Jaffna; Hope or Despair?

Story appeared in the Nation newspaper on December 29, 2013 and is written by Pamodhi Kuruppu.


From Colombo to Anuradhapura, then Vavuniya passing Medawachchiya and to few iconic towns like Omanthai, Killinochchi, Arali Point and the stunning arid view of Elephant Pass, a moment of beauty that one could never think of. Just wondered, “How cruel they were to kill such picturesqueness”. Trees still with bomb scars , “Thal”  standing with much elegance , a true symbol of the North but  leaves burnt and  houses destroyed , yes it was  quite astonishing to these eyes! . These places were just heard in television until that long drive of two hundred and fifty-five miles brought me down there just a few months back. The figure was small but looked nourishing and brimming.
“Javaka”, “Javapattuna”, “Yaalpanama”, and “Yapapatuna” it may call itself. The word “Jaffna” comes from the Portuguese rule of Franciscan Friar. The full name given by him to Jaffna was “Jafana Patanaoture”. History records state that the name was derived by a headman called “Yapa” .Who this “Yapa” is not stated though. The Tamil name “Yalpanam” provides no history about Jaffna except for the fairy tale of “Yalapana Vaipava Malai”. However, Jaffna is entirely a creation of the British Colony. It was one of their maritime provinces of administration. It must be said that what it is known as Jaffna district even in late 1824 was known as “Waligama”, purely a Sinhala name. One could come across “Waligama” in ancient colonial maps. Whether the district was Sinhalese, English, Portuguese or whatever, a highly controversial question with regard to Jaffna was if it was a separate kingdom or a precise Tamil Kingdom.
And the question still remains.  Years back Jaffna was quite known for trading. Jaffna could be called the “land of prosperity “for its soil was fertile and ideal for much cultivation. People from the down South of Sri Lanka often claimed shops to trade in Jaffna. It was a mix of Hindus and Sinhalese who worked together back then. Surprisingly it’s no longer there to be seen. One can hardly see a Sinhalese passing by. So is it now entirely owned by the Tamils? A separate kingdom within a united state? Where does this harmony lie? This is what my mind questioned when I heard a military officer telling, “No Mahattaya, the city is more likely to be of the Tamils’ , we’ll never see a single Sinhalese living here in years to come except for those tourists” , “It’s pathetic” he said. Could this be the rising of another brutal army?
However these creepy thoughts drowned for a moment and I was beguiled by the town’s wonders, for example the Keerimalai springs, thought to have healing powers. We had a visit there with some armed guards. “Nallur “was something fascinating. Topless men with sarongs, crawling on the sandy ground around the “kovil” and women in gold “thalis” worshipping for each step they keep on a single tile, one could think they are utterly mad. No, it was a perfect showcase of a vibrant culture, their love for god and fear for “karma“. A true sign of devotion and respect.
It was hot outside, and the sun was strong. But the wind was even hotter, where hundreds of “Jaffnians” had gathered at the beach. They were selling “karawala” for the tourists. The men, quite determined and very competitive of their prices, were trying to sell as much as possible because “karawala” is what gives them bread and butter for survival. The little stay there told much about the people. They were actively engaged in their daily chores which was a good sign of post-war. The well carpeted roads, the upcoming hotels and restaurants were examples of development in the heart break of 30 years of bloodshed.
Yet some things are disturbing. When evening six’ o clock alarms, they said it is time for patrolling. On one hand it’s a good indication of ensuring the security in the villages even after the war is over, but also manifests that they still suspect of an existence of terrorism. The four days of stay confirmed that the lives are not disturbed by violence anymore. However the disheartening fact is that still the Tamils are not contented of what they’ve got.
Rebuilding is a continuing process and we hope that we will get to see a better version of “Jaffna” in another couple of years to come. Nevertheless the constant complaints made by Tamils of the fact that they still suffer from war sounds very psychological. Many Tamils were born to see terrorism. Some experienced terrorism in real; some thought terrorism was for their own benefit and perhaps for most of them war was a part of their lives and some demand for war even now. Prabhakaran is being worshipped and praised. Who knows if Prabhakaran treated them good? We humans always prefer and welcome the usual things we do and see in life. We fear the “change” over what we’ve undergone in life in its major sometimes. Thus this grievance of the Tamils could be of one such. It’s well known that the North is developing but it will be hard to fix those wrecked hearts bruised by callous memories. It may be impossible at times unless they themselves try to change or see life in a positive way.
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One thought on “Jaffna; Hope or Despair?”

  1. Well Shailee, we ourselves did see how nicely the city of Jaffna and the hinterland were recovering and everything when we went there for WTR. In fact, better than we'd expected I think. WE can never really say what Prabhakaran truly meant to those people. after all, even a tyrant who rules through fear can also be worshipped if he enforces such a thing upon the people. I really don't know if he was kind to those people or if he was cruel to them,

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