Chanaka is from Matara. He is the second child of a family of three. Their monthly family income never exceeded 20,000 rupees and therefore the family had enough financial difficulties. Chanaka and his brother both received admission to universities in a situation where their parents couldn’t contribute much to their university education. Giving up university education was not an option on Chanaka’s list.  Only thing Chanaka could think about was to cut down his expenses at university.

His father sold goods at the weekly market. He is unable to engage in a business heavier than this due to his ill-health. His mother walked from house to house to sell cleaning products to help the financial situation at home.

Chanaka had dreams of becoming an engineer. If he could face the Advanced Level once more he would have achieved this dream, but gave up his dreams and applied for a university with the results he acquired. Since the day he entered the university, he looked for ways to reduce his cost-of-living. He wasn’t happy to put this burden too on his parents’

He chose to stay in the university hostel.  He cut off his expenses as much as he could. He usually has to take two buses to get to the hostel from his faculty. Total bus fare for this ride would be 20 rupees. He walked half of the distance so that he could save 10 rupees. As he satisfied his hunger only from the food he bought from the university canteen, taste and nutrition had less importance in his list of priorities.

During his first year, he managed to spend the day with only 100 rupees.  Once in a while he treated himself with a low-priced delicacy like yoghurt and somehow tries to spend less than 4,000 rupees a month. Anyway he couldn’t afford to exceed this amount.  If he had to seek accommodation at a private hostel he would have to spend at least 3000 rupees more for a month.  If so, he would have become desperate.

At the university you can fill an empty plate of rice for 10 or 20 rupees. Most days, he used an already used plate to buy lunch. He would fill it once or twice depending on how much money he could spend. There were days that he shared this small portion of food with another friend who didn’t have money to buy lunch. After all friendship is stronger than hunger, he said.

During the second year he was seeking for ways to earn some money to help his situation. Accordingly, he started giving private tuition and was able to earn about 200-300 rupees a day. He proudly said that there were instances where he could send some money to home. He recalled how he struggled to get through the first year studies. He has failed Ordinary Level English paper and he said that this language barrier was a huge burden to him throughout the first year in understanding lectures.

He remembered how he misused the word ‘dies’ with ‘dice’ in the lesson probability. Looking back, he is proud of his achievements, how he became resilient to all his troubles and found ways to overcome them.

This painstaking journey didn’t demotivate him.  Today he is a science graduate looking for a well-paid job.  He has achieved all the goals he had when he came to Colombo.  Tomorrow he may move to another place saying goodbye to Colombo.  Yet, he will not say goodbye to his future goals, to provide good food for his family, to contribute to his sister’s education, to take care of his parents and most of all to pay off the debts and to acquire back the acre of land which they had to give up part by part to ease their financial burden.

Translated by
Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna