.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Maldives infact comprises 1190 islands, located along a 512 mile stretch....!!!

Island world of Maldives

By Srimal Fernando

The Maldives ,an equatorial nation situated in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean is a country with its own uniqueness. Though rising from a common plateau, the geography of the Maldives features diverse and exciting elements. The Maldives infact comprises 1190 islands, located along a 512 mile stretch.

The country is situated 500km from the Southern tip of both Sri Lanka and India. Male’ the capital of the Maldives is situated in the Kaafa. Atoll is a bustling affluent island which houses the intellectual elite as well as the seat of the government.

The People of the Maldives are unified by a common history. They are also united through a common language, Dhivehi. The language has its roots in Sanskrit. .

The countries first settlers were Ariyan immigrants from India who were believed to have colonized Sri Lanka around 500B.C. External nations influenced the Maldivian life significantly. In 1153 A.D the Persian and the Arab travellers converted the people of this Island nation from Buddhism to Islam. After the conversion of the first known king of the Malay dynasty, the rulers became known as Sultans. The Malay or Thimuge dynasty lasted for 235 years. Under the rule of 29 different Sultans the Hilali dynasty prevailed until the Maldives became a Republic.

The country gained its Independence from Britain in 1965. Since November 11, 2008 His Excellency the President, Mohamed Nasheed has been governing the country and overseeing its administration.

The population of Maldives presently stands at 298,842 (2006) scattered across the 199 inhabited islands .The economy of the country has grown at an annual rate of 7.5% GDP. The per capita income of Maldives increased from USD 377 in 1978 to USD $3,654 in 2008.

Expansion of the tourism sector in the Maldives continues to achieve spectacular gain, recording a figure of 8,380,000. foreign tourist arrivals in 2007. The country has made the optimum out of almost 100 island resorts covered with lush green vegetation and numerous palm trees with sandy beeches, shallow lagoons and reefs with multi colored fish to develop tourism to great heights.

Fishing is the traditional livelihood of the Maldivians. The fisheries industry in the Maldives plays a major role in the countries exports. The traditional boats used for fishing are called Dhoni .The fishing industry provides job opportunities to the vast majority of the Maldivian islanders.

Agriculture is another sector in the Maldives which has been recently growing in quality and quantity .The government has introduced a range of incentives to enable farmers to boost production and attract foreign direct investment to the Agriculture sector. Planting is done during the South west monsoon season .Coconut ,Banana ,Chilies ,Cucumbers and Papaya are the main agro based crops which are grown in the islands of the Maldives

The Maldives has passed 44 years of independence. The growth and achievements of the Maldives since independence are outstanding .The socio- economic background from Haa Atoll in the Northern tip of the Maldives, to Seenu Atoll at the Southern end is both vast and diverse. If one is to understand and experience the marvels of South Asia, the Maldives is surely not a place to be missed!

Friday, August 28, 2009

There are so many people trying to enter Australia by boat. Persons also try to enter Italy by boat....!!!

Increase in illegal immigration cause of visa rejection for lankans -FM

By Dianne Silva

The reason for Sri Lankan visas to foreign countries being rejected is the increase in the number of illegal immigrants, the Foreign Ministry said. “The reason visas to other countries get rejected is the number of illegal immigrants traveling to those countries,” the ministry said yesterday.

The ministry explained that the number of people entering foreign countries illegally was proving a hindrance to those hoping to visit those countries legally. “There are so many people trying to enter Australia by boat. Persons also try to enter Italy by boat and various other means while others try to go there legally but they are both Sri Lankan and people don’t see the difference between them,” the minister said. “When these countries are unable to curb illegal entrants they try to stop those who come to their countries legally,” the Minister added.

Sri Lanka at the moment offers 91 countries visas on arrival, however the number that provides Lankan’s visas on arrival is much lower. The Minister explained that getting countries to allow for visa on arrival would require Sri Lanka to build confidence with these countries as a country that abides with immigration laws.

The Minister further stated that all reports that Attorney General Mohan Peries had difficulty in obtaining a visa to enter Britain were false. The Minister stated that he was unaware of reports that Defense spokesperson Kheliya Rabukwella too had been rejected a visa.

The Minister informed the media that new appointments would be made to the High Commissions in New Delhi, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Bangladesh soon. Further appointments will also be made to New York and Geneva.

