Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Korakkankaddu Village

Reporting from Vanni XI

by K. Mylvaganam, June 29, 2007

Owing to the scarcity of water, one cannot do any arable cultivation. Even the monsoonal rains do not last more than three months maximum.

However, I was impressed to see the children filled with vigour and full of enthusiasm. An organisation called “Thamil Aranga Kalluri” (College of Tamil Theatre), which exists in Kilinochchi, goes round the villages and collects all the children there and engages them in several social activities, and concentrates mainly in training the children to perform dances, sing songs and act in dramas.

Korakkankaddu Village is a newly formed one, built to accommodate around 110 families who have been displaced from their homes due to the heavy artillery shelling and the indiscriminate bombings by the Sri Lanka (SL) forces. I had the opportunity to visit this village twice last week.

The village has a preschool called Pulendiran Preschool, which has nearly 100 children. The ages vary from a few months old infant to 5 year old children. This is financed by the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO). Fue to the freezing of its funds by the SL government (GoSL), however, the TRO finds it difficult to meet the entire expenses now. Therefore, the parents are requested to pay, if possible, Rs.100.00 per month. However, payment is not compulsory. Those who cannot afford to pay need not retain their children back home. All the children are given three meals free of charge. They are bathed daily and hygienically looked after until the parents come in the evening to pick them up. This enables the parents, particularly the mothers, to go in search of employment, if available.

Kokila Vaani dancing Korakkankaddu Village Sri Lanka June 2007 photo K Mylvaganam

In addition to the Preschool, classes are conducted after school hours for children who are over six in singing, dancing and acting. The little ones are also taught to draw, paint, sing and dance in accordance to their age and ability. I was very much attracted by a sweet-looking little girl called Kokila Vaani. She is only three and a half years old, but is a natural dancer. You see her in a red dress in a dancing pose in the picture attached. For all this she is not taught dancing, but has seen her sister and the rest dancing and she has picked it up very well.

There is virtually no employment facility in the village or near about. One has to travel at least 10kms to find some job. The average income of a family per month is around Rs.1500.00, which works out to Rs.50.00 per diem, which is less than US$0.50. A kilo of fish cost Rs.200.00 to 250.00, onions Rs.200.00 and potatoes also cost Rs.200.00. But the rest of the vegetables cost around Rs.40.00 to 50.00 per kilo. Luckily, a kilo of rice costs Rs.20.00 to 25.00, because Kilinochchi is a rice-producing area.   All the village's residents are extremely poor. There is no electricity or telephone facility to the village. But the TRO has provided each house with a solar power unit which enables each to have one light bulb burning. This helps to keep the snakes at bay during the nights.

On the first visit, I went by foot round the village. I will not call it a beautiful village as I saw not many types of vegetation in any of the compounds. In fact, it is a sun-scorched area. Even the little patches of grass found around were brown. I hardly saw anything green there. This was not because the people are lazy, but due to the lack of underground water. Even though there are wells sunk in the compounds, yet due to the prevailing drought most of the wells are almost dry. Residents have to make use of the very few wells that have some water left even now. But when the seasonal rains come down in October, there will be plenty of water I am told. Owing to the scarcity of water, one cannot do any arable cultivation. Even the monsoonal rains do not last more than three months maximum.

However, I was impressed to see the children filled with vigour and full of enthusiasm. An organisation called “Thamil Aranga Kalluri” (College of Tamil Theatre), which exists in Kilinochchi, goes round the villages and collects all the children there and engages them in several social activities, and concentrates mainly in training the children to perform dances, sing songs and act in dramas. It is headed by one, who is caressingly called“Bala Master.” He is the pivot and the life-line of the activities. He has a tender approach towards the kids, but very strict when it comes to discipline.  The songs and the dramas, I am told, are focused on teaching good morals, not only to the children but also to the parents.

The dramas depict also the social problems in the villages. I was sorry to hear that some men resort to alcohol. They say they do it to drown their sorrows, little knowing that their sorrows will start swimming after a while. However, it is not a big menace in the society but affects the finances of the families concerned. The Tamil Eelam police do not tolerate drunken behaviour, ither in public or in private residences. Anyone misbehaving is taken in for a “Pep Talk” and released on the following day. Thereafter, they remain “sober” even after a few drinks. That is the reason drinking is not a menace in the village, perhaps. Another undesirable feature I noticed is that there is a tendency for the boys and girls to get married when they are 16 or 17. This is a matter that has to be seriously addressed upon. The lack of educational facilities and job opportunities may be the contributory factor for this behaviour.

