Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

War Journey

by Maveeran Captain Malaravan, 1990. Translated by N. Malathy, 2007. E-book posted on TamilNation.

War Journey by Captain Malaravan 1990 Translated from the Tamil 2007

Background Note by Translator
Map of Tamil Homeland
1. Adios jungle, adios friend  - 9 November 1990
2. Kumulamunai people - 10 November 1990
3. My tortured home  - 10 November 1990
4. The enemy camp  - 12 November 1990
5. Battle preparations  - 13 November 1990, 14 November 1990
6. The battle is on  - 15 November 1990
7. A Black Tiger attack - 24 November 1990, 25 November 1990
8. Onward journey
Glossary: Description of terms - Names of poralis appearing frequently - Relationship terms in Tamil culture - Other Tamil cultural and nature terms - Sinhala cultural terms - Military terms

Background Note by Translator

Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, became an independent country in 1948 after nearly 450 years of being ruled by western nations. Portuguese, Dutch, and British governments ruled this island for approximately 150 years each. The last of them, Britain, left the island with a unitary constitution that has been the cause of much turmoil ever since.

Since independence, the majority Sinhala population (75%) has attempted to dominate and suppress the Tamil community that had existed as an independent nation prior to, and even long after, the arrival of the western colonisers.

Discontent among Tamils increased after several communal riots directed against the Tamil community, denial of language rights by making Sinhala as the only official language, and discrimination in jobs and education. This eventually  led to the armed struggle lead by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The armed conflict intensified in 1982. In 1987 India intervened militarily and brought in the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) which ended up fighting against the LTTE. IPKF left the island in 1990 and the fight between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE resumed.

This book is a translation from Tamil of a firsthand account written
 in 1990 by one Tamil fighter, Captain Malaravan (Leo), who was a member of the LTTE. He wrote this short book in the form of a diary aCaptain Malaravan (Leo)bout the journey of his team to the location of a particular battle, the battle of Mankulam in 1990, and the battle itself with the occupying Sri Lankan military. The manuscript for this book was found on his body after he was killed in a subsequent battle in which he was taking part.

Malaravan was twenty years old when he died and he was just nineteen years old when he wrote this book.

Through the diary Malaravan conveys the thought process of a LTTE member, the culture and characteristics of the different communities that form the larger Tamil community, something about the natural environment in which the Tamil community is living, as well as about a battle itself.

The book reveals a lot that has so far not been revealed in reports. The book speaks for itself about the conflict and will hopefully create an interest to learn more.

Map of Tamil Homeland

Tamil Homeland

Large map

 

1. Adios jungle, adios friend

9 November 1990

The cold November air whistled past. Rushing clouds cut off the milky light of the moon. The moon, however, persisted in peeping out to smile. Dark clouds gathered at the far end of the eastern sky. Scattered stars twinkled. Occasionally night birds flew by. An alkaddi screamed eerily as it flew past.

“Our appa always says that an alkaddi’s scream is a bad omen. Once, when his father was leaving home an alkaddi screamed as it flew past. My grandmother tried to stop him but he was too drunk to listen to her. The next day, early in the morning, people from the neighbouring village brought back his body. Something apparently pulled him off his cart and had beaten him to death”, Vasanthan said very seriously.

“Your father has told you this tale, knowing well that you are a fool. If you tell this story to other people they will tease the hell out of you”, Ithayan began.

“Vasanthan is telling me this story. Why are you teasing him?” I butted in. Vasanthan, however, calmed down only after having a swipe at Ithayan with the stick he had picked up.

The tractor we were travelling  in left the open road and started along a forest path. Everyone held their stomachs. “It will be like driving on a railway track from now on”, laughed Salam, the driver.

This fellow is a sadist. He deliberately drives recklessly to see us scream in pain”, Vasanthan said helplessly.

The forest roads were made with tree trunks placed lengthwise. To stop the trunks from being washed away by rain, wooden logs were placed across the road and the spaces in between were filed with soil and rammed in. Roads built like this must be renovated each year after the rainy season is over. This may sound easy but the work involved is back breaking. Clearing the forest for the road in itself is a big task. Then trees must be cut into pieces and carried to the road. Then soil must be cut in places where they have formed into a mound and carried in baskets. All the time we will be carrying our guns and our pouches.

All the poralis will be soaked in sweat. This kind of work under the burning sun is extremely tough. Our leader will encourage us by saying, “What to do? It is our road. We are the ones who must build it and repair it.” He will join in with the work too.

