A long standing post. It just got it’s due. Earlier this year I got a chance to visit the pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka. A country ravaged by ethnic clashes and war over the years is just making its come back in to main stream tourism and we took a chance to go there because of less visa restrictions for Indians and cheap airfares from Chennai
My memories of Sri Lanka starts with the journey of Vandhiya Devan, the lead protagonist of Ponniyin Selvan, an epic from Kalki. Vandhiya Devan travels to the island in order to meet Arul Mozhi Varman ( Raja Raja Chozhan) who is fighting a war against the Sri Lankan king. With the vivid descriptions of the beatiful terrains and the sea, Kalki takes you along for a fantastic journey. You should read it to understand it.
While I grew up, I started learning about the Ethnic clashes which was happening in the country for so long. In fact, Raja Raja’s capture of Lanka was one of the main reasons of Tamil settlements in the country. Without knowing the complete history, we in school used to talk in length about the war and heroics of LTTE. It all changed with that horrific incident that happened on May 28th, 1991.
Rajiv Gandhi may have made a mistake in sending IPKF to Sri Lanka. In fact some of his economic policies hampered India but he was admired by a huge population. As a child, I loved, admired, adored and aduled Rajiv Gandhi. When the killing happened,it left with me a great scar against the LTTE. Yes, there are innumerable arguments, conspiracies surrounding the hand of LTTE in his killing. I go with the official investigations. ( Read Rajiv Gandhi Kolai Vazhakku by Ragothaman)
With a heavy heart, which felt for those brothers and sisters who were devastated by the war and a confused mind, I landed up in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka stands to its name, the pearl of the Indian ocean. Expansive beaches, wonderful mountain terrains, odd waterfalls are nature’s poetry. I dont think we would have been able to visit the northern part as even human right activists are not allowed there.
We spent a day in Galle and we thought we will have Indian food in a small Indian Restaurant called “Indian Hut” near the Galle Lighthouse. We actually thought of taking a parcel instead of eating and I left my friends in the car to click some pictures with my camera. There was a boy who worked as a waiter there. He started chatting up with me.
I said “Yes”
He tried to talk in broken English and Hindi “Where?”
I said ” Chennai, Tamil Nadu”
He replied with a bright smile “தமிழா நீங்கள்? நானும் தமிழ் அண்ணா” (Are you Tamil? Me too) in Sri Lankan Tamil Slang. The Tamil slang of Sri Lankan Tamils are the purest form of Tamil and the sweetest to listen.
“அல்ல அண்ணா.நாங்கள் அனுராதபுரா அருகில் ஒரு கிராமம். அப்பா இல்லை அம்மா எசடடீல் வேலை செய்கிறார்கள்.தம்பி தங்கைகளுக்காக நான் இங்கே வேலை செய்கிறேன்” ( No brother. We are from Anuradhapura. I have no father and my mother works in a estate. I work here to take care of my brothers and sisters)
“சண்டை நின்னு போனதுல உனக்கு சந்தோஷமா?” (Are you happy with the end of the war?)
“யுத்தம் நின்னு போனதில சின்ன மகிழ்ச்சிதான் அண்ணா. ஆனாலும் தமிழ் மக்கள் அனைவரும் அமைதியா இருக்க இயலுமா தெரிய அல்ல. எனக்கும் இங்கே சிங்கள நண்பர்கள் உண்டு, ஆனா இந்த நாடு முழுவதும் அப்படி இருக்குமா சொல்ல தெரிய அல்ல”
( There is a little bit of happiness at the end of the war. But you can’t say whether all Tamil people will be happy. I also have a few friends in Galle but I dunno how it will be in other parts of the country)
“வட நாடு அழகா இருக்குமா?” ( Is the northern part beautiful?)
“அண்ணா ரொம்ப வடிவா இருக்கும். மட்டக்களப்புக்கு போய் பாருங்க ஆனா யுத்தத்தால யாரும் போக இயல அல்ல” ( It was be so beautiful. You should go and see Matta Kalappu. Because of war, it’s all devastated)
I have heard that the pongal celebrations in the northern part is not to be missed. The Tamil communities celebrate it with authenticity.
“ஆனா இனிமே எப்படி மாறி போகும்னு தெரிய அல்ல.தெரியுமா உங்களுக்கு,கண்டில ஹிந்து கோயில்கள் இல்லாமையே போய்ட்டது” (I dunno how it will change in the future. Do you know,there are no traces of Hindu Temples in Kandy?)
I had read about this in a few blogs. The biggest fear I have from the end of the war is the loss of cultural heritages. As recently as last week, they have found a new artefact of Chozha’s age. When I was watching this 19 Yr old guy, I saw him as the example of the losses made by thousands young people around the country in terms of education, economic development and happiness.
I strongly believe that violence is not the solution for any problem. The world has seen so many failures of violent fights for independence ending in failures (even successes). Is ahimsa a valid alternative? What about Tibet then? It even has a leader who is as charismatic as Gandhi. So is a solution possible to these conflicts?
“அண்ணா இலங்கை உங்களுக்கு பிடிச்சிருக்கா?” ( Brother, do you like Sri Lanka)
I was hesitating to answer because of the confusion my mind was in and we had a very bad experience with the Sinhala driver.
“இடங்கள் நல்லா இருக்கு..” (The places are nice)
He replied with a wry smile, “மக்கள் தான் நல்லா இல்ல, இல்லையா” (The people are not nice,right)
I just nodded my head in approval. What a profound thought. These ethnic clashes, racial attacks and fights are because of the basic corrupted mindset of human beings. We are the people who discriminate a particular human being because he is from a particular ethnicity, country, religion or caste. As long as we don’t change as an individual, nobody will. Till then Kashmir will burn, Lanka will bleed, Tibet will continue to lose identity and Gaza will be playground of bombs.
“உன் பெயர் என்ன?” (What’s your name?)
“Rijan அண்ணா” ( Rijan, Brother)
“அப்படினா என்ன அர்த்தம்,பொருள்?” ( What does it mean?)
“சொர்க்கத்தில் இருந்து வந்த கல் “ ( Stone from Heaven)
He was then called by the hotel manager. I smiled and left to the car wishing that his country becomes a heaven to prove his namesake. That young boy named Rijan taught me the pain of hatred and power of love.