It is the Sinhala and Hindu New Year and a harvest celebration, which also coincides, which we share with our common cousins in mainland India.
For me it is hell, as I have to find the funds for a bonus for my staff, who expect one no matter what my financial circumstances. I have hardly had anything to sell in the past few months, as my coconut and king coconut trees have been in low production, and my rice is only just coming into the market after the recent harvest. So the past three months have been hand to mouth with expenditure exceeding revenue.
Here in Minneriya, all my neighboring farmers are scrambling to sell some or all of their harvest to pay of the debts of the old year so they can start the new one afresh. The price of paddy has allowed many to actually clear their debts. I have on the other hand had to purchase paddy I had promised, but now at a much higher price than I envisaged. For it to turn into cash after selling rice, there is a time lag. Today, I lost a great opportunity to make a big return. A neighbor wanted me to buy his whole paddy stock for about Rs100,000, which I believe will be worth about 40% more in about two months, but I did not have the cash to give him right now. He will now go to Nipuna the biggest miller, who is ready with cash to buy at anytime.
I spent the last few days collecting my paddy and now have a reasonable stock but which has to be dried before I can either, mill or store for the long term. This has to be done carefully as it has been wet lately. I leave in a few hours back to the farm and the shop with about 8 varieties of rice I had dried and milled. I am also taking 4 bunches of kolikuttu from my trees for the avurudhu breakfast tables of my shop customers.
Most people in jobs return to their home villages today or tomorrow the 11th, the schools last day of term and avurudhu celebrations were yesterday, where the students come in traditional cloth and jacket.
The main celebrations are on Saturday and Sunday with auspicious times for various activities. The auspicious time to start work again is next Thursday evening the 17th, and Saturday happens to be Poya, so I presume people will delay their start of the work-week till Monday the 21st. So this holiday is about 11 days for people to be with their families. Don’t forget that in Sri Lanka there are many people who work away from home and though they go home from time to time, it is only for a day or two but in this period shops, factories and some establishments give the staff two weeks off, so it is looked on with much anticipation and bonuses discounted by pre-spending.
Many people buy new clothes for the New Year for them and family and so the shops do a roaring trade, and people in more successful companies get bonuses that can be a month’s salary and called avurudhu bonus.
Here in the village it is when we expect to see our relatives who work away, looking forward to their arrival to help with the cooking of special foods. However, the many in the Forces don’t get this time off, as we are in the midst of a war, so the celebrations are quiet and at home with visits to the near and dear ones taking place after the 14th when one is able to go out to visit according to auspicious times bearing bananas and home made eats.
My staff, in Minneriya, have got their families for the New Year so I have to cover the costs of their accommodation, and can leave this place to them. My staff on the farm will go in staggered stages so I can make sure the grass is cut and the cows are fed. The shop will be closed on Saturday and Sunday, so I have to make sure I am able to sell as much as possible on Friday, so that I can pay them a bonus before they go that evening. I have told them that 100% of the balance of funds in the shop will be available to pay their bonus, but that did not excite them to get more stuff into the shop to sell, like papayas from the trees or more coconuts plucked or bananas that are mature, or any number of leaves that are free of any chemicals, to sell.
This is another entitlement in the eyes of a wage earner who does not see how his or her effort can directly benefit them, as they always look at the others and say why should I work so hard to bring such and such in to the shop when so and so is not pulling his weight. They don’t realize that they have to mutually agree to work together to achieve the common goal of more sales so that they can equally share the spoils amongst each other.
I have a busy schedule tomorrow, to deliver my King coconuts to the Golf club and some bananas and rice to a few customers, in Colombo, before getting back to the farm to pay the bonus. I then drive for a short vacation to Nuwera Eliya tomorrow night, as I have been invited by some friends, to stay at their vacation home, they too have vacated Colombo, as their household staff have in most part gone home for the New Year and suspect Colombo will be a ghost town for a week.