Kilinochchi was the de facto LTTE capital. It is now bombed out and abandoned. There are houses without roof and roofs without houses. That is, every building in Kili has been bombed and has no roof. Further down the road, people live in hovels made of roofing material. It’s an eerie place. What’s more eerie is that they’ve set up a vegetable market near some of the ruins while people stop to take pictures. Including me.
The first time I ventured into the Wanni (loosely, Mannar, Mullativu and Vavuniya districts) I was taking photos out the back of this armored bus like I discovered the place. I drove up later and realized this was dumb. Now the road to Vavuniya is almost entirely normal. Perhaps someday the road through Kilinochchi will be like this, but right now it’s really weird.
A few chairs were left out, for no one
The town is all rubble and abandoned buildings. The dominant landmark is a huge World Bank funded water tower which has collapsed. Vegetable sellers park their trucks in front and sell their wares. Busloads of tourists stop to look.
Market in front of the ruins
Meanwhile, outside the city, displaced people live in destitution along the road. Under takarang sheets, tarpaulin. Their clothes hang in the air as their walls flap in the breeze.
Woman in front of makeshift house
As you drive along the children run alongside and wave, trying to get in the photo. There is no security presence, and even that is ambivalent. We were able to take photos even at checkpoints, with a nod and a smile. But we’re still driving through what was a warzone last year and restricted to Ministry Of Defence clearance last month.
Kids waving and smiling near shattered kovil
It is a strange drive, only existing for a brief period of time. In a year this road and the Wanni and Jaffna will be transformed, if the road stays open. For now it is like a weird trek through a shattered past.
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