Monday, October 20, 2008

Mr. Ajith, Fellow Overseas Worker

by Arjaye Llamas Peria
Saudi Arabia
This article was originally published in Color and Visions (Volume I / Issue 1), official corporate publication/newsletter of Astra Polymers ( as a feature article from one of its (former) employees, Mr. Rjaye Llamas Peria. Mr. Allan V. Adan, Editor-In-Chief of Color and Visions, has given Barangay OFW his kind permission to re-publish this article. You may reach Mr. Adan at or
It was not a typical Saturday morning. Something had changed in him. He smiled at me though I sensed the freshness of his face had succumbed to the dark shadow that he tried to conceal. I knew by intuition that Mr. Ajith was hiding something from me on that day.

I knew there was something wrong. But I was not accustomed to asking him questions that might give me an embarrassing retort. Besides, I knew Mr. Ajith pretty well and therefore, asking a question if he was all right or not would be nonsensical. It was logical to hold that action speaks louder than words.

I lowered my eyes and nailed my attention to his right hand. He was holding a piece of paper. When he noticed that I was staring at it, he slowly handed the paper over to me. I glanced back at him after going through it. I was totally astounded.

The truth was, we had had many instances of short conversations whenever he came to clean my office. He told me that he came from a poor family of four siblings. He was second to the eldest. He dreamt of working abroad not for himself, but for his parents and his own family. He wanted to help them in their daily survival, and hopefully, to help them enjoy an average way of life. A way of life that was conventional in his country.

His first experience of being away from home was in 1999. It was an ill-fated experience. He was a roomboy in a lodging house in Kuwait. After four months, an untoward incident occurred that forced him to leave Kuwait and fly back to Sri Lanka. Once again, he embraced the difficulties of life which he had hoped to change.

It was in the early part of the year 2000 when another opportunity crossed his path. This was his chance to work in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Ajith was determined to pursue his dream for the sake of his extended family. Without a second thought, he gave himself another try. He left Sri Lanka hoping to seize one of the stars in order to illuminate if not the whole portion of his life, at least a part of it.

“Do you wish to see your father for the last time?” I asked.

While saying this, I looked back at the piece of paper he gave me. It was a short fax message in Sinhala; “Tata mala en ne gadara.” (Your father died come home).”

He shook his head. His face was unfathomable. After a while, he murmured in broken Arabic, English and Sinhala, “Ana mafi go, me send money to them. They need money. Me mother old.”

Then he whispered with a trembling voice, “Egollanta mudal awassai bumithanam viyathamata.” (They need money for the burial).

As a Filipino, I was stunned. I’d fly home whatever it took if I were in Mr. Ajith’s place. I didn’t know what to say. Silence, so silent it hurt, reigned between us.

Was it about the expenses of flying back to Sri Lanka that made him insensitive and unsympathetic? I was cynical whether to admire or accuse him. Softly, he shuffled out of my office. His steps were slow and heavy as if he were dragging himself. It was then I realized the gravity of his loss and the grief he was dealing with.

It was a short encounter between Mr. Ajith and me on a Saturday morning. It was not a typical Saturday morning. Something had changed in him, and in me. It left me with a heartbreaking thought – to love is not solely to give oneself but to learn to endure each pain in order to fulfill a more noble cause.

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