Tagged – eep!

03Jun09

Uh oh! I have to describe five words on how I feel about the end of the war!

Considering that I spent most of the weeks preceding the war’s end imitating an ostrich with its head firmly shoved into the sand, I really don’t know what I am supposed to feel.

Of course I am relieved the war is over but other than that, I am rather less informed than 98% of the citizenry of this country as to what actually happened in the war zone. Working in the media, I quite deliberately went out of my way to avoid all media reports on anything disturbing, especially the situation of the IDPs.

I am like that, I just can’t stomach too much negativity. I deleted all e-mail forwards, youtube links etc that purportedly showed IDPs suffering. Just accidentally coming across one of Whackster’s posts detailing one such incident made me feel ill.

I deliberately blocked my thoughts to all aspects of the war and the human suffering it caused and went my own way, living my own life without for the most part, allowing any part of the war to touch me.

I am a rather strange (or really not so strange) breed, a tamil who grew up away from her country and for the most part was out of touch with the country’s situation or ground reality. That does not in any way make me any less a Sri Lankan, I fiercely love the motherland and am excessively proud to be a Sri Lankan, perhaps the more so because I grew up away from here as a ‘foreigner’ in a foreign land.

To be able to come back and live in my own country amongst my own countrymen has been a long cherished dream. Though I came down only after the 2002 ceasefire, I still live that cherished dream and refused to budge when my frantic parents tried to get me out of the country after war erupted again in 2006. No way was I ever going to be a second class citizen in another country ever again.

I loved being in Sri Lanka, loved being amongst my people, be they Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Christian and the feeling of blending in that I never could get in the country I grew up in.

I don’t want to sound blonde but it has always been unfathomable to me why so many people would leave the paradise they were born in for foreign shores. Sri Lanka even at the height of war was still a far better country to live in in my humble opinion than as some belittled refugee or asylum seeker in some other country.

I understand that those actually caught in war zones might have wanted to leave but I know several such people who did leave for such reasons, then pine to return home even before the war was over. Ultimately, there is ‘No place like home’.

Except for one freak incident in my childhood while visiting Jaffna on holiday, I also haven’t had the misfortune to experience any aspect of the war and so it is not my prerogative to judge others. As I said, while my family and the rest of the community were highly concerned about the IDPs and what was happening to them, I blocked myself completely from reading or viewing anything on the situation. I couldn’t for the life of me see what I could do about it so I didn’t want to know about it either. That leaves me very little informed to comment about anything on.

I am extremely relieved that the war is over and the predominant sensation is hope – hope for a united, dignified and prosperous Sri Lanka. Many in my community are skeptical of such hope. They fear that Tamils will always be second class citizens in Sri Lanka.

In the six years I have lived here now, I can’t say I have come across a single instance of bias towards myself as a tamil. But then, neither does that mean it doesn’t exist – all I can maintain is that it doesn’t exist at the predominant level that the rest of my community fears.

It wasn’t until I read up on the ehtnic conflict and its causes and read especially of the ’83 riots and what happened then that I understood my parents frantic worry in trying to convince my sister and I to go abroad and my community’s sense of animosity.

Till then, having returned from another country where I never fit in due to my culture, language and citizenry, I was simply reveling in the feeling of being ‘home’ at last and could not understand why so many tamils would go through so many humiliating procedures to get foreign visas and then endure even more humilations in whichever country they went to.

An incident comes to mind. As soon as the ceasefire was declared in 2002, I pressured my family to allow me to come back to Sri Lanka on my own. They arranged for me to be escorted by an elderly Tamil gentleman who was coming down on some work related issue. At the airport he asked me why I was so eager to return to Sri Lanka when most young people were desperate to get out of it.

“I just can’t understand why they would want to go to a new country where the culture would be so alien to theirs. I grew up here, knowing that this was not my country, that I was an ‘outsider’, that I was from an alien culture and that always hurt. I just want to be in my own land and want to fit in”, I replied.

Having also been discriminated against as an alien, I was thoroughly fed up and my hunger to return to Sri Lanka knew no bounds. So, since I hadn’t appeared to convince him of the wisdom of my action, I added “I just want to be in a place where I know I belong, where I will not be treated as a 2nd class citizen.”

To which he patiently replied, “I am still living here even though I ought to have retired and gone back long ago because I prefer to be treated as a 2nd class citizen in a foreign country rather than a 2nd class citizen in my own country, which is how Tamils there are treated. You will learn this bitter truth the hard way like I did, soon enough”.

Well thus far, personally speaking, I have not yet learned any such bitter truth. Whether it is naive of me to think so I do not know, but despite all the ugliness this country has witnessed post insdependence of a racial nature, all I can do is hope for a better future. I sincerely believe that Sri Lanka can have such a future and what’s more that It like the war’s end will come to pass much sooner that most people anticipate.

With regard to the five words – I won’t talk about sadness or despair or the other negative words that most of the other bloggers used. Since I deliberately kept myself from feeling anything, I shouldn’t be hypocritic now and admit to any such emotion.

So it will have to be

Guilt
Relief
Hope
Hope
And more Hope

Everyone else seems to be tagged already so I won’t tag anyone either. Thanks for bringing me out of retirement Chavie – Hope it was worth the effort 🙂

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2 Responses to “Tagged – eep!”

  1. 1 Chavie

    lol, well worth the effort Tulie! 🙂 written beautifully, as always! i cannot even try to fathom what that elderly man must’ve felt when he said “I prefer to be treated as a 2nd class citizen in a foreign country rather than a 2nd class citizen in my own country”… that’s something that I hope no one has to go through, something every Sri Lankan needs to work towards eliminating… hope you keep on posting on a regular basis Tules! 🙂

  2. The thread is for 5 words man… not 2000 words… 😛
    Kidding! Good read! I think the old man’s sentiments speaks volumes about how things were… Let’s hope we can crub that from happening a second time! Although with some Tamils still fostering bitter feelings and the Buddhist Monks protesting recently.. You can be sure it’s not going to be easy…

    A ray of sunshine, arent I? 😛


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