Foreign Minister Bogollagama stated that Romesh Jayasinghe would take up his duties as Foreign Secretary during the first week of September.

Cabinet approval received to open Eritrea HC
By Dianne Silva

Sri Lanka is taking steps to annihilate the global network of terror established by the LTTE, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said yesterday. “A terrorist organization is not just something that exists in one country, it has a hold all over the world and the LTTE operates through a global network,” he said.

With regard to a High Commission being established in Eritrea, where certain elements of the LTTE have allegedly shown their presence the minister said, “In October 2007 we began discussions with Eritrea and yesterday (Wednesday) cabinet approved the decision to open a permanent High Commission in that country.”

Speaking further Minister Bogollagama said elements of the LTTE needed to be removed and the government was working towards this with assistance from the International Community. “This is what we have been working towards internationally and we have already achieved this locally,” the Minister said.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sri Lanka's largest and most famous National Park, Yala, renowned for its variety of wildlife ....!!!

Hot under the sun, Yala wetlands protect fauna

I wonder whether she said ,”Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” or did she say that plants that have thorns are less poisonous......?

Sri Lanka's largest and most famous National Park, Yala, renowned for its variety of wildlife is currently attracting hundreds of tourists and local visitors on a daily basis.

One of the world's highly rated and visited biodiversity hot spots to have shut its gates to the world due to terrorist problems , is now open to local and foreign visitors. Now, botanists, journalists, entomologists, mammalogists , naturalists and generlogists to name a few, they all visit the park and visitors to Yala national Park are on the increase.

According to Wildlife Department sources , more than 28,000 people have visited the Park during the period of January up to June 30 this year . The number of visitors to the Park during the same period last year was 15,000.The foreign nationals visiting Yala has also increased from 7532 visitors in the last year 2008 to 10,939 visitors this year, the sources said.

The Zone One of Yala National reserve covering an area of over 1400 hectares of the Park's entire expanse of 100,000 hectares is now accessible without any risk or danger from terrorist attacks.

If fishes were pelicans, the dinner is nigh...

So is Lunugamveherera National Park which serves as a link between the Yala Protected area complex on the east side and Udawalawe National Park to its west .

Meanwhile, the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry is planning to open Zone two and five of Yala National Park. Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka said , developing National Parks in the country would be their priority now that the problem of LTTE terrorism has been decimated and removed out of the Park.

There were ADB funds available to the Environment Ministry to develop the country's National Parks, but the Ministry could not use these funds to achieve its desired goals due to terrorist problems that existed in the country,the minister said and added," we are now in a position to make use of these funds to restore the pride of our forest reserves."

We were a team of journalists representing various print and electronic media driving through Yala sanctuary on the invitation of Wildlife Department to observe the Park's current disposition and how much development had gone into preserving its fauna and flora and basic infrastructure by the Department of Wildlife.

‘Are you trying to pooh pooh me ?’

With us were officials from Willdlife Department, among them Yala Park Warden W.AA.D.U.Indrajith, and Wildlife Ranger K.Janaka Shanthakumara. For these rangers the Park is pretty much their backyard.

Park Warden Indrajith said that the department had carried out Invasive Species Eradication and Habitat Enrichment Projects in Yala to protect its native plants and wildlife habitat.

Habitat enrichment
"Invasive plants negatively impact on wildlife and ecosystems degrading habitat and recreation opportunities by replacing land and water quality," he explained.

The Department of Wildlife Conservation has taken out invasive alien plant species such as Lantana camara, Opuntia dillennii and Chromlaena odorata covering an area of 50 to 60 hectares from in and around the waterholes, rocky pools and lakes, which are found on the park's main area, Block One. This has favorably impacted on Block one's fauna habitat, he went on.

Poker faces

Water holes keep animals together l

As we drove steadily but not rapidly on the dusty and gravel road of the park we could observe spotted deer, elephant ,wild boar, sambar, wild buffalo, sloth bear, jackal, mongoose, pangolins either side of the road.

There were many crocodiles to be spotted in the Yala Park near its many waterholes and tanks. The opportunistic predators were basking in the sun or submerging their bodies in the water. They rarely bask in groups. Of the 14 crocodile species in the family Crocodylide, two are found in Sri Lanka, the marsh or mugger crocodile(Crocodylus palustris) and esturine or saltwater crocodile ( Crocodylus porosus). The other thing about crocodiles is that they are at their best when they play cards for they have thick skins and poker faces.

