“Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong.”
— Smaug, in JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit
Galboda Gnanissara Thera, popularly known as Podi Hamuduruwo (Junior Monk), the chief prelate of the Gangaramaya Temple, in Colombo, sits with a calculator in the midst of his fantastic collection of artefacts and bric-a-brac from all over the world. The contents of this collection range from dozens of whole elephant tusks to cheap Japanese film cameras, classic cars from Germany and India to antique swords from forgotten cities, a 105mm howitzer shell to musty Middle Eastern carpets, and everything in between. The Gangaramaya Temple, which looks like a badly organised museum is, in many ways, a representation of everything that Buddhism is not, but which it has become in Sri Lanka. Christmas Eve, 2017.