iSurprise Fathima Hanim Siyoothy

French and English teacher and constant learner

I am very attached to the Fort; we are a very closely-knit community. We don’t think of religion, race or creed.
— Fathima Hanim Siyoothy

Rampart life

Each morning we would be collected by a private school bus which cost 3 cents a journey. We shared the bus with the boys until we attained age and after that travelled by bullock cart. As soon as we came home in the afternoon, we used to run out of our back door onto the ramparts. There we would happily play games such as hopscotch and rounders. Sometimes we organised sports meets. Later I became an avid reader – my favourite authors were Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie. We used to exchange our books for 10 cents at Dr Reuben’s ‘Read and Return’ shop on Pedlar Street.

Never stop learning

I taught for 38 years, first in a government school and then at Sacred Heart Convent in Galle. These days I give tuition classes at home. Initially I was an English teacher but at 38 I learnt French and am now fluent. At 52 I gained my degree! I’ve never thought about why I continue studying – I just like to learn. I even learnt to swim at the age of 54. After the tsunami an English lady started a group for female teachers and doctors which I joined. Some mornings, when I spot others bathing, I go in opposite the Lighthouse.

Close community

Every Thursday I go to a ladies-get-together and prayer group on Lighthouse Street. We take it in turns to prepare a dish which we enjoy afterwards with some coffee. Pastries, buns, biriyani and a macaroni dish are some of the favourites. On the First Tuesday of every month, twelve of us meet at the Muslim Cultural Association. Our classic refreshment is faluda, a sweet drink. I am very attached to the Fort; it’s home sweet home.

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