Andrew Fidel Fernando’s travelogue on the beautiful country of Sri-Lanka is an honest, brutal, heartwarming and glorious compilation of his journey across the length and breadth of this country and its cities- full of dreams, history, culture and its fair share of problems. Fernando’s precise observation, witty narration and unbiased portrayal of cities, people and government make this a true account of what any country is supposed to be like.
The citizen residing here are from diverse backgrounds and Fernando provides a parallel account of their life and the history they collectively share. Through a creative and engaging narrative, the author meticulously pens down all about they livelihood, day to day interactions, relation with other tribes, religious rituals and every other detail that makes up a community full of life and everyday chaos. We see recurring mention of historical figures who had a significant contribution to Srilanka’s journey to freedom and the subsequent shaping of the community that has now grown to be vibrant, almost peaceful and lively.
While bringing the cities to life, Fernando also gives a vivid account of the wildlife in Srilanka and the simultaneous exploitation of their habitats and their endangerment. Be it their interaction with the other species, or their reproductive cycle, the descriptions read like any other entertaining account of nature, utterly engaging and never dull. Other than that, expect picturesque and luscious beaches, war-torn lands and their stories and industrialization.
As an outsider, this book is everything you need to know about Srilanka. I don’t know where the book stands from a native’s POV, but it made me want to leave the comforts of my home and visit this gorgeous country that has so much to offer. Fernando’s personal experience fuels the story, turning this into a must-read. Go, pick it up because here is a travelogue that is compelling and entertaining, with simultaneously being a brutal reflection of life for the natives.
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
Dense Green forests in Yala, white-sand coasts in Trincomalee, azure waters off the South Coast, Anuradhapura’s ancient temples, and cricket. Civil war, political assassinations, internally displaced communities, industrial-scale corruption. All are Sri Lanka. As are smug bureaucrats, nosy neighbours, and stray dogs with serious axes to grind. Through the eyes of Andrew Fidel Fernando, cricket writer par excellence, both a local and a tourist in his home country, Sri Lanka comes alive as he hurtles down hills in Kandy, breathes in the history at the rock fortress of Sigiriya, grapples with the aftermath of war in Jaffna, and has himself evicted from restaurants near Galle. Weaving through all manner of villages, paddy fields, mountains, jungles and marshlands, and pausing for the pests at grimy guesthouses and the vacationers of luxury hotels, Fernando has the time for every genre of person and wildlife in this chaotic, exquisite, frustrating, bewitching, tumultuous and intoxicating land. Hilariously witty yet wistfully somber, Upon a Sleepless Isle is the story of a country and a people caught between long historical traditions and global capitalism, resulting in this ingenious paradise.