From strangers to good friends: Lifetime memories | Sunday Observer

From strangers to good friends: Lifetime memories

Visiting different places can be a fun filled experience and ours was a journey from one end of Sri Lanka to the other, from Galle in southern Sri Lanka to Jaffna in the North. We reached Jaffna around 4 p.m. My bag was heavy and we were waiting for our buddies from Jaffna.

I first visited Jaffna in 2011 and seven years on, I noticed that it had changed much for the better. We found a small eatery near where we were staying to have our meals conveniently.

From the next day, our friends from Jaffna took us too many places. We were in search of people and places where we could learn about the issues that had made their lives harder in the post-war era. I believed at the very beginning that we were going to be different within this community, but on the first day itself, we realised that our differences did not cause much confusion nor was it an embarrassment to them.

We met people who were so happy to see us and keen to know who we were and where we were from. They introduced themselves with such warm and enthusiastic expressions on their faces that sometimes it made me wonder why we were in bitter conflict with each other instead of going forward hand in hand for the good of our communities and the country.

During the next few days, we had no clear idea of ‘where-to-go’ or ‘what to do’.

Most of our walkabouts took much of our time and effort, but we still roamed the streets of Jaffna every day till it was almost dusk. Our visit to the fishing community led us to many other stories that were buried in a thirty-year-old history. Even though we assume that this history does not affect them anymore, it still does.

This thought came to me when walking among the fishermen, trying to say at least ‘something comforting’ to a deaf and dumb man we chanced upon.

He was sitting on a tree trunk with just two undamaged limbs, yet with a broad smile on his face. He tried to relate his story convincingly to us and then he rode away on his cycle, smiling gratefully, waving goodbye with one of his blown-out limbs, leaving us to silently figure out ‘the unspoken.’ As we had assumed, he had been just a civilian who had not even gone to the battle front but yet had become a tragic civilian victim.

The two-hour bus ride to Point Pedro was the longest and most exhausting trip we did. We visited a house which was funded by the Ministry of Resettlement.

There were only two people; a differently -abled woman and her son. Her story brought tears to my eyes and I was really awed by the way this warm-hearted woman chose to treat us with good snacks and a cuppa. Her husband had gone missing during the war in 2009 and she had lost both her daughter and her younger brother in a bomb blast.

With the language barrier, not all of what she said made sense to us, but we understood what she had to share with us when she tried to say in Sinhala sentences and phrases like , ahinsaka minissu maruwa, which meant that the war killed many civilians.

When war is over, and we suffer the consequences, there is only the division between victims and perpetrators in the end. After many long years of trauma, she now feels that she is stable without the fear of losing her life to a sudden attack. It wasn’t only her story, but the story of those who survived the war and which we saw only through the records and movies earlier.

The day before the day we came back home, we enjoyed a brief evening at RIO since it would have been too bad to miss a delicious cup of their ice-cream., We were treated to a tasty dinner by some relations of one of our friends in Jaffna. After coming back to our lodgings we had a sing song to conclude our great stay in Jaffna.

On the day we were ready to return, thundershowers were beginning in Jaffna. Even after nine years of harmony, we still have a long way to go to bridge the gap between us. All that I learned on this trip will remain with me as cherished memories. We should redefine the thought, ‘The more we get to know, the more we start hating each other’ into ‘The more we get to know, the more we start liking each other’.