EARLY IN DECEMBER LAST YEAR, Kadiramalai Loganathan’s father succumbed to a long illness. The funeral exacted a heavy price, and to recoup it the fisherman had little choice but to quickly return to sea. On the night of 16 December, barely a week after his loss, Loganathan set out, with one other fisherman, from Karainagar, a small island off the Jaffna peninsula in north Sri Lanka, in his small fibre-glass boat with a modest engine.
Just a few kilometres out, as he waited after casting his net, Loganathan spotted a big, mechanised boat—a trawler. “Before I knew it, the boat started pulling away my net,” he told me. He chased after the trawler as fast as he could to try and save the net, his biggest investment. He had borrowed 2 lakh Sri Lankan rupees to buy it—about 90,000 Indian rupees or $1,350—and had hardly started repaying the loan. But his boat was no match for the larger vessel.
“I shined the lights up to signal them to stop,” Loganathan said. The men on the trawler shouted back in Tamil, “Annachi”—elder brother—“don’t show any lights. The navy will get us.” Loganathan recognised their Tamil dialect, different from the one spoken in north Sri Lanka, from his days as a refugee in Tamil Nadu, in India, during the Sri Lankan Civil War.