We were in for quite a surprise at Sifaya’s house: she was seven months pregnant! How come? She had always told us that she did not want any more children.
It had been the wish of her new husband. As a driver of a tuk-tuk that did not belong to him, he had a hard time to support his children from the first marriage. Typical for Sri Lanka, for Sifaya’s daughters he did not have more than enough to support their daily needs. However, when he wanted a baby, Sifaya had no other choice than to be a “good” girl.
As he already had a son and heir from the first marriage (as if there would ever be something to inherit!), we suspected that the main reason for her husband had been a visible proof of his manhood. Needless to say, that this did not add to our sympathies for him.
We had been quite surprised to find out that the last two rates from Sifaya’s father had not been paid. She told us very frankly that she had used the money up, instead of forwarding it to Zariya. With the new baby, her prospects of earning some money would be even slimmer. Despite the fact we had always considered Sifaya and her daughters as our godchildren; we had to admit that next to all the misery, she was not very good at handling money.
During the shopping tour we told Zariya to explain to her that it would be wiser to take three inexpensive dresses instead of one expensive one. I kind of had to admire her, as she did not pick the dresses until two employees had placed on the counter the last of about three dozen dresses from the top shelf.
After quite substantial shopping, she mentioned that she did not have a basket for the hospital yet. Zariya explained to us the purpose of that basket. At the hospital ward there would not be any closets, so each woman had to bring a plastic basket for her personal belongings. It had to contain six sarongs, three blouses that open in the front and different sanitary articles. For example, a bottle of oildekolon ………. We almost had given up finding out what kind of mysterious oil this was when Zariya`s sister came around the corner with a bottle of Eau de Cologne!
Usually the father-to-be has to provide all these things, but her husband would not earn enough even though there would be some more time until the delivery. As it was our last day in Hambantota, we estimated the costs of the basket and gave the money to Zariya in the presence of Sifaya. She would accompany her to get the things to make sure she would have her basket at the time of her delivery.
During our visit the previous day at Sifaya’s house, she had asked for some financial help as they would have the opportunity to buy a house across the street. She could sell the piece of land of her late husband, but that would be not be enough. And if we could cover the balance …….. ?
We had no clue what she wanted the house for and she explained that it would be her only chance to take care of the future of her daughters. She was not able to answer our question: why could she not do so with the piece of land?
When we learned that the house across the street belonged to her husband’s sister, it was obvious that everything but the future of her daughters had to be secured.
At this point, we have to compliment our driver Victor. Repeatedly, he had kept his eyes and ears open and had provided us with additional information.
We would have turned her request down anyhow. The street is still a dirt road and the houses are in a poor state.
At the time of our visit, workers were busy putting new sewage pit drainage into the ground, a difficult task as there were very big rocks in the ground. During the initial construction they had done very lousy work and in the rainy season the whole mess was floating through the gardens ……… at least the replacement was done by the government.
We promised Sifaya to look for a solution for the girls.
That was easier said than done. To put money on a blocked savings account does not make much sense in a country with an inflation rate of 25%, even if the interest rates of 15% are tempting at first glance.
Together with Iromi, Anura’s wife, who works at a bank, we decided to go for a fixed deposit for ten years with an interest rate of 30%, specially designed for children.
We planned to open such an account the following Spring for the older daughter Nasreen, two years after that for Nasmila. That way the girls will not get the money before their 18th, and respectively 19th birthday; and only in the presence of the Trustee. That way we would be able to secure that we can make decisions at the time for the best of the girls, without the parents.
Sadly, the money most likely will be used for dowry not for an education. But the higher the dowry, the higher the demands the groom has to meet. We will try to beat the system by “selling” the “good” girls at the highest price possible.