“I, Malinga, drive…” boasted Chaminda Kumara as he came to know that it was a cricket correspondent he was ferrying to the R Premadasa Stadium for the India-Sri Lanka ODI. In sheer excitement, the middle-aged driver took his hands off the tuk-tuk wheel.
Traffic in Colombo is more disciplined than other big cities in south Asia. Therefore, a driver abandoning the wheel and flipping through the photo gallery of his mobile phone handset was shocking to say the least. Cajoling and frantic gestures eventually forced him to stop the tuk-tuk near a sidewalk.
Out came the picture of him behind an SUV wheel with Lasith Malinga sitting right next to him. “Part-time tuk-tuk, evening Malinga,” Kumara drove home the point that every evening he works as the Sri Lankan fast bowler’s personal chauffeur. “Good man, good man. Gives me 1,500-2,000 (in local currency) everyday,” he said with a broad smile.
The connection has a common thread, Galle. Like Malinga, Kumara is also a Galle native who has now moved to the Sri Lankan capital. A friend of the driver turned out to be the connecting thread between the two when he took Kumara to the country’s most popular cricketer one year ago. He could have easily been in the stands at Premadasa to watch Sunday’s match, Kumara claimed. A match ticket was a request away. But he has now lost interest in Sri Lanka’s cricket. “Loss, loss, loss… Too much politics. I no go,” said Kumara, frustration writ large on his face.