Along with the dawn of a new year, with the spirit of good luck and well wishes, several women around Sri Lanka step out each day around 6 a.m. to vend pieces of paper that help spread joy and good fortune among others.
Confined to four short walls, women and men are known to make a living by selling lottery tickets within the hustle and bustle of the city. Salesmen and women around the island are not only spreading excitement and good wishes but are also allowing people to purchase tickets at only Rs. 20, which could easily transform into Rs. 50 million. Each saleswoman and man is seen selling a ticket worth Rs. 20, some in shops of their own and at other times working for another main vendor, being paid only a small share of every ticket sold.
Box stalls, installed in large numbers around Sri Lanka, are their workshops in which they choose to sell lottery tickets all day. Even though there are many stalls seen when driving around Colombo, it is very hard to spot a stall which isn’t worn down or weather-beaten. And it is also very apparent that, around Colombo, there are more stalls that are manned by women than men. Speaking to The Sunday Morning Brunch are four different saleswomen who helped us acquire a better understanding of how their lives were built around their line of work over the years.
“I have three kids of my own. The Rs. 700-1,000 I get per day helps me and my family eat the following day.”
Pushpa wakes up every day at 5.30 a.m. to arrive at her lottery stand on time to start earning what will enable her to feed her family the following day. With tired eyes and a huge smile she kindly describes to us how her line of work is distinctively helpful to independent women all around Sri Lanka.
“We are now able to earn our own living by selling ‘sweep tickets’ to communities around us. People enter my store with hope each day and I’m happy to be able to be there to help them receive it.”
“Because of the Board of Sanwardhana Lotharaiya, I am not helpless on the streets,” Pushpa expressed, stating that the Development Lotteries Board of Sri Lanka has helped enrich her life along with the lives of her family by giving her an amazing opportunity to be able to earn on her on.
Pushpa, who lives in Attidiya, spends Rs. 12 on the bus fare to arrive at her stall every day. Along with the added expenses of eating and using the facilities of a nearby shop, she explains that it is not easy carrying out the work they do each day. As such is not an owner of her very own shop, Pushpa sells the tickets that are brought to her by an agent of a lottery agency situated near the Bentota junction. As the delivery of brand new tickets reaches her every night, her repetitive routine begins again the next day; selling to people the opportunities of success and triumph.
Pushpa, who acts as the breadwinner of her family, holds great respect and love for the job she has been hired to do and is seen doing it with a great effort against all obstacles and difficulties that come her way.
“I am 64 years old and I’ve been working here at this stall since the late ’90s in order to make sure I earn my salary which will allow me to take groceries home to my family,” says Ranjani, who has four extremely small wooden compartments covering the four sides to her stall while she fits her body into a very tight corner of the now worn down stand.
Ranjani sits in what she calls “Ranjani Stores” in the hope that a new customer will arrive to greet her. Opening the store at 6.30 a.m. and closing at 6.15 p.m., Ranjani tells us how she works 11 hours a day, every day, with her family of six in mind, so that they, dependant on her small stall to pay the bills, were not disappointed in the end.
“I have come a long way. So has my family. This helps pay for most of my family’s important expenses. And I’m happy knowing I helped them get there,” says Ranjani with a heartfelt laugh, then suddenly looked embarrassed and turned away.
Ranjani too admitted to using a nearby shop’s facilities and sometimes for food, claiming that it’s the easiest way to close their shop for a period of only 10-15 minutes, to go have a quick meal and return. Ranjani gave us more information regarding her stall telling us that the income she receives every day is close to Rs. 600-700, which is taken back home after purchasing new tickets from her agent that same night for the following day.
When questioned as to whether it was difficult in her line of work, sitting at the same place for the entire day, Ranjani smiled and replied: “Everything people do these days is tiring to earn a living. This is my job. And I am grateful to be doing it.”
“I am living alone away from my family in Gampaha in order to pursue this job. I now live at a boarding place nearby which costs me Rs. 8,500 per month which is also deducted from my earnings here,” says Premasili.
Close to Horana Road, you will find a stall rather large in comparison to the others, situated neatly next to a three-wheel stand which gets very busy in the evenings. Premasili engages with four customers as she speaks with us and tells us about her lovely family of seven who live away in Gampaha.
With a melancholy smile she tells us how earning at the stall for her family has now become a priority, thus separating her from her family. Premasili, who is 54 years old, states that she is not the owner of the stall and that it belongs to another seller who pays her only Rs. 2 per ticket sold.
Even though Premasili is seen to be earning much less than every other saleswoman we’ve encountered, her stall seemed to be attracting more customers than other stores within its vicinity. This theory was proven when she told us that she earns a total sum of Rs. 1,800 per day, from which she will get her share of only Rs. 2 per ticket sold.
“I eat from home in the mornings and sometimes am not able to eat anything during the day because of the busy crowds,” said Premasili answering our question of whether she faces any difficulties at work. Premasili also mentioned that due to transportation, food, rent, etc., on some days she spends more than she earns and that affects her greatly because she is then unable to send money back home to her family and this entire endeavour becomes pointless to her. Premasili, whose face looked drained in the scorching heat, turned to us before we went, placed a ticket in our hands, and said: “May good fortune find you on your way.”
“I am married and this job helps me earn extra cash to save and to support us,” says Priyanka. Priyanka is one of the more fortunate lottery saleswomen in Sri Lanka who are able to do a job and earn extra money to save and support their husbands.
Priyanka called this “a side job” she does between 5.30 a.m. and 2 p.m. under an agent named Mr. Ismail. Priyanka then mentions that her outlet is one of three outlets that her seller owns, and that the other two are run by Kamalawathi and Nanda.
Selling the tickets at the same price of Rs. 20, her shop can be found right next to Premasili’s shop in the corner of the three-wheeler stand near the Horana Road.
Priyanka admitted to selling 300-600 tickets a day even if she remains in her shop only until 2 p.m., unlike the rest of the saleswomen who remain in their shops all day. Priyanka mentioned that the field of work she’s in helps women, independent or dependent, single or married, earn a reasonable sum of money for themselves in the comfort of their stalls.