Even during such exhausting work, Ithayan will be clowning about. At times, others will give Ithayan a sand bath. When the sand sticks to his sweaty body he looks pretty pathetic.

The tractor shook. It was making a persistent “dong . dong” sound.

“God, why the hell are you driving so rough? Why can’t you drive slower?” This is Vasanthan’s plea. Salam’s loud laughter came in reply.

“Judging by his laughter, it looks like he has decided to turn us inside out”, this is the irritated voice of Ithayan.

We could see the other tractors that were following us at a distance. The one driven by David annai had only one head light. It could be seen from afar.

I felt a pang of pain looking at the large parlai and veera trees. As they swayed in the wind, they appeared to be asking, “Why are you leaving us?”

This is such a big forest. It had protected us like a mother all this time. When will we come back to it? Unable hold myself back, I raised my hand and waved goodbye.

“What are you doing?” asked Vasanthan. He must have thought my brain had gone mushy with all the shaking in the tractor.

“Oh, nothing”, I said as I flicked the tears that were forming in my eyes. It fell on the red sand – the land soaked with our sweat.

Ithayan was dozing off, all the while holding up the light. I loosened my pouches and held up my T-58. Clouds were whizzing past over our heads.

The tractor stopped at the camp at the end of the forest. Salam spoke to the porali on guard at the sentry post and took off at high speed.

“Salam, stop the tractor. Vasanthan has fallen off. Idiot, what kind of driving are you doing?”

Ithayan, yelling at the driver, got off and ran to the front of the tractor. Salam looked very worried. Before Salam could ask what had happened, Ithayan appeared at the front standing on the mudguard of the tractor.

“Start the tractor”, he shouted.

Salam realized in that second that Ithayan had fooled him. Defeated Salam laughed as he put his foot on the accelerator. The tractor took off like a jeep.

“These two idiots together are going to finish us off”, Vasanthan sizzled. He was also angry that his name was used in their skit.

Nayaru Bridge appeared at a distance like a large squatting animal.

“Buddy, when the Indians were here, we couldn’t come anywhere near this place. If we did, our skulls would be blown to smithereens”, remembered Vasanthan.

“However, we did give them a good beating here”, I reminded him.

“A lot of them were killed, weren’t they?” Vasanthan raised the fact as a question.

“Yes, twenty six army men died. We captured twenty one weapons. Carlcustav, Bren were all captured”, I remembered.

Just before climbing into a road, Salam drove the tractor through a flooded hole. The big tires splashed muddy water on Vasanthan and me. When Salam started to laugh, I really got angry.

“You mad man. See, the rifle has got wet”, I yelled at him. “Sorry, I won’t do it again”, apologized Salam. Vasanthan spit the muddy water out of his mouth.

A large black cloud hid the moon like a screen. The sky appeared empty.

“Look.” A shooting star shone bright and disappeared. “What is it?” I tested Vasanthan.

“This is what people call a shooting star. One should not look at one of these and if you do, then as remedy, you should look at any kind of tree that oozes milky zap”, saying this Vasanthan looked for such tree to rest his eyes on.

But, there were no trees as far as the eyes could see. Vasanthan who grew up in a village is influenced by such superstitions.

“That is rubbish. It is called an asteroid”, explained Ithayan.

Vasanthan was not prepared to accept this reasoning. I managed to change the subject. Somehow the conversation drifted to home.

Salam’s speed reduced as the tractor climbed the Nayaru Bridge. The box like weapon we were sitting on is very heavy. It is hard to pull. The tractor was struggling under its weight. We could see David annai’s tractor turning the bend as ours climbed uphill.

Vasanthan had become my best friend. He confides everything in me. It is a kind of liberty assumed among fellow poralis.

Vasanthan began talking about his family.

“Appa, amma, grandpa, two younger brothers and three older sisters: that is my family. As way back as I can remember, appa used to drink. Although he will not drink everyday, once a week he will come with a large pot. He will be really excited about pouring the toddy into the holder made of palmyrah leaf and drinking off it.

He makes promises that he will not drink again but soon after the promise he will go to the toddy vendor. I cannot forget those days”, Vasanthan sighed. “I had all these thoughts bottled up in my mind and I felt like letting them out today”.

I was surprised to see the tears in Vasanthan’s eyes. “Why are you crying after talking about such a cosy family”, I asked truly confused.

“No, the troubles started after this. Grandpa got cancer. Appa was arrested by the army with the accusation that weapons were buried in his tobacco plot. After six or seven days we identified his body by the earring he was wearing. The army had burnt him using tires.” Vasanthan was looking far away now.

