Saturday mornings are for lying in – there’s birds chirping on the lawn, noisy squirrels on my barren avocado tree, and I can just about see the “Thalagoya” (monitor lizard) sunning on the wall. I am slow to emerge from layers of sleep, trying to hold on to the view in my head of the breathtaking beauty of the Knuckles range, the Randenigala dam, the glimpse of Adam’s Peak on the edge of a blue sky – an aerial view from flight to Batticaloa. Breaking this lazy morning reverie, the door bell rings. Mentally, making yet another note to get that door bell changed, I was ready to chase a salesman. Doe like eyes, hesitant not sure of the reception, he stood there, the ubiquitous plastic bag in one hand and in the other a bunch of greens.
Would you please buy this last bunch of gotukola?
What’s your name?
Do you grow them?
No, my mother buys them and we sell them again to make some extra money for the family. This is only Rs.10 (1 US$=LKR 115 approx)
How much do you make a day? Oh, about Rs.200
A little girl puts her head through the door and smiles coyly. She is a little princess – Is she your sister?
Yes, her name is Niroshani and she is nine years old.
She corrects the brother — It is Niroshani Dilki
How old are you?
I am ten and she is 9 years.
Go to school?
Yes to Revatha , I want to be a doctor.
And Niroshani Dilki?
The smile is wide and the eyes light up
I want to be a teacher.
Any more in your family?
Yes, eight – eight kids?
No, there is my mother and father, and my elder brother , and baby sister and grandfather ( that only makes 7 but I didn’t add properly at that time).
Achchi – where is she?
Where is your brother?
She is looking after my baby sister who is three as my mother has to wash clothes and cook.
And your father?
He is a labourer
Do you help your mother?
Yes, we wash dishes, sweep the garden, the hand goes protectively round the sister.
May I take your photo?
No smiles for me?
The smiles are enough to warm the cockles of my heart.
They turn towalk away hand in hand. He turns back and repeats I want to be a doctor. My thoughts ping back to another boy I met at the Kotmale Internet Radio Station. He too had walked up the hill selling gotukola and stayed on fascinated to learn about computers. By the time I met him he was posting information on a website in Sinhala, Tamil and English and for a good measure was teaching the rudiments of flash to his buddy. Both his parents were estate labourers. He too had a dream. …
P.S. Gotu in the Sinhala language is conical and Kola is leaf . Scientific name Centella Asiatica. In Sri Lanka it is made into a finely finely sliced salad with onions, fresh coconut, flavoured with lime and a pepper dressing. It is also cooked into a curry with coconut milk and is popularly taken in the morning as a local watery porridge –Gotukola Kanda –made with red rice, coconut milk and the extracted juice from the leaves. My gym serves this and is great after a workout. There is at least one posh restaurent in Colombo that has on the menu as an elegant upmarket soup — no doubt flavoured with cream.
Mine went into a not so finely sliced salad and it tasted pretty good with my crab curry — ahh to be in Lanka:-))