Monday, May 18, 2009

Twelve Hours And A Heartbeat From Lanka

When I was born no one took me aside and had a quiet word, along the lines of

"Look you're going to be Sri Lankan and British, you'll be half Tamil, half Muslim and you'll spend much of your life confused about identity and much of it feeling as if you're one of few who understand the concept."

If someone had said all this to me they'd have been a bit mental, new born babies don't comprehend this kind of information and are mostly focused on breasts and farting. I'm told people grow out of it.

However, if a friendly midwife, one with very special communicating with baby skills, had given me this information, it might have prepared me a little bit better for dealing with situations like this weekend's one.

The military victory in Lanka has got me, my emotions and my thoughts stretching and pulling from pillar to post in directions and intensities that emotions and thoughts were never intended for.

Maybe if I was 100% Tamil or 100% Sinhalese I'd have a view and an opinion that was much easier to map, instead of this one that wavers between all the points of view and settles somewhere that probably makes me one of those ever so dangerous extreme moderates.

Here I sit, all these miles away in London, so far away that many people believe I don't have the right to an opinion on matters Sri Lankan and serious, and the irony is that I don't know what my opinion is anyway.

One part of me celebrates the victory over the LTTE. It praises the courage of the forces and rejoices in the fact that the terrorist organisation that has had such a big and negative effect on Lanka and her people may well be a thing of the past.

Twenty six years and over seventy thousands lives will never be regained, but I can latch onto a positive side of things and feel a sense of elation and joy that this really could herald a new beginning, one that's full of optimism, that will deal with the cause of the conflict in the first place. I can feel excited at the thought of people, Sinhala and Tamil, being able to live their lives without fear, fear that many have always felt since they were born.

On Saturday night I spoke to a few people in Colombo and they were celebrating in that way that Lankans do so well. There was arrack and baila, the key ingredients, and the festivities were showing little signs of abating. I cooked myself a pretty damn good Sri Lankan chicken curry, sank a few lagers and watched the news on TV feeling weird.

I felt as though I wanted to jump on the first available flight to Serendib and join in and watch things first hand. But, if I'd been able to get a flight, I don't know if I would have headed into the heart of the city or snuck out to the hills and joined Java at Flowerbook to relax and distance myself from things. Reality is that I don't actually know where Flowerbook is and Java probably would have thrown me out anyway, so I think Colombo would have been forced to welcome me in the way it always does.

Is this a war or a battle that's been won? Has it actually been won anyway? I have no doubt that the LTTE has been defeated in the military way, but in what's hardly an inspirational thought, I wonder what's next.

One chap tells me that the issues of the Tamil people, those going back way before '83, will now be addressed and the country will go forward, with the GoSL being fair to everyone. A nice negotiated solution is high on the agenda.

The next fellow tells me that the fight for Tamil Eelam will just go underground again, that the LTTE will regroup in the years to come to resume their fight another day. He tells me that there are tens of thousands of people who'll support and fight for the LTTE in Sri Lanka alone and that they've nothing to lose anyhow.

On Saturday morning I read that hotbed of extreme terrorist views, that blatant LTTE supporting rag, the Times I think it's called. I heard of the possibility of the GoSL being investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Try as I might I just can't get my head around the argument that these things can be justified by the fact that the LTTE have done the same. Call me an arse, and you probably will, but to me that's what terrorists do. It kind of explains why they're fundamentally immoral and illegal. It's just not what governments should do, "should" being the operative word there.

If the final weeks and months of the war had been staged in Colombo or the South I don't believe that many people would have felt the same about the tragic loss of life being the necessary price to pay for victory.

And please understand me correctly here. I don't blame one side or the other. I blame both. No way has this been one sided. The sad fact that everyone agrees with is that there has been a huge loss of life. Few can agree on the numbers involved, few can agree on who's to blame but few think it hasn't happened. It's a hell of a price to pay for a victory that may not even be a victory, for peace that may not be peace.

It's tempting to say that I haven't felt sad and I haven't felt happy, that I haven't made my mind up.

The truth is subtly different, but the subtlety is massive.

The truth is that I've felt deeply sad and ecstatically happy.

The truth is that time will tell.

With apologies for my attempt at a serious post, I know they're not my forte. Normal service will be resumed shortly.


Lee said...

"mostly focused on breasts and farting. I'm told people grow out of it."

hahahahahaha subtlety is certainly your forte RD! ;D

and as for the war, I really don't think that anyone will continue to support an 'underground LTTE' seeing as to what they have done to the people whom they claimed to protect and represent...

anyhoo, good monday to you too RD! awaiting regular programming impatiently! ;)

Anonymous said...

My sincere hope is that after all this suffering this is a moment in history marking real change for the better for all!

Your attempt at a serious post was quite nice, and I'm quite glad you tried!