“I joined the movement after that. Amma is paralyzed below the waist after the Indian army shot her. My accas work at the vegetable plot for money to survive.”

One tractor wheel started to jump as it rotated.

“Boy, stop the tractor. Looks as if the tire has a problem”, I said.

The tractor stopped with a jerk.

The nuts holding the tire were broken. Only five of the eight nuts were in place.

“Let’s go slow.” Salam changed the gear. The tractor started to crawl.

“A lot of Tamils lived in these parts. Everything was destroyed by bombs. How many boats and fishing nets they would have burnt. Most of the people have now displaced. Only a few are still here. They support us a great deal”, Vasanthan said.

At a distance, derelict huts, with palm leaf roofs, in a state of decay, could be seen. Some of the huts stood upside down. The odd stems of the decayed palm leaves moved in the wind. Under the moon light they appeared like some animals moving.

“Look there”, pointed Vasanthan. “This is the way to tiny water holes where rain water collects. People survive by fishing in them. What can people do, if they cannot go to sea to fish?”

Along the edge of the water hole big flames on sticks glowed in the dark. Suddenly one man threw a net. Another man was puling the net he had cast earlier. As we sped past, people along the edge of the lake began to disappear. Their tormented faces stuck in my mind. Entire families were forced to come to this water hole to catch whatever they could. The level of poverty that has struck these people dawned on me.

“Salam, switch off the lights!” Vasanthan who was watching the sky suddenly shouted.

When Vasanthan shouted a second time, Salam switched off the lights.

“What is the matter buddy, is it a helicopter? Look carefully”, said Salam.

I used the torch to send the signal and all five tractors behind us were darkened.

A helicopter passed the moon in the sky. He must have noticed the lights switching off. He suddenly turned back and started to circle. We all took our weapons and other stuff, crossed the road and ran. David annai ordered us to take our positions. I turned on the walkie-talkie and, with the porali with GPMG rifle, went behind a tree.

After a second circle, the helicopter began to dip. He started operating his 50 calibre machine gun and bullets roared past. Some hit the ground and exploded. David annai started to give his orders.

“If he comes down give him one hundred with the big one”, he ordered.

Something suddenly whirred with a “Bum…” noise.

“Buddy, Para has made a hit, all lie down. If he sees us, that will be the end. If you can then move forward”, said David annai.

Salam who was standing behind a sand mound ran for the tractor. The helicopter started to pump five inch artillery shells. Smoke rose from the loud bangs. Earth shook. Salam started the tractor and pressed the accelerator. The helicopter descended towards the tractor on the road. He seemed to be thinking that it would be easy to fire at the tractor from behind. I shouted orders and the GPMG rifle began to spit fire. The enemy did not expect this. The helicopter immediately rose up all the while firing 50 calibre shells.

“They got caught badly”, laughed Nesan.

The GPMG rifle barrel was red hot. He started to pick up the links used to hold the rifle bullets that have fallen off.

I remembered the words of our training master Selvarasa, “We are not a State military. We are poralis. We do not have a lot of resource. We must be very frugal. Every bullet we use must kill an occupying enemy soldier. We must avoid wasteful use of weapons”.

The tractor continued its journey. We were all scanning the skies in readiness. The helicopter could return or else they might try to place hurdles in some other way. A van came fast and stopped beside us. Salam pulled the tractor to a side to accommodate the van. Ramesh appa, our political head for the district, was seated in the passenger seat in front.

“How was the helicopter strafing?” I queried.

“One 5 inch shell killed one and injured two among those who were fishing at the water hole.” With that reply he sped off.

For a moment I thought of our district political heads and the senior politicians. I also remembered the family that was fishing at the water hole. A tear drop fell on the rifle magazine. I shook my mood off and observed the road.

Huge coconut estates were spread all over the fertile soil of Alampil. These coconut estates will give enough income for us. It was scary to see the coconut tree tops. They were spread like umbrellas and seemed to be struggling to carry the large bunch of coconuts. Here and there, canopies of other large trees looked as if they were hills hanging in the sky. Water filed the canals and rushed past. As the rushing water hit little rocks and jumped over, the moonlight reflected on the water droplets turning them into white pearls. The play of the rushing water tranquilized the mind. Water plants flourishing along the canals moved in the wind filing the senses.

At the Alampil junction the tractor tuned into Kumulamunai road.

“Buddy, drive carefully, the road is not that good, it can topple the vehicle”, said Vasanthan, as he turned behind and looked at the sky.

