Kandy

Kandy. The name of this town in the hills of Sri Lanka reminds me of a young woman and in some way does not seem to fit with the country other towns name. We are at about 500 meters of altitude. The town is spread over several hills covered by jungle. The houses seem to dissapear under the thick layer of trees. In the middle of the town an artificial lake borders the Tooth Temple, one of the most important pilgrimage places of Buddhism. It is said that in side the golden shrine at the center of the temple is kept a tooth of Lord Buddha. People come from all over Asia to visit this temple and have a quick glance, as we did the at the other day, at the shrine which is shown for few minutes every evening at 6:45. Yesterday we had our tourist day: Royal Botanical Garden and elephant orphanage. At the Garden it seems that we either are in London during a very hot summer day or that the British have just left the place. The grass is green, perfectly cut, tree of all species grow high towards the sky. We found one that was planted by the latest Tzar of Russia in 1891. This reminded us of the quiet pace of time. An old man was our guide yesterday, Samuon. 65, he is the father of the lady running our guest house, he is a known naturalist here in Sri Lanka who has worked for the government for 40 years, training public servants working on environmental conservation. While driving one hour to the elephant orphanage, he had a lot to tell about the history of Kandy and the various countries that took control of the place: the Portuguese, the Dutch and last the British. But one story has caught my attention more than others. He belongs to a large family which along the years has spread in various countries: India, Britain, Australia, Italy. This year he felt the risk that the ties that kept the family together for long time would become thinner and thinner. So he decided to set up a Family Society, for the welfare of the family members. He is the elected president and will oversee that every family contribute about 500 Rupees (5$) each months to a fund that can be used by the one who get sick and needs treatment, the ones who gets too old and need home care, the ones who face some financial difficulties and are in need of a small loan. I found it a very nice idea. Sri Lanka as every other country is exposed to market economy that through competition can cut loose the links between extended families or make people concentrate on their business only. Solidarity is normally in danger in this game, but his Family Society will certainly strengthen the bounds between families and relatives. While listening to his story, I had to think to our countries where, despite treatment provided (almost) for free to all and functional public services, we are ending up being more and more alone while life is getting faster and faster. Sick people in the hospitals and elderly in home care houses or in their homes. I believe that there is always a trade off between solidarity, welfare and market. The difficulty is in finding the right balance.

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