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.

A wonderful sunrise in Sri Lanka that I took from Galle to Whale Watching

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)

Pic Credit: www.divyabhaskar.co.in

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.

“India?”

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.

“நீ காலேவா?”

“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)

The Indian Hut Restaurant where that boy was working

“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.


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Sylvian

Posted by Sylvian

Marketing Analyst by profession, a quizzer by passion, a blogger by choice, a poet by chance, a non-conformist by gene and a rebel by birth

12 Comments

  1. Interesting… people n perspectives!!! been wanting to visit SL for long, wonder when it will happen
    My recent post By the water cooler Sly me!

    Reply

    1. Thanks Aarti for the comment. SL can be the cheapest trip you can take from Chennai but you will never get chance to visit the northern part. I am waiting to visit the northern part.

      Reply

  2. Ilamparithi October 31 at 7:27 am

    A nice reflection! One can only hope that the Sinhala people turn tolerant towards tamils and the cultural diversity of both are preserved for future generations… Whatever it is for.. War always paints a bad picture in history…

    Reply

    1. Yes.. Thats what I hope too but how it is going to turn in the future. Read a wonderful article in Time Magazine about the economic development that's happening in the region which will transform the country. I believe that economic based development will save the culture too. Thats what saved India (after independence), US ( after war of independence), Vietnam ( After war).. In numerous examples

      Reply

  3. What has happened is very sad. Wouldn't like to talk too much of politics but the double standards that our leaders are showing towards the affected SL Tamils is terrible, even using their situation for their own political gains.

    Of course, we cannot change the opportunistic/apathetic attitudes of our national and international leaders (in this case, the UN is still hesitating to start a full-fledged probe of war crimes in SL). Nor can we hope to see any quick changes in the views of discriminative people, since these ideas are usually conditioned deep within. Most people stick to their biases until they are challenged by a life-changing situation.

    But this generation of young adults can definitely make a start by taking a pledge to teach their children to look beyond differences of identity, and adopting universalist attitudes. (over mokkaiya karuthu solli irundha sorry :p)

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the comment. it's not mokkai. Your thoughts are more realistic and practical. The Indian govt. will not go against the SL govt. as there are chances of SL govt. leaning towards China which is not favourable to the security of India. Of course there are personal gains for all those tamil saviours from India. The only feeble light in the darkness is the attitude of those young people. Hope peace comes to that beautiful nation.

      Reply

      1. "The Indian govt. will not go against the SL govt. as there are chances of SL govt. leaning towards China which is not favourable to the security of India"
        hehe nalla joke… Does our govt really believe SL will not lean towards China if India acts favourably??? Edhiriyoda nanban nanban nu soldra madhiri iruku! :)… Oru inathaye azhikka plan pota naatukku namma kitta double game aadradha periya vishayam? I'm quite convinced SL is doing exactly that…
        if that's what the govt thinks I will say it is naive, but I doubt it!

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  4. 80% of my colleagues were Sri Lankans including my boss. They were very sweet and helpful. But when we talk about Prabakaran or LTTE, their face turn red and they don't even consider them as humans. Now the war is over and we hope the economic and cultural development happens there. Of course ,all developments will happen but all that won't improve the living conditions of Tamil civilians in Northern part of Sri Lanka.

    Reply

  5. Sooper postu….loved your way of presenting the conversation….btw…read somewhere that sinhalese are originally from indian stock also- kerala….so that means this is a fight between chola-chera…still continuing

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    1. The ethnic history is so confusing Ganesh. It’s more painful to see two groups fighting at each other and one group had to fight for their lives. It was a poignant moment when I met that boy.

      Reply

  6. Listening to Sri lankans speak Tamil is wonderful. I had many friends from Sri Lanka. It is quite sad when one hears about SL. It has been quite some time since this post was written and so many things have happened. Even I want to visit SL. Let’s see perhaps sometime soon.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    Reply

    1. I too have a lot of friends Susan. Horrible to hear and see what happened there. When we went they didn’t allow us to go to the northern part, it was just after the war. I want to travel again too..

      Reply

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