Sunday, 18 January 2015

When Pope Francis was here in Colombo

When His Holiness Pope Francis landed in Colombo, we were just returning to work days after the holidays given for the presidential election in Sri Lanka. On 13 January morning, when I stepped out of my house to the main road at Punchi Borella, the road was decorated with flags and banners to welcome the Pope. And there was a major diversion of traffic.

Banners on the walls of Archbishop's House to welcome Pope Francis

On that day, we were to visit the Family Planning Association (FPA) that was located just behind the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH). Traffic was allowed in the morning and we could get through in a three-wheeler. Actually we had planned to take the bus but the bus routes were closed.

While at the FPA, every action of the Pope was telecast live on television. Health institutions have television put in every place possible including the doctor’s lounge in the Operation Theatre. While doing work, we took chances to see the Pope on television.

A similar curiosity had been taking a toll inside the Operation Theatre in the hospital. The chief surgeon, who was very keen on the Pope was more interested to watch television than to supervise a surgery. An extra cut was made by the junior surgeon into the patient’s ureter and the surgery was complicated, but doctors quickly repaired the damage and the patient did not suffer.

Around noon, while I was walking from the FPA towards BMICH, we met scores of people waiting along the Bauddhaloka Mawatha roadside to get a glimpse of the Pope. The road was cleared and taxis were nowhere near to be found. So, we also waited under the shade of a big sprawling tree. First the ice cream man came pushing his cart; it was a blessing in the gradually mounting midday heat. A cone ice cream cost thirty rupees – I paid 20 in cash and 10 in coins. Then the pineapple man came, the sour pineapple only aggravated our hunger. By that time, even devout Catholics were complaining of hunger. It had been one hour standing and waiting.

With my Sri Lankan friends, waiting along Bauddhaloka Mawatha (the Buddha's road) to get a glimpse of Pope Francis

But to our luck or to our lack of luck, the Pope had delayed his coming through that road and traffic was allowed. We then caught a three wheeler and came back to college.

Towards late afternoon, the Pope had come for lunch at the Archbishop’s House in Colombo, which is a walking distance from our college. By that time huge crowds had gathered and I had very little chance of seeing the Pope. The premise at the Archbishop’s has a basketball court in which I played little of what I know about playing basketball.

Gate that welcomed Pope Francis at the Archbishop's House, a walking distance from my house
(picture taken on 15 January 2015, the day when His Holiness left for the Philippines)

Though I did not see the Pope in person, from the news stories and reports, he is a very respectable and impressive man.

Written on 18 January 2015

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