My sister also joined us in Alu for the major expedition that was planned, principally to the Sinharaja, for which I had got a permit, but also wherever our fancies led. Anila was just back after seven years away, first at Oxford where she had joined me for a one year MSc, then at Cornell for a PhD, and finally at Harvard where she had done post-doctoral work and shared a flat with Ena’s daughter Kusum. The two of them were fast friends, and Anila often had to try to explain the mother and daughter to each other, when those two strong personalities clashed. This was not uncommon in early days, though it has also been illuminating to see the manner in which, as both have grown older, they have been much more appreciative of the very different strengths of the other.
Once again then we set of in a large caravan, Sena driving, Ena in front, Nick and Anila and me behind, Perumal and two young ladies from the Heritage Centre at the back of the vehicle. Ena called them needle and thread, for they were inseparable, though in fact they were amongst the few of the inner group to leave, both getting married over the next year or so and going far away. In addition we had a different postilion, a Sinhala boy called Bandula who was extremely handsome but much, much slower than Mani. The latter, it seemed, had gone off to a colonization scheme in the Wanni and, though I would ask after him over the years, nothing more was ever heard of him.
The story came back to me vividly when, over a quarter of a century later, I was Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, with a brief to coordinate assistance to those who had been displaced during the struggle against the Tigers. To my surprise, I found that many of those in the Welfare Centres turned out to speak Sinhala, and this was because there were amongst them a high proportion of what we had known as Indian Tamils, those who had been initially brought over by the British to work on the tea plantations.