The Not So Hi! Ladies of Sri Lanka


M. Ranmenike of Thimbiyawa. Copyright Chulie de Silva. 

Ranmenika is 65 yrs old, and earns her living from breeding goats.  She lives in a house in close proximity to the Mahadangasweva tank.  There is no electricity in the village, the tank is their spa dipping pool.  the average income I am told  in this village is approximately LKR 1500.    “I have eight goats”   said Ranmenika obviously quite attached to the brood.

I thought of writing about these two ladies in response to the first comment I received  from a guy from Oz, who said if I was a logical female I wouldn’t be photographing girls and I would be photographing more old women and men etc.  I of course made no claims to being a logical female … but his advice was well meant no doubt but as an illogical female  I have no one mission in life …  but there are several. …

One was to make this blog a “not so Hi! magazine,”   where I can write about  the “other Sri Lanka,” where the majority of Sri Lankans live. These men and women of substance. often toil away without any recognition.  They have amazing stories of what life was like in the Sri Lanka of their youth. Their courage and perseverance in the face of adversity is amazing.

The young have a grace and beauty that is often unmatched by the city lasses but I think the hard work, lack of good nutrition and access to good preventive medicine all impact to  make them age faster than what I would call the “Hi Brigade” of Colombo.   The other day as we circled a wedding walking across the foyer at a posh hotel  my colleague Dilinika commented “this looks like a Hi! wedding”  So living is either Hi! or not

These ladies will never make it to that famous glossy  as things stand. … so this space is their “Not so Hi! Magazine”

Omalpage Missiya. 17 Nov. 2007. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Omalpage Missiya. 17 Nov. 2007. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

I met Omalpage Missiya last year soon after the shaken not stirred episode. 65 yrs then, 66 now she is one of a kind.  when she was in her 20’s the daily wage for a labourer was the princely sum of  75 cents.  However, she could earn Rs.5 to Rs.10 a day illegally tapping coconut trees for the sap which is the raw liquor– toddy .  With 5 children to feed she had no doubts where her choice lay.

One day she was up among the coconut fronds collecting the sap onto a clay pot, when she realised two policemen were waiting for her at the bottom of the tree. As she slithered down competently, she laughingly told me that she gently knocked the pot against the tree and by the time she reached the cops all evidence had trickled down the side of the tree. She lived to tap many a tree and relate that story with mirth and to become one of the quickest and capable “cement mixing, concrete worker” of her village.  One quietly claimed  she can do the work of ten people.

11 thoughts on “The Not So Hi! Ladies of Sri Lanka

  1. Congratulations on your pictures and reporting. Always excellent but now the photos easy to see.

    I didn’t know “Hegel said we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.” So true.

    My hope is that health services include populations control information and free condoms. People around the world rich and poor have to realize there is no room left for more people.

  2. Congratulations on taking up the Oz guy’s advice. And you have turned the advice into a brilliant concept -Not so Hi Magazine – Laidies of Sri Lanka. The real ladies of Sri Lanka are the two women you have profiled in your blog. In Hi magazine they profile women who spend their time looking at each other. I have noticed that most of the Hi women are uncomfortably fat and have no fashion sense, I feel like throwing up when I see them. Please please inspire us with the lives and work of battler ladies who you call “Ladies of Sri Lanka”

  3. Dear sir/madam.
    Thank you for the blog on not so Hi ladies.
    I find the Hi mag of the top end distasteful, when so many young and older ladies in that contry are doing the hard yards, the so call fashion mob are living on a hype, I find them distasteful, self centered hypochondriacs. Keep up the good work and show the world the real ladies young and old from all walks of life that make Sri Lanka a beautiful land.

  4. Wow, what a priceless picture the first one. Funny only today I learnt about the Hi Magazine and wanted to know what it was and Googled to see what it was all about when I came across your blog.
    What a discovery and I enjoyed your writing

  5. When I visited Sri Lanka after 29 years, I saw a HI! magazine and was very impressed with the production, quality and content. And it made me proud to be Sri Lankan, though I now live in the USA in the beautiful state of Hawaii.
    And the best part is that my old classmate and friend Ranjit W who I also had the privelege to meet on my last visit was responsible for the publication of this interesting magazine whic’h I consider of a higher caliber than even the local ‘People’ magazine.

  6. Ajith de Silva,

    No doubt the Hi! Magazine is of high calibre and compares well with any western glossy of beautiful and fashionable people and hats off to those who produce it. But it portrays only an itsy bitsy teeny weeny section of the Sri Lankan population.

    My intention in writing these little short sketches is to write about the much much more beautiful people that I meet. They live lives that hardly gets written about let alone noticed — beautiful not in the sense of wearing the correct clothes, being in fashion, living in super homes and dining and wining in posh restaurants etc but beautiful because they are the hard working, the salt of the Sri Lankan earth. I like to talk to these everyday people I meet and if willing photograph them. That’s how the Not so Hi! sketches came about.

    Thank you for taking the time to leave a message

  7. When I lived in Sri Lanka many many years ago the wealthy families only associated with other wealthy families. I think it is the Sri Lankan mentality. Doctors in hospitals would give preference to those who were more wealthy and would by pass a poor patient who had been sitting in the waiting room for hours. The wealthy people in Sri Lanka dont help the poor at all. I have read the Hi Magazine and the women featured need exercise than lookiing like lumps of lard decked in jewellery. The reason why sri lanka cannot prosper is because people arent helping one another. Learn from the Jews people. They do well in life because they are Community Concience unlike the so called elite of Sri Lanka.

  8. Your own article has confirmed beneficial to myself. It’s quite
    helpful and you’re simply certainly really experienced in this region. You get opened up our eye to different opinion of this specific topic together with intriquing, notable and solid articles.

  9. Thanks to your genuine interest in people and the
    work they do to survive, people from all over the world can see pictures and read of Sir Lankans living in all areas of the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.

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