The moon has come out of the clouds and its light filed the entire space.

Along both sides of the Kumulamunai road, the paddy fields were full and overflowing with young green paddy shoots. Canals filed with water snaked through the fields. An alkaddi overtook us as it flew with its eerie scream.

“Does it never stop? My Grandpa used to tell me that a screaming alkaddi will not live for much longer. It screams for its mate and will fall somewhere and die. I never asked Grandpa how all these alkaddi’s are still flying. I wish I did and put Grandpa on the spot”.

Six or seven palmyrah trees stood alone at a distance.

Time is 11.52 at night. It will take at least two days to reach the destination. Vasanthan stroked the T-8 deep in thought.

It is the bend on the straight Kumulamunai road. A narval tree leaned over the road with fat roots. Salam put both hands on the steering wheel and expertly turned. He turned cautiously. Those hands were practiced at this. His body turned with his hands. Surely it cannot be that much of turn for Salam to be working that hard to turn. Why is he turning so much? Signs of desperation were showing in Salam’s body. He yelled, fear stricken, sweat running down his face.

“Jump all of you, jump from behind, the steering rod is broken.”

I was at the back. I jumped in a big leap. As I jumped I turned back to look. Vasanthan was dozing off, no, no; he was in a deep trance.

“Vasanthan, jump man, tractor is going to hit something”, gathering all the energy in the body I yelled.

It echoed on the trees in all direction. The trees shook once. The moon cried once. Birds on treetops flew shouting. Cows in the shed mooed. Alkaddies chased one another. A peacock screamed. Villagers woke up. A drop of blood splatered on me. As the tractor went over the roots of the narval tree, the heavy trailer, behind, toppled on to the roadside. I ran towards it, yelling, “Vasanth, Vasanth” as before. Salam and Ithayan were struggling to rescue our buddy, our soul mate. Vasanth was struggling for breath. It was a frightening sight.

We struggled to pull him out. I then turned towards the vilagers’ huts and shouted half crying.

“Won’t someone come and help to rescue my Vasanth….”. My scream tore through the wind and the gates and woke up an amma, appa, acca and anna. “Please come, please come”, I kept yelling.

In that beautiful hut with thatched roof, Vasanthan was lying on the only mattress. He was half conscious. His right hand hung below the shoulder and his left hand, crushed, hung below the elbow. He breathed heavily. The two pilows under each arm, all the pilows in the hut, were soaked in blood. The amma took the tea cup from the acca’s hand and brought it to Vasanthan’s lips. The old appa went to the cow to get some milk for Vasanthan.

David annai changed the antenna on his walkie-talkie and called for another vehicle.

In the meantime a medical student in the village performed first aid on Vasanthan and gave him a Valium injection. This calmed him. My friend, who was always beside me and slept beside me, is now lying on the battle ground. He started to talk to the acca sitting quietly. I wondered why he has started to talk all of a sudden.

“Acca, acca”, his voice dragged out. “Yes, what is it thambi?”

“You look very much like my acca Viththi. What will my acca be doing now? She will be sleeping next to my little brother. They will be struggling with the daily work in the vegetable fields. All the trouble is due to the army, the Sinhalese…. Although my appa drinks, he is a good man. Aiyo….”, he moaned in pain.

The dog in the front yard slowly began to howl. Its howl pierced the soul. The tiny coconut oil lamp struggled to stay alive. An insect fell on the flame, briefly making it brighter. It fell into the oil and died.

A vehicle sound floated past. The vehicle picked up Vasanthan and started to move again at speed. I was supporting Vasanthan; he was weak due to heavy loss of blood. I stroked his rough cheeks and tried to say goodbye.

He cried, “Leo please, do not leave me”.

My heart followed the vehicle till it disappeared.

2. Kumulamunai people

10 November 1990

We took off to Kumulamunai in the vehicle that had just arrived. Time was 5.3 5am. Such big forests. The seasonal rain water was flowing in big canals, made by nature.

“Rain water flows like this in these areas. Sometimes it flows over the roads. These floods can even topple big trees”. The driver appeared to have guessed that I am not from this area.

The driver stopped with a sudden break near a bridge. “Look, there is a crocodile lying on the log”, he pointed.

“Where?” I couldn’t see properly.

“On top of that big tree trunk”, he pointed.

A big crocodile was lying along the tree trunk, camouflaged.

