The roads here are sturdy and clean. Japanese cars and motorcycles - Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Yamaha and others - zip on them at great speed. The colonial buildings are magnificent. At 152 metres, the World Trade Centre is the tallest structure in the island country. The malls are home to brands like Nike, Marks & Spencer and Hermes.
The hotels include an Aman, a Taj, a Hilton and an InterContinental. The four casinos (MGM, Bellagio, Ballys and Stardust, their names copied from Las Vegas) are popular for roulette, poker, blackjack and baccarat. There are discos for the young and energetic. The city sleeps little. This is Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.
But just a few hours' journey away, the northern parts of the country shut down by 8:00 pm. There are few billboards in the towns; most of these advertise mobile telephony services like Mobitel and Dialog. The roads, except in towns like Trincomalee and Jaffna, are a shambles. India-made auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers (TVS and Bajaj) ply on these roads. Large parts of the area are yet to be electrified.
An award-winning documentary made by well-known film-maker Vinodth has a six-year-old surprised to see an electric bulb in a shop. "How does the light travel towards the earth," he asks his mother. All he'd seen in his growing up years had been the wick in lamps send a faint glow skyward. Clearly he had no idea what electricity was.
Image: A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard in a street of the northern town of Jaffna. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa travelled to Jaffna to take part in the Thai Pongal festival, a Tamil Hindu festival, in 2011.
Text: Business Standard