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    Reporter's Diary: Sri Lankans' patience stands out amid heartbreak and suffering due to economic crisis

    Reporter's Diary: Sri Lankans' patience stands out amid heartbreak and suffering due to economic crisis

    Reporter's Diary: Sri Lankans' patience stands out amid heartbreak and suffering due to economic crisis
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    By Santia Gora   IST (Updated)

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    The need and the desperation that are visible in the eyes of people everywhere are heartbreaking. Never mind that the beaches, the resorts, the greenery and the beautiful skylines are intact. The suffering has forced the emerald isle to mute its colours.

    I always wanted to go to Sri Lanka, walk on its beaches, see its tea gardens, enjoy coconut water and try the delicious cuisines this absolutely beautiful country has to offer. Who knew, that when I finally did visit, it would be to report on the ground realities of people suffering its worst economic crisis since 1948! Translated into the impact on human lives, it’s even worse than expected.
    The need and the desperation that are visible in the eyes of people everywhere are heartbreaking. Never mind that the beaches, the resorts, the greenery and the beautiful skylines are intact. The suffering has forced the emerald isle to mute its colours.
    What is ubiquitous are the long queues of people everywhere -- at petrol pumps, at milk centres, outside grocery stores. The country that was upgraded to an upper middle-income category by the World Bank in 2019, is now sliding into darkness, thanks to massive power cuts.
    Sri Lankans queue up to purchase kerosene near a fuel station in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Image: AP)
    Even before arrival, research showed that Sri Lanka was in bad shape. Then you visit -- and the sheer chaos, the fear, the hopelessness, becomes real. This is as intense as it gets.
    One thing which took me by surprise was the patience of the people of the country. While shooting for my stories, I speak to as many people as possible. Of course, they are angry, agitated, scared and exhausted. Even so, they stand in queues for hours and even days at a time for fuel, for milk, for rice, for sugar. Nor has this crisis come upon them suddenly. It began months ago. And still the patience is visible in the face of great privation and lack of basic needs.
    It is not as if there has been no violence. Reports of unrest are coming in from various parts of the country. But when millions of people line up for days for their basic needs, these incidents of unrest are bound to happen. What is astounding is that there is no silver lining on the horizon and still the people hold on to patience.
    Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in memory with an acute foreign currency crisis leading to severe shortage of essentials. (Image: AP)
    Are they, then, doing nothing? Have they accepted this tragedy as fate, perhaps? Not at all. Sri Lankans are out there on the streets, holding protest after protest. They are challenging their leaders. They are holding them accountable for their actions. They are calling them and their corrupt practices out.
    Despite going through all this, Sri Lankans continue to be the warm, welcoming and amazing lot they are known to be. To get case studies for my stories, I am going to people's houses, their shops, their restaurants and I am always welcomed. Shanika Silva was one of the case studies I shot for my story. Her entire family is remarkably hospitable. Shanika, while sharing her ordeal, let me play with her five-month-old daughter Nooravi. For another case study, I went to Gampah village, around 30 kms from Colombo and met Pasundi, Gayatri and Raisha. These teenagers were so polite, warm and amazing. And they were ambitious. All three of them want to become doctors. They are well read and well informed, they know what's happening in their country and they are hopeful that very soon things will be better. When we went to Vaishali's house, she made daal pakodas for us.
    A man carries sacks of red onions at a market in Colombo. (Image: Reuters)
    The people of this country are trying everything in their power to hold their country together. In the middle of all this, they still stop at red lights, they still follow their parking rules, they still treat each other with respect. And with inflation rates shooting through the roof, the streets are still not full of conmen or thugs. And trust me, this surprises me. Because I know it for a fact that if this were any other country, all hell would have broken loose.
    While covering this crisis, I pray for this beautiful country, I pray for these wonderful people. And I am telling myself to visit this country again when everything returns to normal and this country blossoms again. Let's hope that this happens soon.
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