I left Italy when I was sixteen. It was just after the war. There was nothing to eat. Everything was damaged, broken. Our ship stopped in Ceylon. A place call Gorl. There was this fellow loading pineapples onto the ship. It was the first time I saw one. I asked him what it was. He gave me some to it. It was the most wonderful thing I ever tasted. Like heaven. During the war we never had enough to eat.
He is somewhere into a very fit vigorous seventies. The ring of rural Italy still in his deep gruff gravelly voice. Yet more than half a century later, this is the memory that leaps from him when I say I am from Sri Lanka. I hear the joy in his voice as he relives his first taste of pineapple. After a childhood of poverty and war. The first taste of hope on the way to a new land. A new life.
He has done well in that new land. The lucky country he calls it. It allowed him a home with the luxuries of plumbing, running water and electricity. A place to raise kids. Now grand kids. He built a business. Not an empire. Yet enough to afford wines beyond his parents dreams. Dine out in nice places now and then. Travel the world in comfort. He still relishes his work. Precision is a passion. The toil of work has its own satisfaction.
It was a passing conversation from years ago. But it comes back to me. Each time with added layers of detail. The dark hulled ship looming in Galle harbour. The sea flat in the burning afternoon. Pineapples hefted aboard from outriggers boats.
The things we remember at the far corners of a life time. The things the voices make me write about. Which is odd I don’t know. You tell me. Ciao.