Much ado about Hikka nudes

The sea just behind our house at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The sea just behind our house at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The first to strip was Hikkaduwa itself, when it got corrupted to Hikka,  to draw  the  Colombo glitterati to the  Hikka fest. And now we have a furor about a few doctored nude photographs that have some people  frolicking at a Fest  but apparently not at this one.  The alleged “pic doctors”  we are told by my favourite Sunday paper Sunday Times are three employers of ADIC (Alcohol and Drug Information Center). 


The beach on 2008 tsunami anniversary day minus the topless tourists.  Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The beach behind our house on 2008 tsunami anniversary day minus the topless tourists. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

As a born in Hikkaduwa native, I take offence at the corrupted shortened “Hikka” much more than the embarrassment of these doctored photographs.

Anybody who knew the high tourist seasons in the late 70’s would ask what’s the big deal about a few tourists going nude?  They’ve paid to bask in the sun, get their Vitamin D and return boasting a tan. Having a house where the back garden ended in the sea I can vouch for the fact  that from the late 60’s there have been few tourists in various stages of undress in Hikkaduwa.  The  Hikkaduwa natives  — including my parents who were then in their 60’s  — hardly batted an eye lid  when confronted with nudity.  On the other hand, my erstwhile spouse and I on holiday from the cloistered Penang beaches watched the tourists with open mouthed amazement.  One memorable January 1, there was a yacht parked just behind our house and the mother and the nubile daughter both walked , posed, and sunbathed on the deck not the least bit bothered that I was trying to photograph them. 

Father Benny with my sons Suren and Ranil bathing behind our house. Late 70's photograph from the family albums.

Father Benny with my sons Suren and Ranil bathing behind our house. Late 70's photograph from the family albums.

Then there was the time I overheard my father Bennie greeting a regular visitor to a our garden “ Good morning Linda, yes we are certainly seeing more and more of you each day.”  My father and mother Bennie and Manel  too cashed in on the tourist boom turning our house into a guest house. Once having taken a tray of tea to some Lufthansa air hostesses my father came out shaking his head “I really thought they were wearing clothes but then I realized that was the part that was not sunburned.” To his credit he didn’t drop the tray.

Ravi with a tooth missing at my son Suren's 6th birthday.

Ravi with a tooth missing in the middle with his expressive hands at my son Suren's 6th birthday. From the family albums.

Then I have an unforgettable description of the “Hikka beaches” by our Malaysian friend’s son Ravi Charles. Ravi and his brother Aaron with their parents Bharathi and Joe had spent an eventful holiday in Sri Lanka.  Asked how his holiday was, Ravi with all the knowing of a  6 years old shook his head as if he couldn’t believe what he had seen and said “I’ve never seen anything like that in all my life, Aunty.  There were so many women without clothes on the beach and for good measure he leaned forward from the back seat, cupped his hands , lowered his voice and said “Aunty the boobies were v-e-r-y  big.”

All this eventually led to Hikkaduwa being labeled as a town beyond redemption and authorities scrambled to close the stable door after the horse had well and truly bolted.  So, nude bathing was banned and a brave cop had been sent to arrest nude sunbathers.  One young thing when confronted by a cop had flatly refused to wear any clothes, so the cop had  no option but to lead her to the Police Station. Am not sure if she was handcuffed or not but when the cop tried to get her into the lock-up she had bitten his hand, escaped and run down the railway line, still without a stitch on her. 

That was also the time in Hikkaduwa, when mothers even in the interior villages would shoo their children out of the house on school holidays and weekends and say don’t dawdle at home, go earn some money.  Not sure if the mothers dwelled too much on how the money was earned.  But there was no Child Protection Authority or an ADIC.  Unofficially, it was said then Hikkaduwa had at least one drug addict per house. 
Diving is a popular sport in Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Diving is a popular sport in Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

After three decades of Tourism, Hikkaduwa still remains a little back packers’ paradise, with a sprinkling of better class hotels.  Last year, after the Hikka fest I asked a young man from the Wildlife Conservation  office  “ so how was last week’s Hikka fest?”  The answer “Eh, what fest? we don’t know, we are not invited, these are all for the Colombo folk.”