As two crocodiles lay in the sun on the flat rock, some monkeys were playing gleefully around the crocodiles on it unaware of their dangerous predator. This is wildlife, and you are advised not to get down from your safari jeeps in the Park.

Keep your teeth together until it’s too hot. (a reptile quote )

There are about 32 species of mammals 125 species of birds and many reptiles and lagoon fauna species in the Yala sanctuary. There are six Wildlife Bungalows run by Wildlife Department currently under renovation. A new Information Centre is also to be constructed in the Park.

As with rapidly growing enthusiasm to see wild animals and splendor of the forest's beauty , the the photographers in our van had started thronging themselves upon the van's open windows to transcribe the panorama to metal plates of their cameras. They occasionally bulged on to those who sat next to them as the van drove through the forest.

The Park's access roads and branching roads have been reconstructed recently. A lot of work had gone into restoring the Park's infrastructure during the time the park was closed to the public, said Park Warden Indrajith.

Every Rose...
We stopped our drive when we saw a giant shadow that slowly moved away in the brushes . We took time to dispel our doubts. It was a huge tusker eating branches from a tree. The Rangers asked our group to refrain from speaking if we wished to see the tusker at close range. .

Oh Obelix, definetely not in Yala

We kept quiet as we watched the majestic presence of the mammal, whose kith and kin are constantly in conflict with those villages bordering the forest. .

When it comes to plants, elephants have tasted most of them. An elephant eats more than a hundred species of plants, but they eat only a little from any one plant because they have poisons.

A female elephant might tell her mate," Every Rose Has It's Thorn." and then add on in the same breath," But the plants that have thorns is less poisonous than other plants."So the elephants eat more of these plants that have thorns..

As put it by Wildlife Department officials , the best time to visit Yala is during the dry season as animals come out in the open and cluster round those waterholes in the Park to get their fill.

The elephant, the bear, the dear, the monkey, they all come to get their share of water to the waterholes. The presence of these mammals stands out as testimony to the splendor of Wildlife in Yala. The population of mammals have become dense because of the availability of water in Park. The need does not arise for the animals to leave their range when the water is around, so they do not migrate to other forest lands or wetlands.

It was evident to us that development activities had gone unabated in Yala despite the closure for the public for sometime. The Wildlife Conservation Department and Irrigation Department have built four artificial tanks in the Park to feed the animals. Two water browsers have been deployed to fill water into them throughout the Day.

We reached Kotigala area in the Park toward the end of the afternoon where the lepards live on the rocky outcrops of the prairie. Leopards generally do not come out in the open until it is dark in the forest. It has been graded as a near endangered specie. And Yala is known as one of the best National Park s in the world to observe and photograph leopards. The population of Leopards in Yala has however incresed from 30 to 40 leopards.

Where am I do you think..... Alice in wonderland?

One has got to have some luck to get a glimpse of this nocturnal carnivore even at a distance, the Rangers told us. The van moved slowly as we chatted along , sometimes mocking and other times jesting. Besides we had many things to say about the wildlife and the scenic beauty of the Park, its horizon less terrain with glittering waterholes, shrubs, rocky outcrops and trees.

We have become somewhat noisy and restless by the time. In the meantime, It was about time to leave the park with abdominal gases wanting to digest a well deserved full-scale meal. And a pair of food chain just ran away at full gallop in front of us crossing the road. Two wild boars disappeared into the prairie as Obelix was after their trail.

We were eager to see a leopard. We even complained it to the Park Warden. Do you see....over there ? There goes one ..". The Warden said as he signalled us to survey the flat stretch of land closely.

As we impatiently gazed through the window we could embrace the sight. A leopard indeed. A massive cat with an elongated body with dark spots was moving through the brushes.It was just about 700 or 800 kilometres away from us. It walked slowly with sure steps and it did not show a sign of getting dismayed by the presence of safari jeeps.

The largest of all leopard types in the cat family , the Sri Lankan Leopard, panthera pardus kotiya was gladsomely pacing in the Yala National Park.

