To My Burning Wanni Sky

My Wanni stories are not over yet. There are still some things I have kept to myself. The story of Mydali is one of them. I met Mydali (not her real name) when I worked in Wanni. I am a Sinhalese. Mydali is Tamil. But with the help of the spattering of Tamil I knew and the few words of English she knew, we talked.

Mydali and I are the same age. By the time I met her the sparkle of expectation, of hope and joy of a bright future that would once have lurked in her eyes, had dimmed. She was tried of her cracked and battered world; tired of the Eelam war that had robbed her of a normal, carefree childhood. I told her the Jataka story about the two parrots; about the way the two parrots of the same family end up living in two different societies and acquire two different attitudes and habits. I told her about the way social norms, stressors and situations shape up and sharpen our lives. She heard the story and realized that it is the background that we grew up in that turns us into who we are today. I explained to her the reason behind my decision to turn my back on a society that placed her on one end of the line and me on the other end, a society that had given us a legacy of hate, anger and separation. I explained that I harbored no anger towards her. She loved that I was different from a typical doctor. We were both young, and this made things easier. After some time, she got rid of the anger she had carried with her for certain people, for so long. All she wanted to do now was to spend her days farming onions.

“Why especially onions?” I asked her.

“Don’t worry, I will grow other things too,” she replied.

Back then, Suben and I used to visit them in their new houses; we felt they were our own kith and kin and the last thing we wanted was to breach the new sense of connection we had formed. On one such visit, we found Mydali inside one of those light blue tents that were part of the new settlements. She had begun to grow things on their land.

“How can you live like this?” I tried to explain to her how dangerous it is for a girl like her to live in a tent with no protection. But she refused to listen to me. Perhaps under the burning Wanni sky, like most others I had met, she too had forgotten what it felt to be afraid.

She remained in Wanni with her mother. I returned to Colombo. I became more active on Facebook. As the Eelam they believed in turned into a distant dream, as their hearts grew heavy, as the entire Wanni blew up and shattered into tiny pieces, her fiance who had suddenly disappeared seven years ago, returned. But his sudden appearance after his equally sudden disappearance during the Wanni invasion meant nothing to her…the love she had once felt had faded and disappeared…

“I don’t feel anything now…we have changed,” she confessed to me. Her words showed me how hard it is for those who were left behind in Wanni to fight with and defeat their memories. But among them are also those who continue to grieve over a lost love. They weep saying, “I’m sorry, but I want to go back onto the lake bund and cry.”

Life is a mixture of things that are lost and things that are found. It is my days in Wanni that taught me to be strong in the face of tragedy and loss; about the futility of crying and wailing over things that are gone. It was Wanni who taught me, every loss is meant to be. If not for my time in Wanni I would never have received a training in how to bear separation, how to make new bonds and how to let go.

Just like us, Mydali too threw her sorrows up into the Wanni sky…at the end of May…when so much was lost…remembering that beautiful heart who constantly asked me why I didn’t write our story…I wrote this for Mydali.

To my burning Wanni sky…

At the end of May
The fertile bouquet of love
that blossomed in my heart
You grabbed, trampled on
and aborted…
With nothing left
to call my own
I threw my grief up into
the burning Wanni sky.

Our hearts,
cracked and splintered
midst life devouring blasts
with the celebrations
on the other side
of the Palmyra fence
With nothing left
to call our own
we shared our grief
with the burning Wanni sky.

Knowing that
no tears will flow
for the flowers that bloomed
on trees out of bounds
pinched, stamped on,
we cursed
the burning Wanni sky

I knew what it is to love
once long ago,
they say
my heart has turned to stone.
One day this body too
that has no wish
to see another dawn,
I will set free,
High up into
the burning Wanni sky.

Translated by Aditha Dissanayake from the Note and Poem “ගිනි ගත් වන්නි අහසට” by Dr. Bodhini Samaratunga

ගිනිගත් වන්නි අහසට …(Sinhala)

හිත දරා පිපුණා
ගැබ්බර සෙනෙහෙ මල් මිට
නුඹ තලා උදුරා
ගබ්සා කළා ප්‍රේමය
මගෙ කියා කිසිවෙක්
ඉතිරි නොවනා මැයි අග
දුක දමා ගැහුවේ
ගිනිගත් වන්නි අහසට

ඉරිතැලුණු හදවත්
පණ බුදින පිපිරුම් මැද
ඉතින් අපි ඉවරයි
නැගෙන සැමරුම් ලද
වෙර නැගෙන මායිම්
එපිට පැන තල් වැට
දුක ඉතින් කීවේ
ගිනිගත් වන්නි අහසට

මල් දරා පිපුනා,
තහනම් කෙරුණු ගස්වල
ඒ තලා කොනිතා
උගුළා දැමූ හිස් කුස
නුඹ නමින් පූදින
කඳුළක් නේවි කිසි දින
සාප දෙස් තිබ්බෙම
ගිනි ගත් වන්නි අහසට

එදා උන් මම නොව
වෙනත් කෙනෙකුන් නොව
දරාගත්තම පෙම
ගලක් වෙනවලු හිත
නේන තරමට හොඳ
හෙටක් හිමි නැති කය
දිනෙක මුදනෙමි මමත්
ගිනිගත් වන්නි අහසට

බෝධිනී සමරතුංග

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