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Charith Udana Silva

Galle Face Green is one of the most picturesque places in the Colombo city. The sunset, waves and refreshing sea breeze seem to help relieve the burdens of life. The beach is full of fun-loving friends, loving families, playful children and couples staring at the horizon making decisions for their future. Among many places in the Colombo city, Galle Face can be considered as the best place where one can see people enjoying freedom at their best.

I was walking along the pavement parallel to the beach from Colombo port towards the Galle Face Hotel, witnessing couples whispering at each other, vendors selling pineapple, kites or wade and people playing or bathing on the shore. Towards the very end of the pavement, there were two boys trying to catch fish. It was surprising that there wasn’t any guardian with them. They weren’t old enough to be there all by themselves. I felt jealous seeing that they seemed to enjoy their freedom so much. Although an adult spectator might look at them with a curious eye, children would indeed look at them with jealousy as I did.

Although some might envy the freedom they enjoy, their story runs beyond freedom. Their life is an untold tragedy which is not simply depicted by the way they enjoyed fishing.

Kanna, the 19 year old is from Nuwara Eliya. After his mother passed away and his father
remarried, he had to move to his grandparent’s home with his older brother. Eventually, he stopped attending school.  All out of love or sympathy he made a decision to start the life journey on his own.  Reaching Colombo was the very first step of his new journey.

First few months in Colombo weren’t too hard as he was allowed in a small hotel that he could earn some money for his daily bread.  These types of jobs are never permanent and eventually he was kicked out from the hotel. Desperate and with no money he came to Galle Face and spent time when he couldn’t find anything to do.

Other boy is about 15 years old. Not too far from Colombo, Dumindu is from Kotte. One year ago his life was not as hard as it is today. He was a student at a Kotte school. Agony began when his alcohol addicted father died after being hit by a moving train. Father’s death shocked his mother and life was too cruel that the mother’s life was also taken away by a motor accident.  Dumindu is an only child. He has no relatives and his parents’ death left him all alone in the world. He had no way of continuing schooling afterwards. Not knowing what to do, Dumindu also made it a habit to kill time at Galle Face.

This is how the story of Kanna and Dumindu began. Galle Face is where they met.

Both of them have no guardian, no protection whatsoever.  With much in common Kanna and Dumindu became best of friends since the day they met. They spend their lives as they want to because they don’t have an adult to oblige to. They have limitless freedom, yet the responsibility of keeping themselves fed also lies on their own hands.  For two teenagers finding their daily bread on their own is an enormous challenge than we think under these circumstances.

Mostly, they find money for food by selling the fish they catch. Often the fish they catch become their meal. They would grill the fish on a day that they couldn’t sell and enjoy it with some sauce they get from a boutique at Galle Face.

They posses no modern equipment; they only have a hook and a crochet thread to catch fish. They find worms by themselves for the bait. It’s a competition everyday to catch enough fish that they can have enough food to satisfy their tummies. Not that there aren’t days they fail to catch fish. A day with no fish is survived on water. Kanna says that it’s no big deal that they can go without food for two or three days.

Sea has become both their mother and father, providing them with food and a place to stay during the daytime. Some nights are spent at the beach too. Dumindu has no hopes to go back to school. Kanna has become his guardian, brother as well as the only friend he has in this world.  It’s surprising how they found kinship in their lost lives.

Among the frequent visitors of Galle Face, Kanna and Dumindu are extra special. Galle Face is no fun place for them. They can’t enjoy the sea breeze or the kites flying in the sky. Their goal of coming here is to fix themselves a meal; to survive the day. It’s a struggle everyday for them.  Entangled in this daily struggle, their only relief seems to be the friendship they built upon the shores of Galle Face.