KUDAGAMA, Sri Lanka (AP) – The Telugu community in Sri Lanka, whose nomadic lifestyle is increasingly colliding with the modern world, faces another threat that could accelerate its decline: the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the smallest ethnic community in the country who speak the Telugu language of South Indian descent did not have permanent addresses until 1981, when the government built villages from which they traveled to earn money by staging snake and monkey performances and offering palm reading.
Such shows attract foreign tourists, who take photos with pythons and cobras.
“Now we cannot do our work. Police and health inspectors have told us not to leave the village, “said Engatennage Podi Mahattaya, the village chief.
“Even when we get out, people are no longer attracted to us as they used to be,” he said. “They are afraid of contracting our disease. Our movements are completely stopped because people do not allow us to enter their villages. ‘
Today, the younger generation rejects the old ways. Many young men prefer manual labor over snake charmers, which typically make a person 3,000 rupees or about $ 16 a day.
The older members of the community say that the break in traditional livelihoods due to COVID-19 will only accelerate their decline.
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