He did not have an ID card, a staple for survival in SL. He is very dark and in the salubrious roads of Colombo 7 could be mistaken for Tamil. His accent of speaking Sinhala is a little difficult for us to understand and some of the expressions they use are also unfathomable and require explanation. He spoke about faking his age, for Rs100 for a letter from the Grama Niladari in his home village of Laatugala, in Uhana, Ampara and joining the Army at 15 in a barracks near Kurunegala, towards the end of the hostilities, which he was yanked out of by his parents after 6months before he was fully commissioned once they knew of his whereabouts.
He dropped out of school a grade before his O levels and can barely read or write Sinhala, and apart from his absences has been taking care of his large herd of cattle, that go out on their own to forage, stopping by in a water hole on the way out and back in the evening, when they return to their pen on their own right on schedule at 5pm. (I wish I can train my cows to do that! More to the point he does nothing with the cow dung in the pen except shovel it out!)
He had worked for bouts in Colombo, on building sites and none of his stints lasted more than 60 days and now I know why. The Sunday evening buses from Ampara apparently is the one with all the Colombo bound workers, masons and bricklayers and other laborers, which gets in to Pettah between 3am and 5am.
He is the youngest of 18 offspring in the family of mainly females, and it was his elder sister’s son who was older than him who accompanied him. All survive except his brother an Army sergeant who died from severe injuries in battle in January of 2009 and whose Rs35,000 a month pension his parents are grateful for.
His one aim is to do what is necessary to marry in two years, so as the youngest his wife can take care of his parents, the father in his early 70s and mother in her 60’s. That really floored me when parents whose surviving 17 children cannot take care of them in rural Sri Lanka, as many of his sisters are married living out of the area.
He has already been locked up when under 18 due to assaulting another boy who had stolen a cow, and had a case pending which is pending arbitration to pay the thief for the costs of his recovery in hospital. He and his nephew were in an Ampara jail until the patient recovered and released from hospital.
(to be continued hopefully tomorrow)