The traveller

1 montage + 2 audio

K. C. Kodituwakku, a retired bank manager, remembers his first visit to Jaffna back in 1973. He worked there as a government clerk for nearly a year. He made friends and has been back there since, but has advice for others wishing to travel to Jaffna these days. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam.

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Join the discussion: 6 comments

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    I met Mr Kodithawakku in the Galle Fort Library. Establised in 1832, the charming little library is on of the oldest in the regions and I thought it was a good place to start looking for elders from Galle for the project. The library had a front reading area and its impressive collection of books at the rear. A few elderly members sat at the front reading their weekend papers. Mr Kodithawakku was one of them. When he saw me struggling to communicate with the librarian, he came over and spoke to me. He liked the project and invited me to his house so he could perhaps suggest some people he knew that I could interview.

    Although from Galle, Mr Kodithawakku is not an original Fort resident. These days most of the buyers of Fort houses are European expats, but unusually, Mr Kodithawakku bought his house in the eighties. His family thought he was mad – the house was in disrepair and needed a lot of work. Even then, the house was expensive compared to similar houses outside the Fort, but it was before the boom, and of course the price was nothing like those these houses fetch today. Mr Kodithawakku was determined and bought what became a labour of love.

    Mr Kodithawakku was passionate about three things: collecting antiques, reading and travel. When he left school, to earn some extra money and to start his own collection, he worked as a scout for the pioneering antique dealers in Colombo. He went from house to house persuading people to part with their old things. When he needed a suitable house for his growing collection, the Fort was an obvious choice to find one.

    Mr Kodithawakku was still doing up his house when I visited him. A new stone floor was being laid in the back veranda and I watched him as he arranged the stones with his “bass”. A lot of love and patience had gone into doing up this massive house and he was now into the final stages. Much to his wife’s relief he told me.

    When we sat down to talk, I mentioned that I was from Jaffna. Mr Kodithawakku’s face beamed. He told me he had travelled there in 1973 as a young man and worked there for a year as a government clerk. When I heard how passionate he was about Jaffna, I knew I had to get him on tape. This first experience of a faraway place inspired him to travel more. We were kindred spirits. You never forget your first port of call, the one that inspires you to travel more. Since catching the travel bug, Mr Kodithawakku has travelled to many places around the world, but his journey to Jaffna, his unique experiences of “living as a Jaffna man”, and the people he met there, remained with him. He still kept an old book of addresses with messages in a mix of Tamil, Sinhala and English from the friends he made in Jaffna.

    After our interview, Mr Kodithawakku brought out a bottle of arrack he had bought from Jaffna on his last trip and he reminisced some more about his adventures in Jaffna as well as some words of caution for visitors today.

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  • Sabes Sugunasabesan says:

    I started watching this clip on Mr Kodituwakku and there was a surprise waiting for me. In it there was a photograph of a greeting written to Kodituwakku by my best friend Murugadas (now in Toronto) dated May 1974!

    Reply
  • Capt. G.S. Chopra says:

    We have been roaming the world for last 42 years as I am in shipping. My wife Rachna and I have stayed with Mr. Kodi for more than 6 months. I have still to come across a more genuine person than Mr. Kodi. We wish him and his family all the very best

    Reply
  • Parakrama Dahanayake says:

    Kodi has been a family friend of ours for maybe 50 years or so. As a banker he has been very honest and duty conscious and as a friend always loyal and steadfast. It is a pleasure to listen to his memories from the past. With his friendly and amiable nature, he has become very popular among the community of Galle Fort. His help so readily given has been very valuable to us in managing the heritage site, particularly in regard to organising the community.

    Parakrama Dahanayake

    Reply
  • Kaushala Samarawickrama says:

    While Mr. Kodithuwakku has been a friend of my father for quite a long time, it was only recently that I met him personally. I was doing my final year dissertation at the faculty of Architecture at Moratuwa University which was about Galle Fort, its culture and architecture, and so my father introduced me to “Kodi uncle” who turned out to be one of the kindest, most genuine and helpful people I’ve ever met. Throughout my work he helped me immensely. He was a popular neighbour. His holiday home, unlike most others, provide tourists the opportunity of being part of his family during their stay which I think is a great experience. Not only do his earlier visitors exchange cards and conversations with him today, but have even given him tours of their own countries as gratitude for his generosity and hospitality. I sincerely wish him and his whole family the very best.

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