Benny’s Point


Benny's Surf Point, Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Benny’s Surf Point, Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Lounging on a “hansi putuwa” (planter’s chair) on the back verandah, watching a pair of blue kingfishers streak in and out among the coconut trees, sipping my morning tea, I am amazed at how relaxed I am. Gone with the wind are cravings to check mail or FB. There are  no deadlines to meet, no worries about strategies, budgets, Action Logs or Performance Appraisals. It is a painless transition to the stress free lassiz-faire lifestyle favoured by my father Bennie.

The coconut trees planted by my father have grown taller since my last visit, and the sky behind is a lovely porcelain Wedgewood blue. Beyond it the sea is multi-coloured — the pale jade green gets darker in the middle and turns almost a lilac where there are bands of coral. The horizon is smudged a deeper inky black and the thought that rains will come later in the day drifts into my mind.  But what am watching today is the white frothy topped waves – they come wave after wave, a never ending cycle. Eternally fascinating for me is the built up of energy as the wave rolls in, a moment of silence, followed by the huge thud as the wave hits the coral reef, splintering into a myriad bubbles.

This place I am watching behind our house has been named Benny’s Point and is listed as a Surf Point for Hikkaduwa, probably by early surfers when the back packing surfers of 1970’s flocked into Hikkaduwa.

My parents Bennie & Manel Kirtisinghe on the back garden of Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa circa late 1970's. Photographer unknown from the family albums. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

My parents Bennie & Manel Kirtisinghe on the back garden of Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa circa late 1970’s. Photographer unknown from the family albums. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

This was also when my father Bennie, the garrulous, sometimes pugnacious local with a never ending stream of stories used to rent out rooms of “Siri Niwasa” on a bed & breakfast basis. My mother Manel and he had regular loyal clientele of German, French, American and Italian tourists who kept coming back. They didn’t even have 3 star luxury but they loved my Mum’s cooking and the generally laid back home life ambiance of Siriniwasa.

The verandah at the back of Siriniwas, facing the sea. Circa 1970's. Photographer unknown. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The verandah at the back of Siriniwas, facing the sea. Circa 1970’s. Photographer unknown. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

My sister-in-law Padmini had heard that Benny’s Point was listed in German travel guides years ago but my nephew Matheesha had only heard it, recently when they were in Panama in the East Coast of Sri Lanka.

Padmini says there was a Chef named Guido who copied my Mum’s recipes – specially her “Watalappan” — a steamed custard made of eggs, palm sugar and thick coconut milk flavoured with nutmeg. Like us, they used to refer to it as the “What will happen” pudding. Some modified form of this, plus other dishes like her fresh fish stew must have featured in some menus wherever Guido worked. Those days my Mum’s three course meal for Rupees 10/- — (costing even then probably less than US$1), was listed in a travel article as the best value for money meal, this side of Singapore.

Bennys_Hikkaduwa.10A quick search on Google brought info on Benny’s Surf Point up in an entry made by Shaka Sign Surf:

“Benny’s is one of the many surf breaks in Hikkaduwa. Named after a B&B property close by, on a perfect low tide day this should be your dream land in Hikkaduwa. Benny’s is a shallow break with a fast take off. Most importantly Benny’s is not for beginners.”

Another entry mentions the coral bottom and the fast left wave that is quite dangerous and how it breaks over a very sharp reef with shallow water. That entry too cautions: Only surf here if you really know what you are doing and at your own risk.

Bennie as he spelt his name might have been highly chuffed about this reference to him in Benny’s Point on the Internet. He himself at times signed off letter as “Foot in the mouth father”. Despite this he had a great sense of humour, was an avid reader and was very liberal in his outlook. Both he and my mother took the skimpy bikinis, topless sunbathing, see-through Kurtas, Oxford baths under the garden shower and gay couples in their stride. We were the ones returning for holidays from Kuala Lumpur and Penang who would go around  gobsmacked. I suspect some of the surfers had a soft spot for their host Bennie and if they had an interest in Buddhism they would have found in him a wealth of information although he hardly visited a Buddhist temple.

When I was flitting around countries in my not so distant working life, Father Bennie would say “Stay on terra firma, give up your ambitions, this place is your dowry to enjoy.” A tad too late to enjoy it with him. Walking along the beach, thinking of him, I waited for a spectacular sunset. Watching the watery sunset I was reminded of a reply by my father to one of my letters. ” Today’s house motto is Be satisfied with what you get [Lada pamaning sathutu wanna]. if not how can I be satisfied with this rag of a letter you sent.”

Sunset at Benny's Point, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. 14 August 2013. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Sunset at Benny’s Point, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. 14 August 2013. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

It’s my house motto too. Gods don’t give you all pleasures. As I waited looking at the rather bland skyline with the camera in hand – a teenager after an evening swim runs past me shouting to his mates “Machang, machang (local for mate) walk this side if you want to be in the picture.” Good stuff, comes packaged in small sizes!!!

Beyond Benny's point to the left the beach stretches to the breakwater. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Beyond Benny’s point to the left the beach stretches to the breakwater. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

See also an earlier post: Much ado about Hikka Nudes

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5 thoughts on “Benny’s Point

  1. Chulie

    Very well articulated – Benny would have been immensely proud of his second born !

    That’s it – keep enjoying retired life

    Ranjit Aiya

  2. If your parents’ B&B had been continued, it would be a boutiquej hotel mentioned in all travel books making it impossible to get a room. What a perfect place to visit/live after such arduous positions. Continue to enjoy!

  3. Pingback: Oxford Baths, Well Baths & GNT | Chuls Bits & Pics

  4. I have been to Bennie & Manels place several times between 1978 and 1981. I will search my archive in the basement of my house for pictures and come back … give me some time …
    I remember getting Bennie’s address in Feb. 1978 from a couple running a “lutong pilipino” in Colombo 3, Maybe I have some stories to tell …

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