words & images rosie garthwaite
Doha Airport Departures, 2300 hours, a long line of men queue for the flight to Colombo. They are full of pride and smiles, wearing perfect haircuts and shirts straight from their plastic packets. They have small bags and huge 32-inch 3D television screens on their trolleys. One or two of them are filming everything they see to show to their families back home until they are asked to stop by stewardesses with their tummies on show; Air Sri Lanka uniforms. Most of these men get to go home once every two years. Once on the plane there are women doing up seat belts over black abayas, the locally accepted form of clothing they have taken to wearing after such a long time working in the Gulf region. They are quietly crying: they have not seen their children in four years, they are scared of their reaction; their rejection.
Colombo Airport Arrivals, 0530, the same people walk tentatively outside into the waiting crowd. They look for a face they recognize. Very few pay attention to the odd tourist passing through. Fathers are meeting babies and children even for the first time. They hold their faces in their hands, "I am your baba".