Wilpattu National Park, by Adeesha
It seems like the same generation keeps dying. They died when they were young as students and artists and they die now as fathers and mothers. It just keeps going, culling the best from that age like some reaper that they sowed. A friend’s father was just killed in a landmine in Wilpattu. As a tourist, driving down the main road of a national park. The news ripples through the phonelines again and I don’t have anything to say. This isn’t my war, I was just a baby, I really don’t understand. Still, people’s parents keep dying and the shock waves keep coming through the phonelines and poking nervously, insistently into the pale artifice of a normal life. My uncle tells me to get used to it, that there’s more to come. But people aren’t even fighting anymore, they’re just dying. You read about the bombings in the papers and move on, but it gets harder as you see friends losing fathers and mothers and the loss gets closer and closer to home.
Whether rich or poor, this life has affected everyone. That generation, everybody who stuck their head up risked having it chopped off. Everybody has parents who went to jail or fled for a time, but there are more people who never became parents at all, or left young children behind. Richard de Soyza, Rajani Thiranagama, and on and on. The sheer amount of Tamil people that left, embittered and humiliated, was a great national loss. At the same time, the JVP killed and disappeared a whole batch or creatives and students that would otherwise be guiding us today. That generation of leaders was brutally selected until only the most venal, violent and ruthless survived. But there were a few who survived and continued speaking, either in exile or by sheer luck. Of those brave few, we just lost another one.
Growing up abroad this war was just a bad dream, a headache that only occasionally showed symptoms on CNN. I remember when Premadasa died, vaguely, but it was just some happenings on a TV screen with threads of meaning I couldn’t tie together. Now I can see more clearly that every bombing, every suicide touches countless other lives beyond the devastation of the blast. It echoes out so rapidly that you can’t escape it, and the people that gather at the funeral house are only the tip of the iceberg. Within 20 minutes of any blast you’re just waiting for that phone call to connect it back to you, to take the randomness off the screen and throw it like a wrench into normal families, the chaos rippling through friends and acquaintances.
But it doesn’t make sense anymore. The people dying aren’t youthful revolutionaries or radicals, these are just normal people. They have families and responsibilities and hundreds of people that depend on them in countless ways. The fight is over, but the killing just goes on. I don’t know any other conflict where people worry about losing their parents more than their friends, but I do. It’s like they’re a part of something they can’t control and which I can only see the periphery of. They say it’s just starting, but I just want it to finally end. He was a father, a writer and a friend and now he’s gone. I’m so sorry.