Guy checking tickets on the train, by me
One of the first people I met in India turned out to be a Sri Lankan. His name was Felix and he was from near Wattala. He fled in 1984 after mobs burned down his house and turned his family into refugees. He’s originally an estate Tamil (not Jaffna), which they tried to explain to rioters, to no avail. I said I was terribly sorry for his loss, and our loss of him and his family. He lives in Chennai now, he was visiting his kids in Bangalore.
This was pretty much the first guy I met. We were on the train and hadn’t discovered our commonality till the very end. He was really nice. I told him how things had changed and he told me how they had been. He said him and his friends used to ride motorbikes across the whole country. They’re now scattered across the globe. As annoying as the vengeful Tamil diaspora is, calling for boycotts and funding terror, I think people like Felix are the reality.
Good people, forced to leave their home because of a terrible injustice. They’ve moved on, usually well, and they’re not asking for anything. I personally think they deserve a decent apology and reparations, but when I mentioned this Felix just laughed. He’s got his wife and kids in India now, the son has got married, life goes on.
Strangely, the next guy I met in India was also of Sri Lankan descent, also estate Tamil, his mother from Bandarawela. I didn’t get into it too much, but I suspect they because the estate Tamils were disenfranchised and basically booted after the British left. He was my friend’s driver and he had no particular affinity for Sri Lanka and laughed when I suggest that he visit.
It’s a random sample, but there’s a lot of Sri Lankan/Tamil diaspora in India. There’s actually still a lot of IDPs living in camps here as well. It was once terrible reality, but it’s now a sort of historical sediment. If you look deep into anyone’s history there will be injustices, rapes, massacres, forced migration. It gets buried under new lives and new memories, new places that don’t remind us of the old.
Felix had only a passing knowledge of the ‘situation’ in Sri Lanka and he asked me for news. It obviously wasn’t a pressing issue. He’s moved and moved on, seemingly with malice to none. I said very nice to meet you and told him to look me up if he was ever on the island. We got off at Bangalore Central and I turned to orient myself. There were military chaps carrying bags, another train, a pretty girl taking the stairs underground. Another shuffle and he was gone.