On the way from Hikkaduwa to Colombo, we passed by many long stretches of the sea. We cruised along the seemingly endless roads, watching the waves rush towards the shore and back in a rhythmic lull, safe in uncle Upali‘s car from the sultry summer heat. What a blissfully dreamy view for road travel.
Along one such stretch, uncle Upali slowed down and pointed out to stilts in the water. “Look, fishermen,” he said. I squinted, he was right. There were men sitting on these stilts, perfectly poised with their heads slightly bowed down. They were fishing on stilts!
But no sooner did the car come to a halt, a skinny local man wearing the traditional sarong holding a long stick in his hand walked up to the car and said something. Uncle Upali dismissed him politely but he was persistent. He even made sure to stand in such a way that he blocked my view of the fishermen.
The man was asking for a fee of LKR 500, should we want to take a picture of the fishermen. Not a tip, but an actual fee. A hefty price for a photograph of something that’s just happening in public, no?
Except it wasn’t. These fishermen weren’t really going about their day’s work. They were posing.
Because as much of a reality as fishing on stilts is, it obviously doesn’t happen in shallow water and exactly when the passing tourist pleases. Thanks to these posers, or should I say performers, tourists get to witness the spectacle and the locals get to make a few bucks.
Pretending to work is work too, right?
I decided I could live without the picture. We told him we didn’t want a photograph and went on our way. Except uncle Upali didn’t speed off immediately. Instead he drove really slowly and stopped again. “Quick! Take a photo!” said uncle Upali, smiling and looking back like we were making a getaway.