Be the Cause

Black Tea and The Sea Inside

For me, there’s something completely unsettling about travel because it totally screws everything up about my life. Just when I feel familiarly cozy in my self-prescribed comfort zone, it’s time to shed the borders around me – take flight into an unknown journey, deep within, far from my known self.

Whether it be climbing into a tut-tut with a total stranger, meditating by candlelight at dusk, sitting next to a beautiful friend you suddenly look at with a whole new set of eyes, or eating manioc like it’s for the first time – the journey mostly imparts a glimpse into my long-forsaken self.

You know, that longing for an unhindered existence – free from the chaotic, noisiness of the mundane, in search of deeper connections with street vendors, bus drivers, hotel clerks, fishermen, village elders, giggling children, and even drunken revelers …

I do not know if it is irony then, that the most profound connection that takes place, is the most disregarded one – somewhere deep within the sea inside me. Each beautiful person, unwittingly, draws me within; to a place unbound by convention or conformity. A glimpse within a vast body of watery-like commotion, which has eluded me back home, time and time again.

Please feel free to scoff at this, but, as an ‘American,’ I leave the entrapments of the West, with such high ideals of changing the world, uplifting a child’s heart, transforming a village’s need, or feeding the hungry. When it is I that am nourished in return. So much so, that I can hardly digest their compassion. Unable to contain it, it oozes out of my every pore, spilling forth like entrails, leaving everyone stained.

And that is the transformation then. It is not I, I am a mere vessel – a cracked, faulty, empty cask – transferring all the love I have the privilege to receive. It is so humbling, really; to realize I am but a simple funnel for their unfettered love. A metamorphosis of the heart as a plastic kitchen funnel you would toss into your junk drawer and use on occasion.

I bow my head at the thought that I should traverse 6,000 miles to marvel at this revelation. So be it.

The plethora of experiences are numerous and boundless: a lush winding trail up to Ella Falls; holding a beautiful little Cherub’s hand as blood mattered his fine hair; tossing candy at unsuspecting children; going around the Mulberry Bush with my sister in hand; dancing in the rain with beautiful souls; sitting in silence at a festive Hindu Kovil; immersing my hands into cement pails; enjoy witnessing friends trying questionable fruits; counting rupees that never seem to add up; sitting alongside Silva as he takes on the crazy Sri Lankan roads; savoring numerous cups of black tea with my loved ones; dipping my feet into the sacred pools of Sigiriya; crying over a dying puppy; attempting to teach English and discovering how little I grasp in the first place….. .

As usual, I was conflicted on my drive to Katunayake airport. As I exited the bus for the last time, I kept glancing behind me, at Silva, with such longing. All I had to do was to jump back in that bus. As I shouldered my backpack, a funny little lump in my already sore throat began to arise. Amidst the chaos and tumble of duffel bags, trolleys, and countless tourists, I suddenly felt as a lone sojourner headed home after an incomplete task. Looking forward to embracing my son yet dreading the cessation of onward movement. Finding joy in my bed at home and knowing it would leave me with the urge to set out again into the greater expanse.


  • gianna

    Dear Sonali,

    My sister…I too cried with you over the dying puppy..I wish I could have walked with you and Supun and comforted you…I was crying inside…even though I didn’t know the whole situation…I love your compassion and spirit of service. We were so lucky to have you and Supun lead us through this journey of love. I feel honored to have been able to go on this trip and humbled at the same time…re: all we saw and experienced. Thank you for this beautiful, awesome intro to Sri Lanka. Thank you for your many kindnesses and sweetness toward the group and all peoples.

  • “The flower does not return to life save through death, and love does not grow except after separation” — “History of the Nation” by Kahlil Gibran

    “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” –Siddhārtha Gautama

    You can’t ever return to the same Sri Lanka as the same person :-). Sri Lanka is changing and you are changing. It’s like the person crossing the river can’t ever cross the same river twice because she notices that the river is always flowing with new water and then she notices that she is always changing with every step she takes.

    never dread onward. You can’t cease movement as long as the world keeps spinning and people keep grinning.

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