Sachintha said...

Actually, RD, a well written piece despite you claiming otherwise? Or did you?

Anyway, I agree with almost everything you've said bar one sentence.

"It's a hell of a price to pay for a victory that may not even be a victory, for peace that may not be peace."

Well, the price is high indeed, but what is the price we will be paying in years to come had the LTTE is not defeated? We don't know if this is a victory, if we will get the peace, but now that the LTTE is wiped out, at least we can try, can't we? There will be arseholes in both sides, but they are outnumbered by far better people in both sides. So, now that we are given the opportunity, why shouldn't we try to make the most of it?

Voice in Colombo said...

//Twenty six years and over seventy thousands lives will never be regained\\

We are not partying because of that. We are partying because, we are assured that during next twenty six years, there will not have to sacrifice seventy thousand lives. We are assured; that though our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers got killed due to this war; our sons and daughters will be safe now. Those 70,000 people die; just because of a dream of one barbarian terrorist. Now that he's gone; the future is brighter. We will always remember the 70,000 people. We respect them. But future is more important to us!

//Is this a war or a battle that's been won? Has it actually been won anyway? I have no doubt that the LTTE has been defeated in the military way, but in what's hardly an inspirational thought, I wonder what's next.\\

Typical pesimist you are. Three years ago; you suspected any victory in a war against LTTE. Now you are suspecting "what's next". Rest assured! We will re-build our country. We are inspired, encouraged, and motivated. Each and every cotizen living in this country is now positively motivated to play their role. Just wait and watch what happen next! We will do th impossible!!!

//If the final weeks and months of the war had been staged in Colombo or the South I don't believe that many people would have felt the same about the tragic loss of life being the necessary price to pay for victory\\

You simply don't get the core of this. During final few weeks, many of the lives of our Army men was taken by this cruel war. They sacrificed their lives, to safeguard the Tamil Civilians in those areas. You; sitting in your London couch; watching tiger propeganda on BBC, think that the civilians got killed in the war zone. But the turth is, many mothers lost their sons in Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Matara and Anuradhapura. We attened to their funerals. You know what those mothers were saying? "My son died with a purpose. Unlike many brave soldiers who had to forego their lives in the past; my son died after bringing true peace to this country". You simply don't get the true Sri lankan spirit man! Because, you look at things from a "British pyschy". Who you speak to as "Sri Lankans" in Colombo, are half baked buns; without a tue sense of what's happening. I am 32 years olf, and I lived my entire life inflenced by this war. I wasn't so luck as you to save my ass by escaping to London. My parents were not rich enough to send me to Canada during the peak days of war. I survived my every day life here in Colombo; without being killed by a bus bomb or a sucide bomb. Like me; there are millions of people here who "lived in the line between death and life". My brother in law lost his leg in war. He never regrets! (But surprisingly you do!). You simply can't get a feel about how our pulses work on this day. I'm glad that my little son and daughter can walk into Colomvo busses without the fear of being killed. Your sons and daughter have never had that fear! Because your police ensure anyone who "looked like" a terrorist is shot at head and killed on the spot. But, you shed tears when the brutal terrorists get killed in doezens here. You simply don't get the picture RD! Please....

//And please understand me correctly here. I don't blame one side or the other.\\

You can't! Because you don't know about either sides. You are no better than David Milliband; your foriegn minister.

//new born babies don't comprehend this kind of information and are mostly focused on breasts and farting. I'm told people grow out of it.\\

Hmm.... How old are you now? I guess now it's the time for you.

Anonymous said...

lol... ViC has a point there man, no hard feelings but this war had to be fought, not because we wanted to, but the LTTE wouldn't have it any other way... They killed innocents (read about the Nugegoda blast or the Dehiwala train attack) in places of no military or VIP value, and we just had to put the beast to sleep... That's the price you pay for 30 years of a halfhearted war effort. If we had the guts to finish them off at Vadamaarachchi in 1987, then none of this would've happened.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Lee- thank you for the comment. You may well be right about the lack of support for an underground LTTE. The thing is that none of really know, it's not even a certainty that there'll be a reformed one.

Anon - Thanks, a wise woman told me I should try more of them the other day!

Sach - Thank you, I didn't claim otherwise but you read my mind! I actually agree with you fully. We don't know the price of a different course of action, we don't know what the price would have been had the LTTE not been defeated. I feel happy because I think we should try to make the most of the opportunities that have arisien and will come. I also hope they come for many.

VIC - You make some great points. Then, as is usual in my opinioj, you fuck it all up by telling me that I don't get the picture, am no better than David Milliband, Kermit the Frog or whoever.

You know what? There's always a possibility that people who don't share your opinion actually are looking at the same picture that you are, but seeing something different. If my opinion is so worthless, uninformed and "British Psycy" then why do you bother to attempt to argue with me?