“It will stay like this. When prey, a goat or a cow, comes near by, that is it. When I was small, one day our cows and calves were out grazing. They went to drink water in the midday sun. A crocodile took away one of the calves. When all the other cows came back to their shed these two, cow and calf, were missing. Appa sent anna and me to look for them. We looked everywhere but couldn’t find them. When we went near the water hole, we heard the cow’s mournful cry. We went there and found the cow.

Anna put the rope round its neck and pulled it. It refused to come. We went and told appa. He came with two more people and dragged it home”.

“What happened then?” I asked.

“What else. The cow refused to eat and after sometime it died”. Vasanthan’s mother came in my mind’s eye. Like the cow mother’s waiting for her offspring without eating. Will Vasanthan’s mother also …. No, no. I consoled myself.

I suddenly realized that we had come a long way from that bridge.

The vehicle passed several villages and entered the Muliyavalai village. The morning dew was still hanging in the air. Visibility was poor. The vehicle was forced to move slowly. Along the road the lanterns of the tea shops glowed. Their yellow light came intermittently through the mist.

We stopped at a tea shop in Muliyavalai and had a hot cup of tea. The shop owner’s face reflected his dislike of seeing customers with blood stained shirts. I remembered the amma who gave tea to Vasanth and we got back into the vehicle.

The bund of the Murippu tank came into visibility at a distance. On this side were huge spreads of paddy fields, like green silk, wherever one looks.

The herons in the paddy fields rose up as the farmers’ plough neared them. Something suddenly gave me a fright. A sad howling noise; it is the alkaddi; it crossed the road and flew away. We got off the vehicle but the alkaddi’s voice was still ringing in my head.

“Buddy, I need a sleep. Wake me up at noon”, I told my friends and spread the sack under a parlai tree, used my bag of books for a pillow, and fell asleep.

I woke up with a fright at 12.30pm. To my surprise several school children had surrounded us. Ithayan and Salam were entertaining them. The children persisted with their characteristic non-stop questioning. One little girl dug at her brother.

“Anna, how do you shoot this? Our appa’s gun is long like a log, not like this one”.

“That is a different type girl. Appa’s is a shot gun. You can shoot only once with it. This can shoot all these bullets in one go”.

All the children looked at the boy who answered. “Can we look at the bullets”

“Look at it and give it back”. Ithayan removed the magazine, took one bullet and stretched it towards the children. The children looked at it eagerly.

“I want one like this”.

“Not now. You can have one when you are grown up”. “How many army did you shoot?”

“Why do you shoot the army; poor army isn’t it?” “Then why did the army shoot my uncle and grandpa?”

“Who told you that army shot them?”

“Army shot them when I was little and lying in my amma’s lap. Army came inside the house and shot them. Amma also got injured hands. My uncle used to take me to the shop and buy sweets. Once when I was sick, he went and brought the doctor at midnight. That is what amma told me”.

“Yes, I cry a lot. Amma used to tell me not to cry. Amma said when I am grown up I must shoot the army. Will the army take me too before I grow up”

Tears swelled in my eyes. Ithayan embraced the child.

“Why are we here? We will certainly kill them”. Ithayan’s words were heated, the frightened child pulled back. Ithayan pulled the child and embraced her again. Salam yawned.

“Anna, when did you eat?”

I wondered if the tradition of asking “what did you eat?” has changed now to asking “when did you eat?”

“Didn’t eat since last night”, Salam said using sign language. Greedy man!

The children looked at our weapons for a long time and then said goodbye and left. We waved our hands till they disappeared like butterflies. We saw an amma carrying a pot of water on her hips accompanied by a little girl with a bag. Sun was hot and the pair was walking without foot wear.

“What are we going to do for food buddy?”

“Try calling on the walkie-talkie. I doubt there will be food. Probably will have to starve today. I know it is hard for you after eating three good meals a day in the forest”, Ithayan started to have a dig at Salam.

Salam, already hungry, threw a stick at Ithayan.

“That amma is coming towards us”.

The amma put the pot down exhausted and smiled fondly at us.

“Sons, all of you look tired. You all look as if you did not sleep last night. Wash your hands in the pot water and eat. It is not good for your health to go without sleep and food”, amma smiled as if she knew everything. The little girl put the bag down and went to look at our weapons.

“Careful little one, it will explode”. “No it won’t”, the little one laughed. “Have you eaten?”

“Not yet. You eat first, I will eat later”. “No. Let us all eat together”.

Ithayan picked up the little one and put her on his lap. She had just got back from school and had only had a drink of water.

Amma mixed the food into small bals and placed it in our hands. We finished the food. Yoghurt and ghee, smell was heavenly.