Lo ! The versatile hunter was being followed by a deer, one of our perplexed colleagues shouted. "How can leopard and dear walk hand in hand.

"Who is the prey ? Who is the predators?"

And then this happened. The leopard stopped a few paces away from the stag and stared at it briefly. The stag was set aback. And the leopard would not pounce at it. The stag disappeared into a thicket as the leopard continued its walk. I wondered whether the leopard said this to the stag.

" Are you trying to pooh pooh me. You are supposed to run away when you see my kind. You , one lucky son of a stag, I do not hunt today in this territory because I plan to hunt in the open grass land beyond the gravel boarder."

The leopard tiptoed up to the gravel boarder, which is the road we were on and crossed it with few paces displaying its magnificence and strength. He was least concerned of the safari jeeps on the strip of gravel land. What showmanship!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Langkawi-shrouded with myths and legends...!!!


Langkawi-shrouded with myths and legends


Malaysia at a glance
The Federation of Malaysia comprises Peninsular Malaysia, which is made up of 11 States, three Federal Territories as well as the States of Sabah and Sarawak situated in Borneo.

Cable car

Capital city: The capital city of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur.

Geographical location: Located between two and seven degrees north of the Equator, Peninsular Malaysia is separated from the States of Sabha and Sarawak by the South China Sea. To the north of Peninsular Malaysia is Thailand while its southern neighbour is Singapore. Sabah and Sarawak share a common border with Indonesia while Sarawak also shares a border with Brunei Darussalam. Area: 329,758 km2 Population: 27 million People: Malays make up about 50 percent of the population and are the predominant group with Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups making up the rest.

Language: Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) is the national language but English is widely spoken. Malaysians also speak various languages and dialects.

Underwater world

Religion: Islam is the official religion but all other religions are practised freely.

Government: Malaysia practices parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The Head of State is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Head of Government is the Prime Minister. The country has a bicameral legislative system.

Climate: Malaysia has a tropical climate and the weather is warm all year round. Temperatures range from 21 C to 32 C and the annual rainfall varies from 2,000 mm to 2,500 mm.


Malaysia for some would be a country steeped in history with much historical facts on offer and for others somewhat like a Mideastern country with a Muslim culture with people speaking a different dialect. But it certainly turned out to be a country that has something to offer everybody.

Batu caves. Pictures:

Malaysia boasts of a skyline that reflect much of the tangible make-up of the country - combining with pre-war and colonial structures some of which are Sultan Abdul Samad Building, the Central Market and the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and of course the modern stand out buildings spattered around. In particular the Petronas Twin Towers take top billing as it is the tallest twin towers in the world with a height of 1483 feet. Much of the high risers are found in the capital of Kuala Lumpur (KL) - the Garden City of Lights.

On a recent familiarisation tour organised jointly by Thai Airways International and Tourism Malaysia for a group of travel agents and two journalists, it was quite a learning experience of how multiple religions coexisted peacefully in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country. The tour was initiated by Thai Airways General Manager Weerawat Swasdibutra to promote bilateral tourism in Thailand and Malaysia.

The main gateway to Malaysia is through the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at Sepang, located approximately 55 km south of Kuala Lumpur.

Several public transport options provide easy access to the city. There are also other airports - at Penang, Johor Bahru, Kuching, Kota Kinabahu and the island of Langkawi. An excellent road and railway network links KL to Thailand in the north and Singapore in the south.

Once any visitor steps into Malaysia there is a well developed and efficient public transportation system and service (buses, taxis as well as trains are aplenty) available. It won’t harm if you try to haggle a taxi fare with a driver but generally you are unlikely to be ‘taken for a ride’.

There is an express train service - KLIA Express - that costs approximately Malaysian ringgits (RM) 35 that leaves the airport to the KL Sentral Station plying non-stop a distance of 50 km in 28 minutes. (You can safely enjoy a cuppa and won’t feel shaken or stirred!) The train departs every 15 minutes or 20 minutes depending on the peak times.

This is one of the fastest modes of transport that connect the airport to the KL Central Station.

One of the most alluring places of Malaysia is Langkawi (The Jewel of Kedah) which is accessible by road, rail, air or by sea. Those travelling by road have to drive to Kuala Kedah on the north-western coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

The route from KL to Kuala Kedah takes approx 6 hours while Kuala Perlis is an additional hour away. There are also direct air services from KL to Langkawi. Rail services too are an option to visit Langkawi.

