iSurprise Shanthini and Jayanthi Mahadeva

Sisters, Fort residents and retired bankers

Galle Fort life is inexplicable… There is only one religion: the religion of love. There is only one caste: the caste of humanity. There is only one language: the language of the heart.
— Shanthini Mahadeva

Banking in the blood

Our great-grandfather moved to the Fort from Jaffna to work for the Mercantile Bank on Church Street when it was under British management. At that time, there were about six Jaffna Tamil families living here. Our father gave us special encouragement in our careers; we both worked for the same bank until we retired. Living here we have earned good people and we feel safe. We need go out of the Fort for very little – there are courts, banks, schools. We would never sell the house. When we go to Colombo we feel lost. Just seeing the Galle Road gives us a headache!

A cosmopolitan mix

We practise different religions in the Fort but we all live together in perfect harmony and with good will. What unites us is love, and food, of course! During Ramadan, friends send us chicken biriyani, a soup called kanjee and a dessert called watalappan. At Sinhala and Tamil New Year we are delivered treats such as kokis and kevum and at Christmas our Christian friend brings us delicious Christmas cake. For Thai Pongal we give sweet milk rice known as sakkarai sadam. There has always been a friendly atmosphere.


Our mother used to love sitting here in the evenings and she would often offer sweets and cold drinks to people passing by. Each morning, we walk the dogs on the ramparts and look over to Rumassala, which is believed to have be a part of the Himalayas dropped by Hanuman, the monkey god. Jayanthi enjoys swimming off Sea Beach and I enjoy going to the library. My father was a member there for 70 years and I remember when Norah Roberts, author of Galle As Quiet as Sleep was the librarian.

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