Anon - Agree on the need to put the beast to sleep, but there's more than one way to skin a cat!

ViceUnVersa said...

Good morning RD! Personally I had a quiet celebration. Shed a few tears of joy, swallowed a couple of sobs, coincidentally was in Skanda temple in Highgate Hill in the morning so said prayer for the motherland. Spent a nicer afternoon in Wimbledon but can't help but reflect on all the lives lost.
I hope we may never forget all those who sacrificed their lives in this war. I watched Mahinda Rajapakse as he worshipped the Motherland when he returned from Jordan. What ever his faults, him, his family have sacrificed a lot for the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. All the money in the world does not compensate for living in the security dragnet they live in for the sake of Sri Lanka.
Once the madness of victory has subdued I hope it will become the quiet, reflective and religious celebration it should be.
VIC - As I have always said, at least now you can prove your patriotism to the Motherland by involving yourself in rebuilding the north and east?
You admitted to your cowardice to fight, surely now you can be involved directly in the rebuilding?

Voice in Colombo said...

//If my opinion is so worthless, uninformed and "British Psycy" then why do you bother to attempt to argue with me?\\

We always do care about what David Milliband says about us. In the same interest; I read your blog.

No hard feelings. I'd agreed with you on any other topic you discuss on your blog; but your perception about the conflict in Sri Lanka is plain wrong. In fact; Indi got a better grip of it now a days; though his ego still doesn't let him to accept that he was being wrong all these years. Look at his writings during past few weeks. He is influenced; because he at least live here. Het get the feeling of the noew "breeze" blowing all around the streets in Sri Lanka. I know you would have get the same touch; if you come to Sri lanka and talk to the people here. Cheers!

About your comment on skinning cats....

There is only one and only one method of skinning this cat. And we have skinned it in the right way. Lot of people tried to skin it in different ways, but failed all the time. We've been telling this is the only way that you can skin this cat. Mahinda agreed; and we were proven right!

Voice in Colombo said...

//VIC - As I have always said, at least now you can prove your patriotism to the Motherland by involving yourself in rebuilding the north and east?\\


Please note that I am blogging under a psydonym for a reason, and I don't want to publish what I have done or what I am doing for the motherland on my blog. If I blogged in my real name as Indi does; I would have posted blogs saying "I'm in Padaviya, helping innocent people; I'm in Vauniya" bla bla bla.. But, as I am blogging under a psydonym there's no point of boasting of myself here.

I use my blog to voice out my opinion. What I do in my personal life is completely independent from my blog. I am not feeling guilty as some Kottu bloggers; so I don't have to do propeganda campaigns to show that I am a patriot. Those who know me closely; know who I am and what I did/do during all these years. Once again! I don't want to link my real identity to my VIC blog, by disclosing the things I've done or doing. I will use VIC blog to inspire people to do their part in re-building the country. But, I will not publish anything I do by myself on this blog. If I had a mission of "branding myself", I would have done so. I don't have a brand image problem like some people who boast about their social service activities, on their blog. Hope this make sense to you.

ViceUnVersa said...

Bravo VIC! Your blog, your choice of anonymity, the sometimes senseless rants and raves you make is all part of democracy and FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINION.
As a Sri Lankan I fervently pray that you understand that and will use it for the betterment of Sri Lanka, especially so that people like I may one day be able to return to Sri Lanka again.

Namo Buddhaya, Namo Dhammaya, Namo Sanghaya.

I believe in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha.

I seek refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

May the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha protect me from all evil and bless my country with peace and prosperity.

Anonymous said...

An interesting post RD.

I am 100% Singhalese (if there is such a thing), and yet I share your views on being both happy and sad.

The Tigers had to wiped out. I hope they finally are. But my greater hope is that all the citizens of Sri Lanka have equal rights and an equal say in the running of our country long into the future.

This is the reality that remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

A Tamil family lives for centuries in Jaffna. They own a plantation are considered wealthy and successful. They are not affected by the 83' riots as they lived in the correct place. A small family of two sons, one daughter and the parents. In 1991 their eldest son has to dig trenches for the LTTE on the eve of his A/L examination. He is utterly traumatised about passing a LTTE check point as he goes for tution at the weekend. He is unable to sit for the exam as he passes out due to the sheer exhautionof working for the LTTE in the night, each night every night. Upon this situation the parents make a decision . They will leave to Colombo. They are able to but only by giving their entire property to the LTTE. The house keys and money for each one of then Rs.100,000 each.

They reach Colombo dead of the night and their first visit is to their relative who puts them up in their house. They live there under obligations . Puts up with countless difficulties often the ones that you encounter when they have to live with relatives.
They are both extreamly surprised and intimidated by the wealth of the Thamul community in Colombo. Not only do they own very sucessful businesses but they also live in the most affluent parts of the ocuntry.
The father is depressed and attempts suicide.Rushed to Kalubowila hospital he lives. A broken man for life. The mother is the pillar of streangth and saves the family.

