Thursday, February 03, 2011

Hear my Voice ~ Bonsika Vadivel Vasanthan

Bonsika Vadivel Vasanthan ~ “Please bring my father back to me”

Bonsika Vadivel Vasanthan struggles to come to terms

Bonsika Vadivel Vasanthan (7) always stays alone and confines to a Brown plastic chair with flower work. The chair is bigger than she. She wears a pristine White pleated frock, which is the school uniform with Light Blue and White stripe tie. Light Blue silk ribbon holds her straight hair into a Pony tail, and wears a pair of artificial White stone ear studs. She does not mingle with anybody. She seldom talks or plays. She stays quiet.

"My father used to tell me a lot of nice bed time stories, before I go to sleep everyday. We used to sing a lot of beautiful songs together in Tamil. Now, nobody either tells me any story or sings with me. I feel very lonely as my father is not with me" laments Bonsika Vadivel Vasanthan while tears fill her both eyes, and pour down endlessly through her charming cheeks.

Her father got injured during the last phase of the war in Vanni, North of Sri Lanka in April 2009, and admitted to the hospital. But, Bonsika Vadivel Vasanthan has not seen her father afterwards. She moved from Bharathipuram in Vanni to Jaffna Peninsula along with the rest of her family members, and living here in a small apartment.

"I pray three times a day, and ask God to send my father safely to me wherever he is now. I am neither able to study nor sleep without my father. His wonderful memories stay intact. Please bring my father back to me. I want my father. Nobody can replace him. I have a younger sister, she too needs our father" laments Bonsika Vadivel Vasanthan. There is seeminlgy no end to her search.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hear my voice ~ Jalajakumari Selvarasa

Jalajakumari Selvarasa ~ "I could often feel the nostalgia"

Jalajakumari Selvarasa is convinced and lives daily with hope

Jalajakumari Selvarasa (41) is very duty conscious in a bottle green traditional Shalwar Kameez. She sits at the entrance of the women’s side of the springs, and gives the instructions in Tamil to the devotees who visit "Keerimalai" springs in Jaffna district, North of Sri Lanka. She shows the way with her shiny smile to the new comers here in "Keerimalai".

Keerimalai literally translates Mongoose Hill in English. Naguleswaram temple is one of the five hallowed Lord Sivan temples (Panchcha Ishwaram) in Sri Lanka. Naguleswaram temple is situated here in "Keerimalai", which is 50 feet above the main sea level.

"I am happy to be here and help the devotees. It is a sacred place and sanctity should be maintained at all times. I am doing a small service to the community" says Jalajakumari Selvarasa while wearing a cotton cap to compete with the balmy weather here in "Keerimalai" .

Red vermilion called "Pottu" (dot) is placed on her forehead and pair of Silver toe rings on her feet show that she is married. A sharp line of holy ash on her forehead and a multi colour holy thread on her left wrist show her strong spirituality.

She has five children~ 2 sons and 3 daughters. She got displaced several times due to war. She lived in "Pandatharippu" and "Vanni". She currently lives in Alavetty in a rented house. Her house in "Keerimalai"stands still and empty with names written in English, Sinhala and Tamil and pictures painted in colour.

"Displacement has become a part of my life. I initially got displaced in 1983 from our house in Keerimalai, during the heavy fighting between the security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels known as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. My house falls under the High Security Zone (HSZ) in "Keerimalai".

Now, I get to see my house everyday when I come here for my duty. But I could often feel the nostalgia. I am looking forward to a day, when I will be able to live in my hometown again with my family. I hope and pray that, the day is not too far. I have a few dreams to come true, one is returning to my hometown and live with my family and serve the God"
shares Jalajakumari Selvarasa with her unambiguous hope flickering in her heart.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hear my voice ~ Velupillai Yesupalan

Velupillai Yesupalan ~ "My father is my role model"

Velupillai Yesupalan (16) seems nervous and unsettled as he waits at his school during the morning break~ drinks interval as it is called here in Jaffna. He wears a pair of Dark Blue shorts, White short sleeve shirt with the school batch stitched on the pocket of the shirt on left. A pair of his Black shoes removed and kept outside the library of his school.

Normally shoes are removed when entering the library, because it is compared to a shrine and considered sacred. Feet covered with a pair of Cotton socks upto his knee are fixed firmly to the Grey cement floor. He takes a while to settle down and talk to me. He is a Grade 11 student of Kondavil Hindu Maha Vidyalayam in Jaffna district, North of Sri Lanka.

"I do not have a father. He was killed during the war. I feel sad and depressed, because I am fatherless. My father is my role model. I want to be like my father, who was helpful to others despite many setbacks" emotionally shares Velupillai Yesupalan as he continuously bites his right hand finger nails, and tears pour through his both eyes and roll down quickly through his tender cheeks.

His family is originally from Thellipalai, moved to Thirunelvely, Iranaimadu, Vallipuram and Puthukkudiyiruppu due to war. They are currently occupying the station master’s quarters in Kondavil.

"My mother works hard to look after us carefully. She tries very hard to feed us with three meals. She is becoming old and finds it hard to do a lot of work. I have three younger brothers and a younger sister. Since, I am the eldest in the family, I have to take care of my mother and siblings. I am trying to study hard and pass the exams, but I get disturbed when I think of my dear father" continues Velupillai Yesupalan.

