Not many are familiar with ‘line rooms’ in Sri Lanka’s estates. Fewer have ever visited one. These are the dwellings of the labourers – descendants of the migrants brought here by British planters from in nearby Madras state in India staring from 1827 to work in estates for meager salaries under austere conditions. Human development conditions have significantly improved since then, but some of them still call a 4 m x 4 m room with a smaller kitchen ‘home’.
Meet Parameshvari. She lives in one such room with her elderly mother. She is physically disabled – something common in estates for reasons unknown; believed to be the impact of chemical fertilizers washed off to water resources. She may look younger, but is 23 years old.
This is her shop, where she sells sweets and phone calls. Mobile proliferation has made public phones less popular, but in an area mobile signals are hardly incessant she still finds enough business. She is not worried about the competition from the growing mobile industry as she does not know about it. She has hardly stepped out of the home. She may not necessarily lose her job, if mobile firms are bit considerate to give her a helping hand to start a phone card selling/reloading centre. It is not charity. It will be the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.