Until recently, Lalita had to get up even earlier: over a year ago, the tank that fed the water supply to Lalita's house collapsed, which meant that she and the rest of the family were more than 500 meters away from a source of water. Several times a day she ad to go to the spring to bring back every litre of water that was used for drinking and cooking in buckets and jugs. The Fair Trade Committee agreed that a new water tank should have priority and the work has now been completed and water is gushing out of the tap behind Lalita's house. All you have to do is fill one of the bulbous stainless steel vessels and carry it around the corner into the kitchen.
Lalita's shift in the factory ends at 3 p.m. She usually buys some groceries from the plantation's co-op and vegetables from one of the stalls nearby afterwards. When she comes home, she plays with her granddaughter, does laundry, takes a bath, and sets out to cook dinner for the family. Her children all work in a factory that makes clothes. The company provides transportation, but wages are low, only Rs 12,000 a month. Why don't the children work on the plantation where they could earn more? Lalita smiles and shrugs her shoulders - the work in the clothing factory is clean, she says, and the children attended school, so they think that a job on a plantation is not for them.
“A lot of young people work in these factories for a couple of years,” says Nisala Jayawardena, the plantation manager, “but then they turn 30 and get fed up with spending a couple of hours on the bus every day and the noise in the factory floor then they apply for a job with us. ”
Lalita was seven years old when she came to this plantation with her parents and grandparents. Her father still works in the factory and her mother is retired. Since her husband died in an accident, she has lived in two small rooms alone. Her living room, in which family photos, vases and figures of gods are lovingly arranged on the few items of furniture, leads onto the veranda. The rest of the family shares the rest of the house, two bedrooms and a living room with vases full of artificial flowers and a small TV in the corner. The children come home from work around 7.30 p.m., in time for the Sinhala soap operas that Sri Lankan television shows every evening.
What hopes and dreams does Lalita have for the future? She says she has been satisfied since the water started running again. Now she just wishes that the children are well and that they can settle in their own apartment nearby.