It was a fine Easter morning when Rahul Gautam and his friends were holidaying in Negambo, 40 kilometre off Colombo, when he received frantic calls from family and friends asking if he was fine. He then realised that there had been a massive bomb blast at St.Sebastian’s Church, Katuwapitiya, in the same sea-side tourist village.
Rahul Gautam, an Indian, lived most part of his life in Colombo where his parents moved to in 1986 just after his birth. Speaking to India Today TV, Rahul described the day as his ‘worst’ which left him absolutely ‘shocked’.
When asked how bad it was, he said, “I have lived through the end of the war and then saw a decade of non-violence. What happened on Sunday was a shock. I was in Negombo where one of the attacks happened.
Luckily, I was not near the blast site. We started getting calls and we had to decide whether we should leave the hotel or stay in or head to Colombo.”
Gautam was holidaying with friends, who all decided to stay on the beach because they felt safest there. After debating whether to go to the hotel or leave for Colombo, they all went back to their hotel and stayed there.
“We were told to avoid common areas and the hotels. Initially, people were frantic because attacks were progressing and they did not know what to do. Afterwards, when the brunt of it passed, we got calls asking us to come back,” he said.
They drove back the empty roads since curfew was imposed. Rahul described the experience as scary and ‘surreal’.
India Today TV interacted with other members of the Indian community who have settled in Lanka for decades.
Kishore K Reddy, managing director of Platinum Realty Investments, said the business environment that had really picked up in Sri Lanka would be affected by these attacks because it leads to ‘uncertainty’.
“A lot of Indians are living here and doing business here. We have seen through the LTTE era but nobody felt insecure. It was a different kind of war. But right now we don’t feel secure. The uncertainty is scary. We love this country. We have lived here for decades. We want it to be peaceful,” he said.
There is a cause for worry for the Indians. Sources told India Today TV that Indian mission in Colombo, properties owned by Indians are under threat and have to remain cautious. President of Sri Lanka-India Society, TS Prakash, who also heads a beauty product brand here said that this was the time for the community to come together and extend all the help possible but added that safety and precautionary measures should be taken at all times.
Indians are also heavily invested in the transport and hotel industry of the country and hence could face the brunt of dip in tourism.
(India Today TV)