Saturday, 23 June 2007

Gullible's travels

Catch of the day. Any sucker fish in there?

I went for a morning walk along the beach while the kids were having breakfast at our beach hotel in Sri Lanka.

As I watched the fishermen unload fishes from their colourful boats under the early morning sun, one of them struck up a conversation with me. “Where are you from? How many days will you be here….”

I was soon learning about the life of a fisherman in Negombo. Then his conversation veered towards himself and his family. “Come, let me show you my house and family.”

I politely declined, “I have to be back at the hotel. My kids are waiting.”

“It’s just there, along the beach.” He said in perfect English, pointing to the shacks nearby.

We walked towards the house as he described how the tsunami destroyed their small beach village and he had to rebuild his spartan house again. Pointing to the small straw shed, “This is where we eat and sleep.” He said, as he called out to his young daughter, a little girl of about 7, dressed neatly in a pink frock.

“You know Sister (that’s what he called me), we have no money to buy her books. That’s why she’s not in school.”

I cannot stand to see a child being deprived of the basic necessities in life. I think of the wonderful life my kids are having and this girl here did not even have a proper bed and school books.

So I reached into my bag and pulled out some rupees. “Here, please use this money to get some books and send your daughter to school soon.” He stretched out his hand and accepted the money readily.

Back at the hotel, I told the kids and friends about the fishermen living in poverty. Of course I didn’t tell them about the $50 I had given away.

Several days later, our guide told us that Sri Lanka has such a high literacy rate because of the free education provided by the government. “FREE education?” I exclaimed. I soon found out that I had been conned of $50 which is a tidy windfall to the village folks. I learned that Negombo beach wasn't devasted by the tsunami afterall. I felt like a sucker fish that had swam into the fisherman's net.

Oh well, I just hope that my small sum of money had helped to enrich their lives in some way, and not being squandered or gambled away.

Fishermen in Negombo working under the morning sun.
Beach shacks where the fishermen live.
Spartan shed where the family eats and sleeps in.

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