What colour is petrol?
A question I never really thought about before
I always assumed it was thick, slimy and jet-black
Unbeknownst to me, it actually turns out that
Petrol is in fact a transparent almost strawy colour
The reason I know this?
Well dear friends
It is because of the:
Great Sri Lankan Petrol Crisis of 2017
I had one bar of petrol left
But I knew Dan (my car pictured below)
And I knew his capabilities.
I had Dan for some time now and we had become an inseparable unit
The things we have had seen
The landscapes that we traversed
The trials and tribulations we had overcome
If Vimalasena was my right hand man
Dan was sure to be my left hand
And what a left hand he was:
Soft, supple and sensual in nature
Yet strong, stable and reliable
What more could I ask for?
He was thirsty for fuel
But I knew he could wait
We still had some time
Dan ‘s petrol metre started flashing
The tropical humidity had caught up to him
It was time to quench his parched state
Yet, traversing through the sub-continental traffic seemed like such an effort.
An effort I was willing to go through for my left hand man Dan
Negotiating through the dust and fumes
Criss-crossing past the tuk tuks, the close to moribund un-roadworthy trucks and half a century old burgundy buses
But to my surprise there was a huge line waiting for petrol
I didn’t think too much of it at the time
It didn’t really click
But I was not prepared to wait for more than an hour for petrol
And in any case, I knew Dan
I knew he had some juice left him in
He could last till tomorrow.
Dan was chugging along
But I could feel the pressure I was exerting on him
He was a trusty stead
He wouldn’t let me down
But I started to feel a slight sense of guilt
My trusty friend Dan has been with me through thick and thin
I decided it was about high time that I’d fill him up
The sun had set over the temperate Peradeniya hills
Only a slight amount of stickiness hanging in the air
I decided to get a haircut in town and then fill up on the way home
At the barber, the Sinhala news was running in the background
A picture of a bowser came up on the television and angry mobs shouting
My barber Jayasinghe curses in frustration
I try and put the pieces of the puzzle together
“Petrol prices too high”
He responds “Petrol nay”
I look back at him quizzically
“Aiyo. Sri Lanka. Petrol nay,” as he smacks his palm on his forehead.
It still didn’t register.
Something was wrong
I wasn’t exactly sure what.
But something definitely was not right.
After my haircut, shave, beard trim and head massage for 500LKR (<$5AUD)
Feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and recharged
I decided that filling up Dan was now a necessity
I get to the first petrol shed
It was closed
‘Pretty early to be closed at 7pm’ I contemplate.
I go to the next petrol station
It was also closed
I go to the next petrol station
Lo and behold,
Now Kandy despite being a bustling town
Doesn’t have many petrol sheds
And it was at this point that the panic had started to kick in
The petrol light on Dan was no longer flashing but was now permanently
I was hitting dire states.
I finally got to another petrol station
There was a huge line extending as far as the eye could see
Mainly of angry punters
I park my car in amongst the chaos
I walk over to the station and ask the attendant
“Petrol Thienawadha?” (Sinhala: Do you have petrol?”)
“Petrol Ivarai. Ivarai.” (Sinhala: No petrol)
Cars were pulling out of the line realising there was no juice left.
I had another 20-30min commute back home
My petrol light permanently on
The needle clearly well below zero
I was pushing my boy Dan to the limit
‘Maybe it’s a good time to stop my AC ‘
I put the windows down
It was only at this moment that I realise
There was a strong possibility I wouldn’t even get home.
What if I got stuck going up a mountain and roll off a cliff?
Who do I call if I get stuck in the middle of nowhere?
What if I don’t even have reception?
Why did I choose to live so far from town in the middle of nowhere?
How did I not put the pieces of the puzzle together?
I looked over to the dashboard
And gently caress my noble stead.
“Dan we’ve been through a lot
Just get me home and I promise
Ill never do this to you again
Ill never take for you granted.”
I was chanting the Gayathri mantra as Dan ascended through the mountainous jungles
Beads of perspiration trickling down my face (possibly due to the lack AC and/or stress)
With these thoughts racing through my mind on repeat
The distant lights of my house perched on the side of an isolated cliff came into focus.
I let out a massive sigh of relief
Resting my head on the steering wheel
“Dan, The gift that keeps on giving. “
Come Wednesday morning
Vimalasena my right hand man bumbles in,
“Vimalasena, neengal theriyama enge petrol irikadha? Ennnaka petrol illai. Nan vellai poha vernam” (Tamil: Vimalasena, do you know where there is petrol? I am completely out. I need to go to work)
“Ok Durai, Vimalasena find petrol,” he smiles chuffed at himself for his expanding repertoire of English.
I take the time to read the news online about the petrol shortage
I learn this whole debacle was essentially for base political reasons
Prior to all of this, the concept of a country having no petrol whatsoever did not register as a possibility
I mean when you need petrol
You just go to the shed
It had always been the case
But if you wanted to bring a country to its knees, I guess this clearly was the most effective way
There was an eerie sense that I would have this same problem again sometime in the distant future
I call a few people to find if there was any juice around
I come back with the same answer
Zilch, Nada, Bagels
Taking a leaf out of Ferris Buelers Day Off
I put on a crisp white bathrobe successfully retrieved from a 5 star resort and settle down with some Netflix,
By 3pm a leak filters through to me
The army had taken over petrol distribution and was only able to provide one area on the other side of the Kandy region.
I call Vimalasena to see where he was,
Panting on the other end he replies,
“Durai nan Gampola, Gelioya, Peradeniya ellam ponatha, ahna petrol illai.” (Tamil: Boss, I went to the moon and back and found no petrol” )
I told Vimalasena to get in a tuk tuk, pick me up and get us to where the army was distributing petrol.
The 1hr journey to the other side of Kandy was like a scene out of Armageddon
Tuk tuks, cars, trucks and buses all parked on the side of the road
Presumably all out of petrol
And there was no traffic whatsoever on the streets
There were hardly any souls lurking about
The city was in shutdown.
It was actually serene
Without the incessant toots, smoke and pollution.
We get to the only place serving petrol
And there is a line of people patiently waiting
We bring large bottles and patiently wait
Hoping that the juice wouldn’t run out
Watching the line behind us getting larger
After 90mins in line we get our liquid gold
The juice that powers the world
We make our way home
Almost feeling slightly primal
Feeling as if we had just been on a successful hunt.
I look over to Vimalasena and speak to him in Tamil
“It was a funny day wasn’t it?”
He looks back at me slightly indignant
“For you it was funny but I went all over trying to find petrol”
I laugh and grab his shoulder with appreciation
But he then replies, “But for Durai, I will go to Jaffna and back if you need me to. ”
We cut a hosepipe and pour the yellow liquid in through a funnel
I pat Dan, all juiced up and whisper to him
“You still thirsty?”
Aeration rating: In retrospect was definitely an experience. At the time though it’d be hard to give it a FRESH rating
*I’ve learnt the importance of planning ahead especially in the developing world. You never know what might happen tomorrow.
**I’ve made an effort to watch local news instead of relying on BBC for everything
***I will never let Dan The Man down ever again