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Sri Lanka: Being young through War and Peace

Categories: South Asia, Sri Lanka, Ethnicity & Race, Refugees, War & Conflict, Youth

Sayanthan [1], a talented Sri Lankan Tamil blogger based in Switzerland is famous for his entertaining podcasts. His blog is usually full of enthralling anecdotes. Today, he posted a thought provoking post on young people and their way of dealing with the conflict in Sri Lanka [2].

A translation of Sayanthan [3]‘s post is particularly poignant as we think of the the experiences of refugees, and those torn by war and conflict in various parts of the world. Sayanthan in this post explains why it appears as though the younger generation concentrates mainly on “fun”, and how the conflict has stolen some very precious aspects of being young. He laments a similar fate for the next generation. He focuses on an experience that lasted for a brief period, when the possibility of peace gave him and his friends a chance to enjoy themselves despite the conflict.

வலைப் பதிவுகளில் நானும் சோமியும் அவ்வப் போது ஐந்து சதத்திற்கும் பெறுமதியில்லாத ஏதாவது ஒன்றைப் பற்றி, நகைச்சுவையை மட்டும் மையப்படுத்தி அளவளாவுவோம். என்னை ஒரு மொக்கைப் பதிவு மன்னன் ஆகப் பிரகடனப்படுத்தும் அளவிற்கு அவை இருந்து வந்துள்ளன….

My friends and I, usually spend our time in our blogs on fun-stuff. Sometimes elders used to advise that these ‘fun-stuff’ are not expected of us and to concentrate on more productive issues.

But, have any of you thought why we engage in such ‘fun-stuff'? Have you ever wondered why the younger generation who had been thrown to the four-corners concentrate mainly on the ‘fun-stuff’ when they get together, be it on the Net or in person?

Lets look at how life was 40-50 years ago. Even though things were hot in the political arena, day-to-day life was quite peaceful then. Today's elders, then one-time youth would have done everything appropriate for their age. They would have had a bunch of school friends who would have grown together. They would have visited parks, beaches and theaters together. Would have had point-less conversations with friends. Most importantly, they would have roamed about without any fear.

Did we get those opportunities?

The land was already burning when we were born. We had to check for curfew timings on our way to kinder-garden school. Every year, we had to re-locate and there-by lose friends. 10 years without electricity, bombed out cinema-theaters, towns going to sleep by 8 p.m., lives without any guarantees. These are, but a few things we endured in our lives.

But, I did not lament about any of these things before. Not until a few years ago, when we enjoyed a glimmer of peace.

It was mid-2004.

My friends and I were in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. That was a Jaffna I'd never before seen in my life. It was not enduring peace, but just a hope of peace. But even that was enough to make us happy.

We ate bread-and-meat_curry in the beach. We crossed army camps without any fears of being caught. Saw opposing sides laughing together. Looked upon the military personnel, who did not demand any identity cards, with affection. We drank toddy in the middle of the night. Sang at the top of the voice, in the middle of the road at midnight without any fear. Similarly in Colombo, we enjoyed travelling without any check-posts. Weaved tales in the Galle-face beach hours past midnight. And threw away those dreaded police resident-records.

I experienced joy filled war-less peaceful life in those few days. I then, lamented the lost years. And envied the youth of yesteryears.

War and ethnic strife has plucked away those care-free times from us. We lost all our enjoyable experiences to war.

Here I am, years past the years that could be spent on adolescent fun-filled activities. But whenever I see my scattered friends in one place, all of us fill ourselves with teasing talks, chats and pointless arguments. This happens wherever and whenever friends get together. It's unavoidable.

Peace has hidden its face once more. It's back to war, death, kidnappings, identity cards, bombings, shell attacks.

Over in Sri Lanka, the next generation is doomed to experience what we did. They will lose friends, conversations, beaches, parks..

War-less life. How beautiful it is!