Hikkaduwa main street. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Hikkaduwa main street. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The Hikkaduwa main street is still part of the main A2 Galle road. The Bus stand, the banks, the railway station, the pola ( open market) are more less the same. The police station has been relocated after the tsunami and is now in bigger premises. Although our neighbour Asilin Akka’s grand daughter running a neat road side cafe says “people who had nothing are doing well after the tsunami,”  by and large Hikkaduwa missed the tsunami recovery boat to build back better.   


Building controlled or uncontrolled? Photograph© Chulie de Silva
Building controlled or uncontrolled? Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Doctoring of photos is a no, no, but as anyone who knows the Net would say the biggest profit making e-commerce sites are the pornography sites .  “Nudes at Hikka” are no doubt embarrassing but we have more pressing issues to attend to before the new wave of post conflict tourism gets going.   Are we ready to deliver the services?

And please drop the Hikka. .. it shouldn’t be a tourism hiccup.  I love my Hikkaduwa. Underneath the garish blare of fests like the Hikka lies a gentle town twith a charm of its own. Hikkaduwa is the birthplace of many scholars, the most famous being Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera.  There are  temples with interesting history, quiet interior villages where aged old customs are observed and respected.   Don’t let that disappear with the new glare and blare of tourism.

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13 thoughts on “Much ado about Hikka nudes

  1. What’s the big deal with “Hikka”? The full name, Hikkaduwa, mean a “grove of Hik trees”. The “duwa” part does not mean “island” but “grove”. In the same geograhical area are other “duwas” connected with different trees – Dodan-duwa, Polgas-duwa. So the root form of the old name is “Hikk-er” One must not get too emotional about this. There was a man (name witheld!) whose family name was Hikkaduwage. He was so upset that he was called “Hicks” by his colleagues that, when he got married and had children, he gave his children his wife’s family name. And so a perfectly good village name was trashed.

    So Chules, don’t be ashamed of the Hik-gaha – it is good timber for furniture and building. “A hik-gaha by any other name smells as sweet!!!”

  2. Thank you Sir for that explanation. I knew there was another meaning other than it being the corrupted version of “Sip Kaduwa” — the sword of learning. So I can then call it Hiks — beg your pardon:-))

  3. Great article, Chulie. My mother is also from Hikkaduwa, but I have no fond memories like you do, because by the time I was born the entire family had moved out.

    • Hey! Chanuka

      Good to know you have a connection to Hikkaduwa. Economic migration is a reality but you do lose out on a few things. I am glad my parents didn’t follow the others to Colombo:-))

    • What you call off-season was the monsoon times. I always saw it as a difficult time for the fishermen and their families. Many were the times long ago, when families would come begging for a coconut from our house. Living in coconut leaf thatched houses would have been so tough then. The fishermen are now economically better off with more in the family earning and contributing to the family income. That’s what’s comes from free education:-))

      Seasons and changes also teach us that life is not all good, we need to take the good with bad and live with it. For me a sea lover, during the monsoon the sea changed colour. The beach in the mornings after a stormy night had a completely different message. I could watch for hours the huge waves break on the reef. This is also a good time as we didn’t have the tourists. Hikkaduwa is/was being destroyed tourism. So I have no sympathy with the lonely deck chairs. … :-))

  4. Great post! Reading these made me feel the same way I felt when reading Carl Mullet et al. Nostalgic for the simpler times we all missed.

  5. Very good. The photo of Mahadangaswewa is really good. Is Joe and Bharathi Charles still in Brunei?

    Keep up the good work.


  6. Pingback: Benny’s Point | Chuls Bits & Pics

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