More notes on the Southern Expressway

Today Shilpa and I embarked on an 8-hour journey along the Galle Road to get a sense of how businesses are affected by the loss of car traffic to the highway. We drank milk at Monis, ate rolls at Sinharaja bakery, drank thambili on the side of the road. We had a lot of chats with the managers of business large and small, from ones established in 1896 to one that opened two years ago, who generously made time for us and our questions. In short, yes, of course their businesses have lost a lot of customers because of the new highway, but their stories are much more nuanced and rich than that one-liner. Here are real people struggling to make ends meet, and each story is worth telling. They’re funny and sad and generous and hopeful and frustrated and hanging on by the skin of their teeth. I’m writing an article on some of these hidden costs of the highway for MIT’s CoLab, and just this one day’s worth of interviews made me realise that there’s a wealth of information that could potentially be very useful data for when the network of highways expands, especially to Kandy. I’m thinking maybe a summer project?

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