Where are you going?

Ranga, our driver at World's End

Ranga, our driver, at World’s End

Photo credit: A Chalk

A gentle “Ayubowan”, then, “Who is your party?”

This is the beginning of a conversation at World’s End, a sheer cliff that falls off a plateau in the Horton Plains National Park located in Sri Lanka’s central highlands. To get there you need to walk a round trip of about 9 km from the park’s entrance, the walk takes you to Little World’s End, World’s End and Bakers Falls.

As tourists take photographs of each other star jumping or sitting on the edge of the cliff, two men take a quiet moment to continue a conversation about where they are travelling to; who they are travelling with; and where they both come from.

There is a fraternity amongst the guides and drivers who make up the tourist trade in Sri Lanka. They acknowledge each other’s presence, use each other as sounding boards and debriefing stations, and exchange information about sites and sights to see and conditions of travel and accommodation on the routes being travelled. It’s not intrusive, answer the questions if you like, continue the conversation if you like, wander away if you like, but it also means that there’s someone to help you in an emergency.

It’s a network that seems to sustain the guides and drivers as they work long hours away from their families driving “guests” around the country.

The conversation made me think about western notions of curiosity and privacy. “Where are you going?” sounds so blunt in English and so annoying to answer, but here asked with a smile and a gentle tone and an honorific, putha (son/daughter/child), mali (little brother), ayah (older brother), thathi (father), Nona (madam), sounds much more pleasant, concerned and interested. Possibly English has lost its nuances, we no longer use thou and thee, and maybe the use of words like that would make a difference to the question: “Where are you going?”

The View from Little World’s End

We travelled through Sri Lanka from February 14, 2016 to March 6, 2016.

© Suganthi Singarayar



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