Ceylon to SriLanka
The title explains my understanding of the Island nation which has had a shared heritage since the days of Ashoka the Great and if one doesn’t question the exact time then even from the days of Lord Rama.But notwithstanding history and its myriad interpretations already available and the ones to follow, one’s personal experience lends authenticity to one’s FEELING OF KNOWLEDGE (well, try understanding that!).
In the early 80’s of the last century, when I was in school final, I had to pass by the Ceylon refugee camp, bang opposite the entrance of the central jail around an area called Subramaniapuram on the way to the Trichirapalli airport. The shacks put up by the enormous munificence of the Govt. Of Tamil Nadu, to say the least , was PATHETIC!
No work permit for those Lankan Tamil refugees and they were seen loitering in florid and brightly coloured lungis. Unkempt and penury dripping all over. I did not understand the gravity of the circumstances in which they had found themselves.
A sort of political canker based on linguistic and communal divide had turned the democratic setup into a majoritarian oligarchy which assessed its own strength wrongly and took sides leading to what we know as an unbridgeable divide.
Life went on, retaliation took place and the whole scenario turned uglier than imaginable.
In the college there were students from Sri Lanka, who by hindsight I know must have been from the well to do families which could afford insulating their kids from the political turmoil besetting the Northern part of Lanka, then. They were using too grammatical and obsoletely worded Thamizh with an accent absolutely to a native Of Tamilnadu. But they were friendly and mostly of robust health, given to excessive smoking and not given to much mirthful disposition, probably because they were bearing the burden of the anxiety back home.
Most of them were clubbed together with foreign students from Malaysia, in fact one could see that both the Lankans and the Malaysian Tamils wore Paisley designed florid shirts with slit sides!
When I visited HOUSE OF FASHION, a Colombo equivalent of our Purusaiwakkam Saravana Stores, I saw a section full of those paisley designed florid side slit shirts. Those days back in college, we country Tamils had nursed a desire to be seen in those coxcomby shirts!
But now, India is in the verge of becoming a low rung super power and consequently a certain superciliousness had set in to ignore those vestigial yearnings nursed in those callow years of youth!
So all the per diem is spent on cinnamon and liquor from duty free shops!
Sri Lankan issues have been sorted out, and a certain calm had dawned on them. Yet the imperial flavour of the architecture and consumption of too much of wood in their interiors!
Further, like the symbolic Urdu signages in the Delhi roads, one can find Tamil signages everywhere except for the Sinhala Academy building! But the Tamil is mostly a transliteration of Sinhala language and occasionally Tamil words absolutely alien to the Thamizh of Tamil Nadu, just like the paneer dosa of Punjab to a native Tamil.
Islander’s life seemed not very different from those of the laid back tea garden owners! It would have been easier for my consciousness had SriLanka not named their currency as Rupee- I had to shell out double or triple in Rupees! That was disheartening.
Women are bold and don’t seem to hold their breasts up, as a sign of immodesty! That was very refreshing!
One should visit the Serendib to see how the economies stagnate because of divisive politics!