Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Harvest of conflicts

Source (in Tamil):  By K.S.Suthahar (“Isruthi”)

“ Uthayam” August 2004.

Translated in English:  Kandiah Kumarasamy

It was the period of useless wanderings and lazy life on completion of tertiary education.  I got an appointment in an undeveloped Singhalese village at far end. Traveling was very tiresome and fear enveloped the journey.
My journey resembled a corpse carried to the burial ground – traveling without food, water and any conversation. I had to sleep on the floor during night in my friend’s room. My friend, Siva, is stationed at Embilipitiya.

“Siva! How long are you stationed here? This room is not comfortable.” – I expressed my mind in excitement.
“Tamils are unlucky.”- He murmured. He must have suffered heavily. His voice echoed as if coming out from the bottom of a well.

It is an undeveloped village with snowy cold in the mornings. I had to travel 8 miles in a dilapidated van clinging on to a pipe fixed on the hood. It ran with tremendous speed flushing the dust from the street.
A friend of Siva accompanied me to the Factory. I did not ask his name. A watchman stood at the entrance with mustache and sideburns.

 “He has come for work in the Factory. He has no Sinhala language knowledge.” I was identified in this manner by the ‘devil’. Then he went on introducing me to the General Manager, Factory Manager, Chief Engineer and others mentioning same identification - “ He has no Sinhala language knowledge”. It was the rubber stamp on my ‘credential’ of Sinhala language. The ‘devil’ disappeared.
I heard harsh words from the laborers. It is the dangerous weapon invented by humans- the stinging words. This weapon opened the anthill of ethnic diversity.
“ You do not find any Tamils here. One Muslim called Thoufeek talks Tamil through Sinhala language. There is a Tamil person named Fernando. But he has no knowledge of Tamil language. Why can’t you also get married to a Singhalese girl like Fernando?”

I was just engaged to a girl in my village. That small beauty appeared in front of my eyes and showed her gravitational radiation. Walter took me around Factory and taught what he had learnt during the last six months. He showed Steam room- Boiler- Motor – Generator. I could not withstand the strain, as I did not have food in the night and morning. Everyone was happy. But it was not sweet for me. I was allowed to go to the rest room at 11.00 a.m.  The laborers were pretending but their questions were directed towards me.

“ Is Kamal here? Is Donald here? Do you want to eat rice?”- They inquired in Sinhala language. 
“I do not know”- I had to repeat the same answer in Sinhala language to every question.

“ No one likes your presence here. It is better to get back home.” I heard the comments from one or two laborers.
            “ We cannot come to work in your place. How can you come over here? You are engaged in a jumping game from the top end of Jaffna to the other end of Sri Lanka?”

“ You all come here for work. Then you give ‘work’ to the Factory.”
 “I do not understand”.

 “ I am telling that that you will plant bombs.”
“Do you think that all are like that?”
“ A pot of boiled rice is tested by checking one grain”.
My inner mind cautioned me to maintain patience and adjust to suit the situation.

“You have got to work in the night as well. But we can’t guarantee your personal safety.” It is a warning signal I have expected already.

“ Our people have slaughtered even our comrades. You are just nothing”
 “ Don’t you think that neither you nor we are on a wrong footing? You have got to judge your future.”
All these words are ferocious ones. From where did this ethnic fire started? It is carried over for several generations. But now it has taken a dangerous turn.

I was asked to occupy the circuit bungalow for a day or two. Guests were enjoying in the circuit bungalow. There were two helpers and one cook.
I felt tired and took a shower bath to get rid of perspiration. When I covered my body with blanket, the reminiscences of my home haunted. If someone comes and slashes me like cane plants?  I could hear the crowing of peacocks, barking of dogs and when I am about to sleep, someone knocked at the door. I opened the door with fright.   
A glassful of red stuff was forced into my hand.  I was forcibly removed to join the guests in drinks. I could not remember anything other than drinking and dancing together. When they were in normal mood they appeared to be very reasonable. But once they are intoxicated their consensus turns pessimistic.  I too lost my balance of thoughts.
When I woke up I vomited and I noticed bloodstains. They must have mixed something within sugarcane arrack. I suffered heavily from chest pain and had aching all over my body. I felt tired and went to toilet with great difficulty.
The cook knocked at the door and I realized the rampage of last night. It was about 9.00 a.m. in the morning when I got up. I fell down at the entrance. The hot tea brought by the cook spilled over me and caused boils. He took me and put in the bed.
I realized my fate. I felt dizzy and feeble. I was shivering and could not talk. What happened to me? The guests have disappeared.  I can hear the scrapping of coconut and some talking noise in the kitchen. I am alone and desperate. I could not cry aloud. Isn’t it a shame for a male person to cry?
The weather changed for the better when it rained heavily. The heavy downpour increased my loneliness. Then only I found out the truth.  I have failed to go for work. I am not well. I sent word to the Manager through the cook.  Someone may call over after 4.00 p.m. 
I could hear someone singing. But I could not get up from my bed.  The cook and a bearded person glanced at me at times.  I heard the same sweet singing in the afternoon.
 “ It must be a singing by a youngster who had not gone to school. It is a singing of a girl. When I opened the window-curtain, the singing stopped midway. She noticed me. She smiled without any shyness. Suddenly a figure came behind me and grabbed my shoulder. The bearded old man smiled. I got angry.
“I am Jayasekera” – The old man introduced himself to me.
“ My friend told me that you are sick and you are sleeping with looks at the beam. I am working in the adjacent bungalow”. He told his story. He was in Jaffna till 1970. He was well acquainted with Tamils for 17 years. He mentioned the names of places Ilavalai, Alaveddy, Tellippalai, Manipay- one by one.”
“ Tellippalai bakery was my last station. Your face resembles that of Kanthavanam teacher.”
“He is my father”.   
He grabbed me and kissed. I could not tolerate a stinking smell.
“ Those days I used to carry letters from Negombo to your father. I am a little bit drunk. I will describe your residing place.”- He explained the details of the exact location.
“Now tell me whether you want to you to the hospital. I will take you there for treatment. It is a factory doctor.”
I was deeply excited.

