I met an old uncle. He’s an ex-cop and ever since I got arrested in Hambantota he’s been amused by my stories. His stories are better. He told me about Rameshwaram, 1942. They took the ferry from Mannar, one hour to India. The Indians customs officers had the uniforms but no shoes. You could get a fine breakfast of two eggs, bread and a quarter pound of butter for 50 cents. They were on their way to a training camp somewhere round Mandapam, I think.
The image that sticks in my head is one of children diving for coins. He said the train passed by the sea at one point and that children bobbed out of the water, opened and then pointed at their empty mouths. Then people would through coins in the water and the kids would dive for them. That they were desperately poor. I kept thinking about that image, of the beggar mermaids.
Uncle had some court papers on his desk. Seemed like an interesting story, but I can’t deal with it right now. I took my leave and went home, thinking about the ferry in 1942.