Editor’s note: The following poem is a reaction of Tamil diaspora, upon being able to view their home villages on Google Street View, for the first time in years. Pictures provided by author. Find her on Twitter  here.

A glimpse of the streets we would have called home,
I’m laughing in the park, climbing the coconut trees,
Cycling through the dusty lanes, playing at the local spots.
It’s a strange relationship: Caught in opposition of the surveillance state,
And, gratitude, for finally seeing the corners we’ve never seen.

No war, no displacement: what would our lives have been?
How would the fight for our liberation have compared
with the struggle against white supremacy?
What would have replaced the anxiety of oppression?
The effects on the psyche – to be accepted,
Not longing for belonging, nor grappling for identity:
We look the same.
We talk the same.
We eat the same.
We breathe the same.

But when one battle is removed, another is present.
Would we be strapping ourselves to the frontline
Trying to tear down class and caste boundaries?
How would we destroy these indoctrinations?
Would the effects of colonisation flow more deeply
through the veins of our community and be more evident there?
Is there a similarity between being
a black woman, in Clinton’s America; and
a Tamil woman, in Bandaranaike’s Sri Lanka?
They stood on the backs of the most marginalized,
To stretch out, reach out, and crack the glass ceiling.

We’re dreaming.
Walking these streets, imagining our lives,
Children of refugees longing for the homeland,
Children of immigrants straddling the borders, confused.
‘The grass is always greener,’ they say,
and certainly if we lived there, we’d long for the opportunities here.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge
what could have been.
What might have been.
What we know, deep down, is missing here.

A town we’ve never seen,
Streets we’ve only heard rumours of existing,
Years wandering what it must be like. And now we know.
It’s dirty, it’s cultural, it’s desolate.
It’s warm, it’s underdeveloped, it’s beautiful,
and it has a rich history… our history.
It’s the life that might have been; it’s a home I don’t know at all,
A town so far away,
And yet… a strange familiarity lingers.

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  • Dilantha Gunawardana

    I love this poem – a very nice account of rekindling what was lost. I too was inspired to write a poem on this topic. My take (poem) on this can be seen here (I love writing about Jaffna too)


  • Sanchay

    I have visited my hometown Jaffna in 2011, after 21 years exile and after the end of the war. I found the life in Jaffna was in full surge. Everywhere new restaurents and hotels, ople were trying to make a new and free life. Most places I found was rather congested with new buildings. I had trouble to find the small house where I grew up, and after remembering few landmarks I found the place, where the house was used to be. The house in which we lived doesnot exist anymore, the only building existing was the toilet with the pit belonging to it. there was a new well and a security post to give security to the NGO office in the rear plot. But as I saw that the mango tree, which stood behind the house was not anymore there I started sobbing. It was the significant symbole of my childhood: I came home from the school and climbed on it to eat mangoes or to sit on top and read any books or angered my sibilings and hid myself between the branches or even tested a self made climbing gadget which I constructed out of ropes and an old bicycle and so on… and it was all erradicated to nothing; just by falling my mango tree. I felt sombody intruded into my childhood and tried to manipulate it. It was mine and now someone has taken it away without my permision and I was deeply hurt. I showed it to my children and wife and told lthem the wonderful stories time I had there even during the war and I was crying and realized that things are changed. The mango tree was mine and somebody has taken it away from me.