 

“Excelent, wonderful.” This was Salam.

Once the stomach was satisfied, Salam became curious. “What are amma’s children doing?”

“Eldest is with you all. This is the second one. That is all”, she said.

Five or six more ammas came to us with food. We struggled and begged them to stop.

Is this the food of love? I didn’t know. By 6.30pm half of Kumulamunai village waved us goodbye as our vehicle moved on, less Vasanthan.

Unwilling to sit in the trailer, I went and sat in front on the mudguard.

The vehicle shook and started to move, increasing in speed. I looked behind. I wondered if Vasanthan would have been taken to Jaffna. I was sure Vasanthan would be fighting in the upcoming battle in the frontline. Could he have died? No, no, I didn’t think so. All three of us were quiet as the wheels swallowed the distance. The sun started to disappear in the west. The sky looked as if it was painted red. But the painter was careless; his brush had touched the white clouds, giving the clouds a red tinge. Paint drops must have fallen into the water puddles among the fields because they too were slightly reddened.

A white heron flew in the reddened wind. Herds of cows were returning home. A calf kept at her mother’s udder annoying her. I couldn’t look. Something hurt inside.

“Buddy, stop next to that man with the gun”.

The vehicle slowed and stopped. They looked like a father and son pair. The Iya looked 70. His son may have been 45. They were standing outside their home chatting to their family.

“What can we do for you boy?” the Iya asked.

“Oh nothing. Our water-can tipped. We stopped to check it”, I replied.

“Bloody liar”, Ithayan mumbled.

I fiddled with the tank and listened to what the family were saying.

“When will you come back?” the amma asked. She must be the wife of the Iya.

“Thankam, we have to leave now in a hurry. We can’t be sure when we will be back. Have you got everything you need at home?”

“Yes, everything is here. Our grandson has been running a fever for two days. I am worried about him”.

“If there is an emergency call the man next door, he will help. I will tell him about it before I leave”.

The daughter-in-law came out from the house.

“What did you cook?” the son asked his wife. “Putu and fish curry. I cooked your favourite”. He looked at his wife fondly.

“Our son’s fever is not going down. If you come back quickly, we can take him to the doctor at Muliyavalai”.

“Amma, little one has vomited”, this is the eldest daughter of the old couple.

“Appa, wait a minute”, said the old man’s son and he ran inside and picked up his little son, his wife standing next to him. He gave a kiss to the child and gave the child to his wife.

“I will be back soon. But do not wait for me. Go quickly and get the medicine”.

“Appa, how many army will you shoot this time?” the child asked his father.

“We don’t keep count boy. I will shoot every army and thug that comes here as long as I have life in my body”.

“If there is no life in your body?” the child queried.

“Why do you think you are here? If I die, you must shoot them. If you don’t they will take or destroy all our things. You will then be living at the mercy of someone else.”

“Then why didn’t you teach me to shoot?”

“If you shoot, the gun will pull you with it. When you are bigger you can learn.” He turned to his wife. “We will be going. Take the boy and get the medicine”.

Father and son walked closer to us. We offered to give them a ride.

“Keep talking to the Iya. I will go and get some water”, I said walked towards the house.

“Amma, water”, I said and the older girl took our can inside and immediately came running back.

“Amma, the mother cow is not in the shed. All the others are there.”

Mother put the hands on the girl’s mouth and silenced her.

“Don’t shout when appa is just leaving; we will go and look, come”.

A white cow came along the road with its calf and passed me.

“Oh, they are here” The boy ran to them, put his hands around her neck and began kissing the cow. The cow licked the boy back. The calf brushed its body against the boy.

I took the can of water, thinking about this boy’s determination to protect his motherland for this love. I wondered about the people in this sacred land that connects the north and the east of the Tamil homeland.

I could hear the old man talking.

“We have been fighting the Sinhalese for the last 50 years. They came to Chemmalai and we beat them back. We rescued our people who were tied up. We burnt down the settler’s huts. When police came we hid in the jungles. They took four of our people and charged them in courts but they were released.” He paused, “Later, it was the army that tormented our people and chased them. Stop here, we will get off”.

Both the father and son started to walk through the paddy fields. I looked at Ithayan and we smiled. Before we joined our armed revolution, these older folk had been fighting the Sinhalese who tried to split the Tamil homeland into two pieces. Had our politicians of that time supported these brave men, it would have made a big difference. Had our politicians guided them along a revolutionary path, our land would be free.

Our journey continued with my thoughts and the vehicle speeding away.

Continued...Part II