Colombo, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

An After Thought by an Inside Outsider

After a war is won, there is always the after thought. Leaders from conflict parties, either dead or living, will be portrayed either as martyrs, heroes, traitors, terrorists….the list is endless. Which ever side one takes on the debate of romanticising the vanquished or demonising him, it is always interesting to see what the other party has to say.

Have been observing the way in which people reacted in the post-war (can we say that yet?) context. Nationalistic spirit knew no bounds. Even the ardent opponents of the government praised its military campaign and the subsequent victory of annihilating the LTTE. The President would have been in a mental state, where ANY world leader would aspire to be in. Enviable position.  It would have been the proudest moment for the Commanders of the forces. The least that the soldiers who fought and found the dead body of VP could do was to fire in the air. The mirth; The victory of three decades. The majority of people would have had a sigh of relief. The Colombo metropolis, where the heavy weight of elites – the intellectual and all the other varieties – of Sri Lanka reside, would have had more than a sigh of relief. Every one had a reason to rejoice for theirown reasons.

I had my position on this conflict – lived in the country for nearly 13 years; have seen many heightened forms of terrorism; lived through the insecurity and unpredictability of each moment; days where bombing takes place 200 meters away from you and you wonder, that you could have been 10 meters away and got caught; days where you decide to take a route and then for some strange reason take another one and be in awe to hear that there had been a blast down the road, which you have just decided to avoid. Unpredictablity of life; and the morbidity of death. But still my views would have just been that of an outsider. My anguish too must have been that of an outsider; who had a choice, if I wanted to make one. But there was a country at large, which had no choice, caught up in a protracted armed conflict of the deadliest kind. Many children were panic stricken in the nights when LTTE carried aerial attacks in Colombo; they hated and dreaded an army check point after that. A child of 6 years of age stops talking because of terror; what chance was left for him to grow up as a normal adult?

I have friends who were born at the time of the beginning of the conflict; their reactions are notable. They are adults, intelligent enough to understand and rationalise the belligerence of armed fighters. Their entire childhood, adolesence and youth had been caught up in the conflict. Their minds hardly knew a chance to know what it meant to be secular (well, Sri Lanka is not a secular state). They had less chances of making good tamil friends – quite contrary to John’s generation where he says he had close Tamils friends (still continue to be so) in the University and work places, who shared a drum stick curry and cracked a joke on each ethnicity’s idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. Friends of my generation lack that – probably, if they did crack a joke of the kind, it would have been termed as ‘ethnic polarisation’ or ‘marginalisation’ or something to that effect. These are times I am glad that I was born and bred in India, where we can have Mallu, Sardar, Tamil jokes, enjoy the spirit of it in perfect abandon, laugh at ourselves and yet not be bitter. What a lot they lose, who have never known how elating that feeling is!!!

My thoughts and experiences are all about Colombo and it suburbs. My sentiments are built on my own experience of agonizing moments of waiting for a husband (or another extended family member) who had gone down town where there had been a blast. The moment a connection is made which assures his safety, my problem was over. Life got back to normal when he reached home. Meaning, I am a Colombist (if I can coin a term). A Colombist’s view can be very distorted and far removed from the reality out there. It could be narrow; nevertheless, it is a view, it is an experience lived through my own reality. Each one has his or her own reality and that is their truth.

All what one could do is to imagine the untold misery and hardships of the innocent people who get caught between the firing lines. The feeling of discrimination and having to feel a second citizen in one’s country of birth. The feeling of disowning. The feeling of fundamental rights being violated. The lack of opportunity to make a police complaint in one’ own language! Serious matters. Will these be addressed?

I wonder what a genuine Tamil sentiment is, at this time of Sri Lankan history. I do have friends – but somehow I always feel, they do not speak the way they truly feel; probably due to their own reasons of ‘having to exist’ as some one once said.

Just an after thought. I know I have more to write on this.