Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Poetry

For those who have missed out and want to know humanity

Belated, but worth it. I read through this collection of Sinhala poems by a Sinhala “creative activist” friend, who moves the reader across the large canvass of responsible humanity, very solemnly holding the reader, in a spell of “silent guilt”. She does not talk politics. But she does, in a different tone and spirit. She does not blame the reader straight and hard. Yes she does, in a piercing whisper, right into the conscience. She does not talk of an ethnic conflict. But she does talk of a human tragedy, that tells the reader, there is somewhere a ‘divide’ that stalks the fate of these people.

This collection of poems, titled by her as “For Ears That Had Not Heard” (No-asu Kan Walata), by itself is a subtle, nuanced allegation against the Sinhala reader, for not being, if not sensitive enough, then observant of the tragedy that unfolded around us during the war. She thus picks up hardly noticed incidents and subtexts of life, from remote corners of the conflict, that yells for dignity and respect in a world of neglect and humiliation. She captures them in rhythmic patterns from within lines she has so structured, with mostly very simple and “folky” language.

In short, 2 years after the war, you have to read it, not alone, but in the company of humanity and read it loud, for the rest of this society to sit back and listen to the story of the “victims of war”.

But let me also warn you. She has over worked herself in creating pages, that some times make you tired. The layout in some instances are not “reader friendly”. But the prose and the poetry would edge you along to the end. Just check the ones below in translation, that was impromptu and rough. But certainly proof of her very creative style of taking the reader to where she believes, justice is being cried for.

The Exodus
Saw tiny tots,
Frail with thirst and hunger,
Drenched with dust and dirt,
Pleading for a haven,
From a scorching hot Sun.

Saw vast numbers,
Amidst raining fiery fire,
Burning with grief and hunger
Searching for affection
In seven rows, of barbed wire.

18 June, 2009

This one below, is just the opening stanza of a long poem. Its a very sensitive and a touching story of a small girl, her pregnant mother and her helpless father, brought to the reader as afterthought of the mother, who gives birth to another little infant daughter. She brings it out in perfect pathos that leaves the reader looking for answers, no “Commission Report” would provide.

Little one left us all in two days, all by herself
Wait my little ‘daughtie’,
Have the doors open,
Till I hurry back home,
Bringing you “palahaarang”.
Will bring you “kaachchang”
A gunny bag load….
Get on my shoulder,
Will run,
Till you feel tired.
I’ll be your “yaanei”
The whole day.
Would never tell you,
“Not now dear”
My little darling,
My love

* palahaarang – sweets ;    kaachchang – cashew ;   yaanei – elephant

November, 2009

Well for those who now wish to know who she is, the book simply says, she is “Kumari”. For me she is Kumari Kumaragamage.