Kavadi aatam, Korakkankaddu Village Sri Lanka June 2007 photo by K Mylvaganam

The children took me to the esplanade there and proudly pointed out a stage being put up to hold performances in the village. It was, quite unusually, a circular stage being made with earthen bricks. Only a two foot circular wall was complete at the time I saw it. Of course, it looked very rugged to me as all the “Expert Builders” involved in the construction were around 8 to 15 years old. There were lots and lots of debris lying around. I asked Bala Master as to whether they cannot engage some labourers to clean up the area. To this Bala Master put his right hand on his chest pocket and opened his palm. How nicely he demonstrated the lack of funds. No wonder he is a successful dramatist. He is a playwright, singer and a composer – a multitalented person. The children adore him despite his strictness. The little ones climb all over him while he is seated.

One week later I was invited for the opening function of the “Stage.” Special dignitaries such as Thangan and Balakumar and Elilan from the LTTE were there. As we arrived, I was shocked to see the colourful decorations on the road in front of the Preschool and over a hundred children lined up along the road on both sides as if we were being given a guard of honour. The drummers (12 to 15 years old) were beating a nice rhythm to which some children were performing “Koladdam” thus leading us to the esplanade. At the esplanade I was shocked to see the stage fully completed, filled in, leveled and beautifully painted with lots of art work on the 2 foot wall. All these were done by the same “Expert Builders” I referred to above - only five or so were 14/15 years old and rest of the battalion were below 12. But they have done an excellent job and all the debris was gone – cleared by the same gang.

When I went there for the first time I asked the children as to what sort of games they played and the reply was “Kilithaddy” and “Kenthal.” They didn’t have access to a cricket bat or a football. When we went there after a week for their function, some of them as last time came running to our vehicle and clung on to our hands. They were taken behind the vehicle and were asked to peep into it. There they saw three cricket bats in varying sizes, a few tennis balls and a football. You should have seen their eyes and their joy. They were told to jump in and collect their gifts. They insisted that all those should be presented to them on the stage. But it was politely turned down. It showed the importance and the gratitude they showed for the small gifts, which hardly cost Rs.1600.00 or US$8.00.

There were song recitals, dances, elocutions and dramas. Not a single item was found boring. They were short, meaningful and excellently presented. The teachers who were responsible for the songs and dances did wonderfully well by guiding the children with love and affection. The Kavadi dance (see pic) was very rhythmic. Some children both boys and girls from the audience too started dancing to the tune.

The programme commenced at 7.00 p.m. and it went on till 2.30 a.m; I was told later by Bala Master. Very reluctantly I left by 11.30 as I am not that good in night driving and I didn’t want to fall asleep at the wheel

Korakkankaddu Village Sri Lanka June 2007 photo by K Mylvaganam

A week later more than 25 children (see pic) came all the way to extend their gratitude for our patronage and an invitation for their next performances. It was not a formal invitation card, but a handwritten letter promising that they will grow up to be desirable citizens and work hard to uplift their village and Thamil Eelam. It was signed by the president Satheesh (12) and the secretary Arul Mozhi (11). I was so impressed to note the innocence, sincerity, love and enthusiasm in those children.

It made me wonder as to why the “Creator” who infused so much of golden qualities in the young ones let them grow up as adults, habouring jealousy, hatred, possessiveness, vengeance and many other undesirable qualities.

Should anyone wish to send a few words of encouragement to these children, you may drop a line to the address given below.

Siruvar Aranga Kulu – Korakkankaddu 

c/o Bala Master

College of Thamil Theatre

Kanagapuram

Kilinochchi

Sri Lanka

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Index Reporting from Vanni 1-10

Reporting from Vanni 1

Reporting from Vanni II

Reporting from Vanni III

Reporting from Vanni IV

Reporting from Vanni V

Reporting from Vanni VI

Reporting from Vanni VII (A)

Reporting from Vanni VII (B)

Reporting from Vanni VIII

Reporting from Vanni IX

Reporting from Vanni X