Ray of Hope
Seasons come and go
Life and Death happens
Like a rolling stone that gather no moss
Single ray of Hope
Urges the life to go on.
Or Some where in near future
The dreams come true!!!
Novembers are rainy months. Dark clouds; Gloomy days; and Cold nights. The plants in the front yard garden are fresh and colourful, as if they had a shower in the morning. Dews on the tip of the leaves shined with colours. With the love of the cool warm sunlight they melted into nothing mingling with the sunlight. In the stillness of the morning, dripping droplets of water glittered like diamonds making soft heavenly sound. Nothing stopped the cuckoos and the Seven Sisters from coming out their nests, and singing a chorus melancholy song.
Today has a special darkness to it. There was an aerial attack last night. Most of the night was spent in the bunkers. Screeching sound of the rocket launcher and blinding light scared us to death. We could hear the screams from a distance. Nobody knows where it was coming from, how scary it was, how many people died, and how many injured. Were there any kids killed? Were there any children who lost their mothers? Were there any wives who lost their husbands? has anyone lost their limbs? Has anyone lost their home? Nobody knows. These news took time to reach people through news papers or word of mouth.
After each and every attack, going out of the house, to school or to the tution classes are very scary events. You never know what you will witness. I still wonder how it is humanly possible that we still laugh, party, sleep very well and go on living after everything we witnessed. Don’t we get affected by the so called PTSD? Or looking behind the shoulders frequently, having dreams of aeroplanes walking, dark big black boots stomping the floor, or blood spattered everywhere something to do with PTSD?
The picture like memories freeze the mind now and then. Goosebumps run along the arms every time. Still, insanely we are sane.
If my memory still functions very well, it should be in September 1990. The Jaffna Fort was under siege of the Freedom Fighters and the MIlitary was trying to break through . One dark night the the rocket launchers from fighter helicopter blasted the night with screeching sound, and blinding light. We were in the bunker hugging each other praying. We knew it is closeby. The ears are used to the sounds and eyes are used o the brightness. We do not need scales to measure the distance. We knew by experience where the attack took place. We could run to the bunkers when the bomber is 5 kilometers away from us. We could clearly say in which direction the bomb is being taken away if it is dropped just over our heads. And this time it was closer to the church.
The fighter plane and the helicopter circled the area for an hour bombing and launching rocket launchers. We were frozen with fear still praying to save us and others around us; