Pettah, where old Colombo meets the demands of modern consumers, is an endlessly fascinating place. It is labyrinthine, perhaps a little dusty and dirty, but it’s always full of surprises, stories and people. We took a walk down some of Pettah’s busiest streets during the recently concluded festive season, to capture the everyday sights.
A knife sharpener is busy doing what he does best. Seen at Gas Works Junction (Gas Paha Handiya), this age old trade is strangely still alive in the dead centre of Pettah.
The Old Town Hall is one of the few places in Pettah where you won’t find a soul. The Old Town Hall was used for council meetings during the early 19th century.
On the busy, overcrowded 1st Cross Street, traders sell anything and everything to make a quick buck or two.
Price is the most important determinant of a sale on the streets. Then comes the screaming, singing and rhyming calls to get the buyer’s attention.
Puddle of Mud. Self-explanatory.
Parking fee collectors work all day in the scorching heat to help shop owners, bank customers, and others who might own a car, motorcycle or tuk tuk to park on the cross streets.
A nattamai screams profanity at a colleague at random. The colleague makes a crack about his mom. They both laugh. Nattamai is the word given to men who earn a living by transporting imported goods from the harbour to the many shops of Pettah, mostly on a cart which they pull (for electronics and other goods) or on their backs (for vegetables and fruits). They pull their wooden carts through the busy cross streets to deliver goods to wholesalers and retailers. Your average hard working nattamai earns Rs.2,000/- on a good day.
Down the muddy, noisy Prince Street, and in the Dutch Museum is this serene garden. Not a hum can be heard in here, just like in the Old Town Hall building.
The Khan Clock tower is a landmark that has been around since the early 20th century, built by the Framjee Bhikhajee Khan family from Bombay. It marks the entrance to Main Street.
Kids on the 50-metre-long St. Paul’s Mawatha enjoy a game of football in the afternoon sun.
An elderly man is seen buying close to 1,500 skyrockets at the infamous Gas Works Junction.
Snapbacks and weird designed t-shirts are the in thing at the moment amongst the youth in Pettah.
A string of crackers, infamous for being very loud and dangerous, are covered with old elections posters to hold them in place.
Pettah’s Veterans, chilling.
Everyone’s got a job at Pettah, including Santa and Ms. Sreena who works for Abans. The strange thing is that no matter what the job is, and no matter how much they earn, the people of Pitakotuwa (Pettah) always have a smile on their faces. Even the nattamai guys.