Year by year they only hear bad news from Jaffna. Their counsins recruited to the LTTE, intimated and killed in their own houses in an area controlled by our boys.
The parents only hope is the education of the children. It is fulfilled as two enter University of Colombo and one enter the university of Moratuwa.

War escalates.

LTTE prevents people in the north from voting in a pivotal election.

It is full blown and outright war now.

The family lives in fear for their children at each checkpoint in Colombo.

Yet they stay on .
An eduaction is fully worth than endless nights digging trenches for a cause.

An education is fully worth than a sucessful plantation.

LTTE's rule is over ?

They have suffered first hand and lost everything but themselves.

Yes, they will light a lamp tonight for those who lost everything including their lives.

They have simply outlived and survived a ruler that prevented an entire generation from gaining access to the freedom of education.

They WILL light a lamp tonight !!!

How To Develop Faith said...

I pray for peace. We are afforded blessings here in the U.S. that many people in the world don't realize. I hope that this situation begins to move toward some type of agreement.

Liberal Lanka said...

//If the final weeks and months of the war had been staged in Colombo or the South I don't believe that many people would have felt the same about the tragic loss of life being the necessary price to pay for victory.

This is sad but correct, well said.

Kalusudda said...

I am 100% of nothing but I do feel happy for SL and its people. I hope everyone will have a better tomorrow!

Kalusudda said...

Spoke too early, got invited to a party and congradulated the Man himself! :) You never know who your parents know! I guess I am partial. But I assure you, there are Tamil people at the party too!

Sudath said...

We have waited 25 years for this to end !!!!

Now it has ended.

People who are not ecstatically happy are the ones who had the luxury of living out of the country during its darkest period.

Dude, How would you feel if LTTE set up a bomb in the bus/car that takes A and K to school ? They targeted CIVILIANS everyday for the last 25 years !!!!!!!!!!!

Light 1 million lamps if you wish but you lot were no better either. For Tamils who lived in Colombo and studies at unis in Sri Lanka where is your voice ? Let the world know that you get priority entrance to free education !!!!!!!!! The key word PRIORITY.

RD, the very least you and yours can do is not to rain on our parade now !!!

Thank you :)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Just to clarify - I feel optimistic and hopeful, yet with some sadness and a "let's see" attitude. I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but I'm also not going to take the Emperor's new clothes approach.

If I had witnessed first hand and sufferred like many people did, on both sides, then perhaps I would feel different.

Anonymous said...

@Liberal Lanka

Oi, lets not forget that the south paid their pound of flesh in not one but two blood baths, thanks to the JVP. There were lives lost dude and about to the tune of 30,000-40,000 youth in both early 70s and 90s. The reason why everyone had forgotten about that loss is cause the Sinhala diaspora sucks.
They have absolutely no idea how how they can milk the international community on their grief and loss.
Such a bunch of ametures.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. very intense. But one flaw I see in this comments section is the mismatch of ideas.

It's like trying to mix oil with water. I assume you can never do that. A cat will not understand the issues of an elephant. But maybe the cat can try to be understanding and listen to what the cat has to say. The cat doesn't have to right cuz two cats can have two completely different ideologies. One right and one wrong but who's right and who's wrong? Who's judging? the elephant?

The important fact is to be compassionate towards people who might be living a different lifestyle not because they want to but cuz life around them makes them.

A Virile Nagalingam said...

Vic doesn't sound like he's willing to live in a country where people are free to voice opinions based on premises far different from his own (say, perhaps, that the IDPs cannot be forgotten when remembering the suffering of soldiers who VOLUNTEERED to be in the conflict zone).

What is the likelihood that Vic's view, an anathema to the classic liberal compromise of living with people you find disagreeable, is the majority in SL?

Will that encourage people to move back and put the bandaid on the ouchie? perhaps just fund the placement of the bandaid?

RD, I say this out of concern because it seems that growing up in the US, especially growing up dirt poor (like my family did in Kandy and Jaffna), doesn't prepare one for constructive dialog with black/white crowd; it prepares you for failure. the only way you convince a majoritarian of the virtues of a minority view, is to convince them that the majority is now the minority. Sinhale ego can't accommodate this--it doesn't matter that you are mixed (as are many pairings in my generation of the family) or that you show adequate concern for all. A mutt (and i mean that in the most respectful way ) and a pundee Tamil are not allowed to talk, only to wait plaintively for the grudging toss of a filthy decomposing scraps from the heroic Mahinda Chinthanaya table.

it was an excellent post but, i fear, all just fluid prose in vain.