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).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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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