Interviews on the Economy:
We Can Afford Chicken Once A Week
Mahalingam Udayakumar, 39, commutes to Jaffna to sell coconuts.
Mahalingam Udayakumar, 39, is a resident of Ottumadam but comes to Jaffna almost every day to sell coconuts near Doraiappa stadium in the city. Udayakumar’s wife, with whom he has six children, also helps out with the family’s business.
How much do you earn a month?
About LKR45,000 (EUR273).
And where does your money go?
Food and beverages for my family as well on daily expenses as needed. We eat a fairly basic diet because food is so expensive. My family can afford to have chicken once a week. Because we have young children we often have medical expenses as well.
Are you happy with what you are earning?
Actually, I am not. We have so many things to spend money on. I also have to look after my sister’s family. Her husband was killed in the war and I look after her and her two young children too.
So how much do you spend on the children’s education?
I have six children and four of them are at school now. I pay LKR200 daily so the children can travel to school. I also need to pay about another LKR2,000 (EUR12) to LKR3,000 (EUR18) for their tuition fees and other school costs.
Can you cover all your costs?
No, the cost of living is so high. Prices go up but I cannot just change the price of the coconuts.
So if there is an emergency or you need to buy something, how do you cope?
I don’t really have time to seek out other avenues for earning money. And since my wife has to look after our children she cannot really go out either. But we are OK, we are able to live our lives and cope with some difficulties.
Are you able to save any money?
It is hard to save. But I do manage to put aside LKR3,000 every month. It is like an insurance payment. Other than that, it is very hard to save anything.
How do you spend your free time with your family?
We don’t get a lot of time for relaxing. Whenever we get some free time we go to visit my wife’s parents. I don’t really have the time or money for holidays or pilgrimages. And I can’t afford to give the children the things they ask for, because there’s usually no money left. So I’m a bit reluctant to take trips like that because I feel sorry for the kids.