Published originally on Perambara.org.
Within minutes the crowd grows from a few random stragglers to a swelling, shouting throng. I stand there amongst the women, waiting to be body-searched by female security personnel and there are people actually shoving me, pushing to get to the front of the line – the quicker the search is done, the quicker they can rush to the other side and join their men in the fray. I feel conspicuous in my awkwardness, out of place wearing the embarrassment I always feel as invasive hands search my body for hidden weapons.
The search done, I attempt to cross over but security won’t let me pass. I wave my ministry media ID at them – it’s been a long day – but they look perplexed, as if they’ve never seen a woman media person before. Still, I am small fry and they are watchful of the crowd so they pass me on from one officer to the next. I don’t mind – media ID in one had and camera in the other, I utilize their confusion and start taking photographs of this dynamic, bursting crowd.
Continue reading The bigger picture
Originally published on Groundviews.
In 2005, I didn’t vote. Being 21, I was eligible to vote, but I didn’t – and if you asked me why, I would ashamedly admit I simply didn’t care. I was in University abroad, my mind preoccupied with the Arts, my arms wrapped around my glossy new textbooks, my life an adventure waiting to happen. Voting, politics and presidents didn’t register on my radar: the picture they represented was too big for me to fathom and it all seemed so removed from the microcosm of my life. In 2005, my parents were the presidents of my world and I the rebellious citizen, rioting for my right to certain freedoms.
After my university career, I moved back home and joined a media institution – just in time to get a front row seat to some of the most significant events in Sri Lanka’s history. 2 years and the end of a war later, I find both myself and my country in turmoil. Strange, considering we are supposed to be at peace now. But then again, we are supposed to be many things. We are supposed to be a democracy. We are supposed to be opposed to violence because violence is the way of terrorists – and we are supposed to have defeated terrorism. We are supposed to be a liberated people, with freedom of movement, expression and choice.
But it is election time now and what, of all those things, do we have? Continue reading A message from a first-time voter
* Originally published in ‘The Insider‘.
A couple of weeks ago, I accompanied my parents on what seemed a routine visit to see some old friends of theirs. David and Anna were an elderly British couple – Anna was probably in her 60s, her husband David probably in his 70s – and they were both delightful. For almost two hours we all laughed, joked and conversed with each other, and it was almost easy to ignore the silent 6th companion sitting with us all the way through: Anna’s cancer, which by now had spread through almost her entire body, leaving her in a wheelchair. I spent the evening mostly listening to these two as they chatted with my parents, recalling their many previous visits to Sri Lanka and vowing that this would not be their last. “We’ll be here next January with our kids” said David, firmly, winking at me.
Our ride home was long and it gave me the time to plug in my ipod, stare out the window and ruminate – one of my favourite pastimes. I switched on my phone and sent my best friend a quick text: “Sigh. I can’t wait to grow old with someone”. I then settled back in my seat, puzzled by my own words and feelings.
I’ve always been a little crazy for passion. From Enid Blyton to Margarett Mitchell, there’s been one kind of love story that has always attracted me more than others. As a child, I watched Beauty and the Beast – the story of a young woman who enters into an agreement with a monster she learns to love – with a sort of terrified enchantment. As I grew up, the stories became more life-like, more advanced and the conflicts became more complex, but it was always that heated, troubled passion that I looked for: that dark, dangerous love. Jane Eyre and her gruff, mysterious Rochester; Scarlett’s sometimes searing, sometimes freezing affection for Rhett; and, inexplicably, my favourite – Cathy’s devastating love for her dark, mad Heathcliff. Continue reading Of Great Love
Originally published on Perambara.org.
11 years ago, Trincomalee was paradise. I have memories of aquamarine beaches, walking out to sea for miles on shallow sandbanks, spending a morning at Pigeon Island climbing rocks and looking at coral. The only thing that marred our trip was the coral thief we stumbled upon there, who was sternly reprimanded by one of our party for the damage he was doing to the reef. He listened not-so-guiltily to the lecture and scrammed with his hacking knives, leaving the broken coral behind. Even as an innocent 13 year old, I knew he would probably be back for it later.
At 24, I look at Trincomalee with different eyes: not only because I have changed, but because it has too – possibly even more than me. I have lived through the same war, but experienced it predominantly through the news and from a distance . Trinco, on the other hand, has had the war fought at its doorstep and in its back yard. And these waves of violence were only to be followed by another: the tsunami, brought in by the sea that had always been an ally in the past – a source of survival and income for the townsfolk; an omnipresent companion, glinting along the coast. In 2004, that friend turned foe. Continue reading Trinco Rising.
(contd. from Part 2)
-3- My Weapon
I have been a soldier from the time I was barely out of toddler-hood. I was one of those lucky few who survived early training during which we were given a gun, taught hurriedly how to point and shoot and then shoved forward into the thick of battle. So I was one of those few terrified children who ran in the jungles, shot their too-heavy guns every which way through tear flooded eyes and managed by some miraculous chance to pass the days and months alive and largely unhurt.
I will boast no skill – I had none. All I remember of those days are my tearing gasps, my heart in my ears, a sick sort of adrenalin in my legs and stomach, my wild, haphazard shooting. I ran until my shoes wore out at the bottom. I killed and killed until the sound of the gunshot didn’t scare me, till the recoil didn’t send me flying backwards, till the smell of blood stopped making me want to vomit, till each killing became a triumph of my own survival. Continue reading Monster? (Part 3)
(contd. from Part 1)
-2- The Cell.
I don’t quite know how, but it is at once hot and cold in my cell. The walls are grimy and moist with mold and offer no semblance of heat. But still I sweat, sitting here with nothing to do and nowhere to go but into my own mind. I am well used to sweat – from battle or exercise or just traveling over rough terrain on a hot day. This is different – this sweat of maddening stillness. Even now I can feel drops faltering down my spine to lose themselves in the uncomfortable weave of my prison attire.
Sometimes I have an urge to take off my clothes and lie naked on the wet, slimy ground, trading in that constant sweat for filth. I refrain though, knowing the sight would be an invitation too difficult for my frustrated guards to resist. Continue reading Monster? (Part 2)
-1- The Verdict
When they read out the verdict, I wasn’t listening. Can you believe it? My entire future hung on one word by that jury and when they uttered it, I simply didn’t hear.
I stood up mechanically at “will the defendant please rise”, like a robot, long unused, creaking to attention. I had been sitting for days and it hurt to stand up. In a starched cotton dress suit and unaccustomed to civilian clothing, I was longing for the familiarity of my uniform. It was that kind of mundane thought that was running through my head at that moment. That and how thin strands of the judge’s grey hair poked out from under his wig, straight out as if electrocuted, making him look vaguely foolish. So preoccupied was I with this caricature before me that when the rest of the courtroom searched by face at the word “guilty”, I only wore a smug smirk. Continue reading Monster? (Part 1)