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Chapter 4: Iron Business

By: Iroshini Kalpage

ELF Program Development Officer

This is the continuation of “her” story:

Saman, Sisira and Ajith were happy to see me again. Saman’s grandmom is a kind woman. We all wake up at 5am and at 5:45am, the rented lorry comes to pick us. Grandma makes us Rotty and Pol Sambol to eat. Plain tea with sugar as a drink. The plain tea is boiled tea leaves. We didn’t have enough money to buy milk. There are 6 people. The home was very small. The roof was covered with coconut leaves. We slept on the floor. Grandmom was nearly 78, she was not in good health; her body was so week.

Only last month did they start the iron business, thanks to this everybody can now fill their stomachs. After the tsunami, everyone in this house had a hard time. Thank God the iron business was going well! We had good hearts and strength for our success. We went to villages to collect iron items. The villagers give us unusable items made of iron, silver, bronze, cardboard, and glass. Mainly there were iron items. We collect all unnecessary items, like pipes, iron roofing, etc., and it was really fun. While we worked we sang songs and then we played some games in the back of the lorry.

Saman was the leader, he was 17 years old. Damith was 16. Ruwan 15. Sisira, was 13, like me. Damith and Sisira were orphans. Ruwan’s mom is abroad, he ran away from home because his drunken father hurt him every day. Saman has his Grandmom, but and lost his parents in the tsunami. His father was a fisherman; his mother had gone to the beach to sell fish on the day of the tsunami day. The tsunami day was a Pola day, but it had happened early because of Christmas. How my fate! If it was a normal Pola day, I would also not be in this world by now. That day all of us were at home.

After we collect everything by 6:30pm, we go to town to sell the items. We had a buyer, he is an old guy, we call him “iron man.” Iron man weighs every item and pays us. At the end of the day, Saman divides the money. First he takes out the lorry rent and the money for food; then the money left over is divided equally and given to everyone. I bought some clothes for myself. Caz and I had borrowed clothes from my friends and I wanted to return them.

At that time, I really didn’t know how to count money or how to get the balance after I bought something. But now I know how to count. At the bead class I have to count seed beads. I love beading and I leant to count. Also, before I get the beads I have to fill out a voucher. So, slowly, I slowly learnt to count. The bead practice book is so interesting, after I saw it, I really wanted to learn to read and write. It is because of that desire, that I did learn how to read and write!

Sunday is our rest day, we played on those days. Our favorite game was “Shaking the Tin.” The game is like this, you start with a tin with a small stones inside. The tin should be in the center of the playing area, where the seeker counts. The hiders have to go and hide while the seeker counts. After counting, the seeker has to find the hiders! If the seeker sees somebody, they have to shake the tin and loudly say who the seeker has seen and where they were hiding. If someone is caught by the seeker, another hider can go and kick the tin before the seeker catches them. If someone kicks the tin, everybody who has been caught will be free. Then, again, the same seeker has to find the hiders! If the seeker manages to find everybody, the first person who was caught has to be the next seeker in the next game. It is a real funny game.

Also on Sundays, we climb trees, hide behind the well and in the middle of Grandmom’s rolled mat. Ruwan always says, “Sunday is the Fun day.” This is true.

In the morning, until 10am, we wash our clothes and do our own things. After 10am, until 3 or 4pm, we played. While we played, Grandmom always watched our games. She is the one who decides when it is break time. She calls me, “Duwa, come, come and eat with your brothers.” “Okay, Achchi Amma,” we reply. We used to call her Achchi Amma. She gave us plain tea and bread with dhal. At night, me, Ruwan, and Sisira cook rice, one vegetable and some dried fish. On good iron selling days we eat chicken, how I love to eat bread with chicken curry!

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