Could this have been Kanthi, whose story I shared last week? Or my host mother in Ekiriya, who worked as a housemaid for years in Saudi Arabia? It shouldn’t matter how this person might relate to us–my own capacity for empathy and “mournability” is admittedly imperfect–but encounters and awareness of how vulnerable Sri Lankan people (and in particular women, as evidenced by the discriminatory sentencing) are in such situations compels me to share the story of this Sri Lankan housemaid, sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery:
This is Kanthi. She is a gifted chef, a mother of three boys and one daughter, and a devout Buddhist. She is originally from the southeast of Sri Lanka, but now lives and works in the north-central ancient capital of Anuradhapura. Her husband was critically injured in a motorbike accident, cannot walk, and is unable to support the family. Kanthi thus traveled alone to work for several years as a house maid and cook in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kuwait, sending money back to her family every month. Back in Sri Lanka now, she wakes up at 3 am, makes breakfast and lunch for her family, then heads to this bat kade (rice shop) where she cooks from 4 am to 7 pm, day in day out.
I had the privilege of eating some of Kanthi’s delicious rice and curry, and she allowed me to share her story. In a world where encounters with violence and suffering are far too common, I am inspired by Kanthi to appreciate and value seemingly unremarkable acts of human persistence, sacrifice and love borne out everyday.