I am surrounded here today with a cast of characters out of the past, which when I got here originally having given up the western lifestyle, thought I could rehabilitate. I have failed miserably. They lend themselves to a real life teledrama, far better than anything that can be imagined with the real tease being a spectator to the outbursts when all below are inebriated at once. No amount of admonition from me seems to help as I do not take alcohol on the farm, and they know it, and just look sheepish when confronted!
I have Paul, a late 50 something Christian who lives at the far end of the land with his common law wife Anula, and a colorful past in the heyday of Colombo in the 70s a scion of a once well known landed family whose family gifted the land which is now St Mary’s Bambalapitiya. I have never seen him doing any real work, but seen him inebriated more than I have seen him work. Still he is a good soul who brought me breakfast of stringhoppers this morning and wants to die on the property!
Then there is Gamini, (40s) another who gets sloshed most nights, but can climb trees and is more able to do some work, who lives with his wife and 3 of his 4 children. The eldest girl got married at 17, to a grandson of a family retainer, and has a one year old.
Ranji (60s) is tasked with looking after the cattle and milking and lives near the shed with his disabled wife who is completely dependant on him and is with us out of pity, as he is a worse alcoholic, and unable to physically handle it and cannot work in the morning after a binge unlike the others. His three sons don’t even visit, even though they live nearby, and only come for money from the father.
Then there is Siripala (50s) currently single from a local family but prefers to live in a room on the farm, and presently also takes care of the dogs, due to my absence. He needs his fix and has been in and out of prison for distilling moonshine as his brother’s fall guy. He cant help but harrass the ladies, and gets incensed when he is rebuffed!
The only ones at least doing some work is the old dear Caroline(late 70s) who has been the supervisor forever and works only because she wants to get away from the daughters-in-law as all her three sons are well to do businessmen, and Menika (30s) who runs the shop, who lived on the farm at one time, with her family, but now lives in her own place just outside.
Here I am without income and no realizable investments, unable to walk, having also lost my only vehicle, typing this on a MacBook Air with my dogs in my spread sounding very much like those down and out Southern farmers at the end of the Civil War with their raggedy bunch of retainers who don’t have anywhere to go, somehow batting on waiting for the good times!! We just squeak by. The issue in the future will be the lack of a productive workforce, as no one wants to get into any agricultural employment.
I tried to get a bunch of young people in to help from elsewhere, but these guys know where their bread is buttered, and when they realized their number was up, used every trick in the book to get rid of them, with unfounded accusations and then, by getting them to do the work while these older ones sat in the shade and slept driving the youngsters out of disgust. I live with the devils I know hoping they do not bury me first! I have had to change my attitude to suit the situation and be philosophical about it for the moment.