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Cleaning Fish Is Better Than Being At War

Kunarasah Thangamalar, 57, works at the fishing market in Navanthurai, Jaffna.

12.07.2016  |  

Kunarasah Thangamalar, 57, works at the fishing market in Navanthurai, Jaffna. She has a sharp knife and scissors on her at all times because her job is to clean and prepare the fish for cooking. Locals bring her the fish they bought and she prepares the fish for them for a sum.

Please tell us about your family.

I have four children; three sons and one daughter. Just about three months ago my daughter married and moved away. My husband has died.

What do your sons do?

My eldest son doesn’t have any permanent job. He does whatever he can around here and usually earns a little every day. My other sons both have bad eyesight. This makes it difficult for them to work. My elder son and I have to take care of them.

What did you do during the civil war?

I didn’t really do anything to make a living during the war. We lived in many different places. When the war came to close, we simply lived on the road. At one stage, when the roads were being tar sealed we did that. We were paid LKR500 (EUR3) a day.

How much do you earn every month?

Some months I earn around LKR4,000 (EUR25) and other months it is closer to LKR5,000 (EUR30). It all depends how much fish is caught and how much is bought.

Is that money enough for your family?

It doesn’t really matter. We just adjust our lives accordingly. I don’t need new clothes. We only really need food.

Do you ever save anything?

No. Never.

But what if there is some sort of emergency – say you need to buy medicine or something like that?

If I am not well, my oldest son will help me out.

And how much does he make?

When he does masonry work he might get LKR 1,000 (EUR6) a day. But mostly he gets between LKR 500 and LKR 600 for odd jobs, in people’s houses and gardens.

Do you like your job?

This job doesn’t require me to walk around so much. I can just stay in one place and work, so I prefer this to the labouring work I did before. I don’t really have any other options anyway. At my age, this job suits me. And during the war, even though I was younger, I couldn’t find any kind of employment. Compared to those bad days, I am happy to be where I am now.