He rarely talks and plays with his fellow students and friends. He stays reserved.

"My favourite game is cricket. I used to play with my father. Now, I rarely play with my younger brothers. My dream is to become a school teacher" continues Velupillai Yesupalan as he adjusts the school badge on his shirt pocket.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Here my voice ~ Arumugam Varatharajan

Arumugam Varatharajan ~ "I want to feel 'belonged'"

Arumugam Varatharajan wants to spend the rest of his life in his ancestral house

The time is 12.10PM, it is lunch time in Sri Lanka. The scorching Sun shines bright in Jaffna, North of Sri Lanka. Arumugam Varatharajan (56) wrapped in an old Blue Sarong and wears no shirt as the weather is balmy. He is seen busy stitching bags at his small tailor shop in Kondavil~ Jaffna district. A ladies’ bicycle is parked on the wall. His shop also has candy, shampoo and pen for sale. A piece of used sack is placed on the steel pedal of his old USHA sewing machine to comfort his tired feet. A straight line of White Holy ash from the nearby temple still stays on his forehead amidst non-stop sweat, which proves he is an ardent devotee of Goddess.

"I left my ancestral home in Kaankesanthurai, which is in High Security Zone (HSZ), in 1990 along with my family. Ever since, I have been living in a rented house in Alavetty in Jaffna district. My ancestral house was destroyed during the war. I still treasure those old memories of living in Kaankesanthurai with all the relatives" says Arumugam Varatharajan while his fingers race with an old USHA sewing machine needle.

He was a farmer before the displacement in 1990, he followed his forefathers. Later, he turned into a tailor and began to stitch bags, dresses and footwear.

"My average daily income is Rs.500/=~Rs.1,000/=. I have some regular customers. I work 365 days to earn an enough income to look after my family. I have three children who are still schooling. I want to educate them well, and make them understand the human values which are currently being forgotten" continues Arumugam Varatharajan.

People visited their houses and properties in the High Security Zone (HSZ) in Jaffna district. Arumugam Varatharajan too has visited his ancestral house a few times.

"I am looking forward to go back to my house and live in Kaankesanthurai before I die. I want to continue with farming there. I feel being myself, when I am in my own house and surroundings. I easily connect myself to the place, where I was born and raised. I feel the 'belongingness' whenever I visit Kaankesanthurai, which brings the most happiest memories ever. I feel lost being displaced and living in another place. I am unable to fit in another place. I neither wanted to leave Jaffna nor Sri Lanka. I want to continue living in Jaffna with my family" continues Arumugam Varatharajan while his eyes get filled with tears, but he tries hard not to let them roll down his cheeks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hear my voice ~ Thenuja Tharmeshwaran

Thenuja Tharmeshwaran ~ “I am always my father’s pet”

Thenuja Tharmeshwaran struggles and unable to forget the traumatic past

Thenuja Tharmeshwaran (15) waits with hope at the entrance of her school~ Kondavil Hindu Maha Vidyalayam in Jaffna district in Sri Lanka. Her eyes are full and filled with tears and roll down her cheeks while she shares her agony with me sitting closer in Jaffna, North of Sri Lanka. She wears a pristine White pleated frock which is the school uniform with Light Blue and White tie, her hair is middle parted, neatly plaited into two and tied with matching brilliant blue silk ribbon. Red stone circle ear studs add colour to her complexion. A White pair of shoes tightly tied and feet are fixed to the cement floor. She sits straight on a Brown plastic chair and makes instant eye contact. Her fingers are crossed and she keeps quiet most of the time thinking deep. Black round “Pottu” (dot) is placed perfectly between her two eyebrows along with sandalwood and holy ash on top decorating her smooth forehead. It shows her strong spirituality.

"I lost my father during the war. I feel sad and helpless, when I think of my beloved father. I always feel terribly lost after his death .He is my bestest friend, and I am always his pet. My heart does not allow me anytime to speak in past tense, when I talk about my father. Because I feel he is always with me~ he loves me, listens to me, cares for me, talks to me and watches me, although he is not physically near to me. But he is always dear to me" shares Thenuja Tharmeshwaran.

She lived in Vanni, North of Sri Lanka, which was formerly controlled by the Tamil rebels known as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who were defeated by the Government security forces in May 2009. She got displaced during the war and stayed in the internally displaced camp in Vavuniya in Sri Lanka. Gradually she moved to Jaffna, and she currently lives there with her extended family.

"I have nightmares while sleeping, because I am unable to forget my father and the sweet memories. We used to play hide and seek and snake and ladder together. These are our favourite games. I miss him so dearly.I often dream that, my father is still alive somewhere, but it is not true in reality. He is (was) such a loving and caring father, who never failed in his duties. He attended to my needs and wishes whether he had enough money or not" her voice cracks down and tears begin to pour through her both eyes endlessly. She uses her pink handkerchief with embroidery to wipe the uncontrollable tears.

She is unable to get rid of the trauma of losing her father suddenly. But she tries to attend the school regularly, pay attention to her studies and pass the exams. She rarely mixes with the rest of the kids.

"My favourite subject is Tamil. I want to study hard and become a teacher. I want to make my father’s dream come true to change the lives of the people" continues Thenuja Tharmeshwaran with hope in her eyes and heart.