“ Son! If you want any help, tell me without any fear. I am a person who can cook, eat, drink a little bit and go to sleep- foolish old man” He showed his reddish gum while smiling.
“ I will be back.” – He vanished in an old bicycle.

A vehicle arrived and I was taken to the hospital. The accountant visited me and said that the old man had told him that I am unwell. Another old Doctor checked my pulse. He too coughed. He is also sick. He checked my heartbeat with his stethoscope. He recommended my entry to the Town Hospital.
My heart is weak. It is not one week since I stepped in here.  I am bedridden again taking medicines. The old man talked to me. I felt comforted.

“ Go out for a walk instead of looking at the beam in the room. It is good for the body if you inhale fresh air.”
I went out. I sat on the stacked stones behind the house. A running tributary made the air very cooling.  Hills resembled the figure of blossoming white lotus flowers. I had chest pain. It has become the passage of traumatic heart pierced by mental strains. I dropped on my bed.   
Some object struck on the glass-window and someone seems to be running away. When I opened the window-curtain, I found a snowy-white girl standing still.  When I looked at her, her lips bloomed. My God! What a beautiful girl? I have never seen a girl of her calibre. She is a ‘devil’ woman (Take care! She is courting love . You may become a victim like Fernando).
I asked her what she wants in sign language. She had a charm of a purring cat! She disappeared with a slanting look at me. Who is she? She may be a Podimenike, Lakmini or Manoriya!
Afterwards I had a nice sleep. It must be because of medicines. When I got up, the beautiful ‘devil’ spread her net through the window- glass again. When I went near, she vanished. She is feigning to start a connection. Love raced before language. (Beware! She is trying to trap you. Don’t behave like Fernando? Run and escape. It is slippery slope! Be careful!)
My heart was paining. They are so unkind to see a sick person.  When I decided about my future, they arrived in a vehicle.
“What do you propose to do?”
“I want to go home. I can’t work here.”

(Tell a lie that you want to go tomorrow. But start your traveling tonight).
“Tomorrow night.”

“You can go today.” – I looked back at him. He felt ashamed.                                                                                “I am not cured yet.”

“It is better to report to the Factory Manager before you depart.”
Conversation stopped abruptly. They took me to the Factory Manager and brought me back in the vehicle. What amount of interest in me! I started to pack up my clothes.
“Are you going?” – Cook and the bearded person inquired.
“ Sure”.
“It is better to come back and work after getting completely cured.” (Coming back! I had enough).
“ Son! I want to tell you one thing. You can build a ridge or fence to separate a land. But it is not at all possible to separate the characteristic of smell from the land.”

I had to keep watch for the bus, which runs once in every two hours. (Take care!
Sleep with care!). I am alert at 1.00 o’clock. I took two medicine tablets with little water. Why should a man undergo the pain of departure if he there is no chance of a return? Footprints should not be left. I must depart without anyone’s knowledge. I did not have the heart to wake up any one. I walked up. Rain drizzled. It chased me from behind, dashed on my back and went. It was drizzling rain afterwards. It was dark-darkness all over. I commenced my journey in the dark. Everything appeared and vanished like a fading portrait. I continued walking through grasses and waterlogged places.
Dogs barked. I sat on a stone, as I was tired. Something irritated me. I found dangerous caterpillars everywhere.
When I thought that I have no more connection with this region, a bicycle came with a battering sound.
“Son! Get up on my bicycle”- The old bearded person talked exhaustingly. I was overwhelmed by his talks.            
“Son! This old man cooks, eats, and drinks a little toddy- foolish old man. But you are educated. You know the world. You will be very beneficial to the country. If you can donate your heart to me in exchange for mine, I will be very glad.”
This old man is one of the caterpillars, which have poison in their legs…!
(A grain of rice is a sample for the entire rice in a pot.  But it is not applicable in an anthill with diehard ethnic animosity. You are correct in your decision. Go! Run without stopping anywhere!).


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