These services operate from KL to Alor star. From there a taxi or bus could be taken to Kuala Kedah from where one could proceed to Langkawi.

Regular services are also provided by Express ferries to Langkawi from Kuala Kedah. The journey from Kuala Kedah to Langkawi takes just over an hour while it takes 2 1/2 hours from Penang to Langkawi.

Pregnant Maiden
The Lake of the Pregnant Maiden a.k.a. Tasik Dayang Bunting is something that would capture anyone’s attention purely for its name.

The name of this lake in Langkawi is attributed to the legend of a lovely fairy princess who married an earthly prince.

Her first child had died after birth. It is said that she was so depressed that she buried the child in the crystal clear waters of the lake.

And before returning to her celestial abode she blessed the water so that any childless maiden who bathed in the lake would conceive thereafter.

To reach the lake one has to first get to the Island of the Pregnant Maiden and then take a short walk through the forest reserve. There are three geo-forest parks in Langkawi. At the Kilim Karst beautifully formed landscapes of nearly vertical to sub-rounded karstic hills and pinnacles of various shapes and sizes could be seen.

Cable car
The Langkawi Cable Car with a length of 919 metres has been named the ‘longest free span single rope cable car’ by the Malaysian Book of Records.

It is claimed to have one of the steepest gradients in the world, at 42o.

There is also a sensation-giving 125m suspension bridge. This is said to be a remarkable feat of engineering with a curved bridge that links the cable car station to the Machincang mountain range.

Langkawi cable car is at the Burau Bay, about 30 minutes away from Kuah town.

Underwater world
The island’s rich treasure trove of marine life could be seen at the Underwater world at Langkawi. Located at the Cenang beach this aquarium features over 5000 types of aquatic life.

There is also a giant tank that displays large marine species such as sharks, stingrays, eels and green turtles, with a 15 metre tunnel for visitors to walk through.



Sunday, March 29, 2009


CHENNAI: Martin Buckley embarked on many a train journey while travelling across India more than 25 years ago.

Like many of us, he would pass the time reading a book. "As soon as I would take out my book, the other passengers' eyes would immediately light up. That's when I knew that this was no ordinary book, but something much deeper," he recalls. The book Buckley was reading was the country's very own epic Valmiki's Ramayana. Eventually, he fell in love with India and decided to work as a sub-editor at Business India magazine in Mumbai. During his time in the country, he travelled to many places from Allahabad and Rishikesh to Bodhgaya. But the tale of Rama never left him. So when he returned in 2005, he travelled from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka like Rama a journey documented in his book, An Indian Odyssey.

At the launch of the book at Madras Terrace House on Friday, Buckley spoke about the people's relationship with the epic. "I think it's fascinating that this book that was prehistorically written is still worshipped," he says. He adds that Valmiki's version of the story is very real, with the characters going through various emotions.

Although the book talks about his life in India and his journey in Rama's footsteps, Buckley also intersperses it with the story of the Ramayana and his version appears more contemporary. For instance, Hanuman doesn't build a bridge using boulders to cross over to Lanka, but wades and swims across during a low tide. "There are no monkeys in my book. I describe them as forest dwellers, comfortable living amongst trees," he explains.

So does he believe the Ramayana took place in real time or is it a figment of people's imagination? "I think Rama is a character that is an assortment of people that really lived. The epic tells the story of guerilla warfare, fought by indigenous people," he says. However, he thinks the academic's view is nonsense. "Some even say that the notion of Lanka being in the South is false!" he exclaims.

Buckley feels the spirituality in India and has had a spiritual experience himself. "One of the wonders of this country is that you can meet an intellectual who is also deeply spiritual," he says. He is impatient with the smug secularism of certain people in the country. "India's culture is what it is. It's wonderful to live in a place where every minority has a voice, but let's not forget the totality of Indian culture," he states.

Through his book, he wants to give the Western audience a message that it is ok to talk about spirituality, without turning to strange music or drugs.' But is he not worried about how the book might be received in India? "The book has its own identity and is a universal story now. I'm sure some people might find it offensive, but it should be read with an open mind," says Buckley, who plans on writing his version of the Ramayana in the future.