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Much Ado About Hikka Nudes

The Sea behind our house

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

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

Surfing at Benny's Point, just behind our house and named after my father Benny. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

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.

 

 My father and mother Benny & Manel photo probalby by a tourist in the 1970's. Re-Photograph©Chulie de Silva

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 realised 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.

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.

"Nudes at Hikka" are no doubt embarrassing but we have more pressing issues like the pollution of beaches by the local tourists. While the bigger hotels keep the beaches behind their hotels clean, the municipality doesn't provide garbage bins or cleaners to keep the rest of the beaches clean. So, the biggest menace is littering and more often than not the culprits are our own people. Without even a backward glance they leave the plastics, beer and soft drink cans, broken bottles, empty lunch boxes, snack wrappers etc, etc on the beaches.  Then there is the other fact that there are no public toilets or changing rooms for the local tourists, so we have young men in broad daylight watering our cinnamon stick fence!

 

 

I love my Hikkaduwa with its warts and all but not the word Hikka -- don't want it it to be a tourism hiccup. Underneath the garish blare of fests like the Hikka lies a gentle town with 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.