Vardena (67, left) and Gautebaggse (61, right) are life long friends who have grown up together in the fishing town of Unawatuna. Fishing together everyday for the last thirty years, they only stopped in 2004 when the devastating tsunami destroyed their boat. The boat was not the only thing they lost to nature. They both lost their homes, friends and relatives, but Vardena was to suffer even more. He also lost his wife and son. In time, an aid organisation provided the men with another boat which they have lovingly named Corinthe.
The once small fishing village of Unawatuna has now been transformed into a tourist destination, but the two friends continue to be a regular sight at the beach every afternoon. Here, unconcerned sun worshippers indulge on their sun beds oblivious to the inspiring and heart warming real life story unfolding just metres away. As the sun sets behind the emerald sea, the two friends push their wooden boat into the water. They raise the sail and set off on yet another twelve hour long shift, many kilometres away from the small flickering lights of the hotels in the distance. Most of the night is spent sitting on a thin, wooden stick that serves as a seat in the meter wide fishing boat. A gas lamp intending to attract squid provides just enough light to be able to see each other, but also enhancing the darkness in the distance as the light falls away from the boat. Sharks almost as long as the boat sometimes appear, attracted by the light.
Gautebaggse, the most talkative of the two, explains how he thanks God that the sharks in these waters are not aggressive, or else they could break the boat in half with one bite. As the first rays of sun envelop the boat, the two friends head back to the deserted beach. No tourist in sight yet. And as they head home with a modest catch in plastic bags they give thanks to the Ocean which they have now forgiven, for they understand that what nature gives, nature can also take away.
Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, 2014.
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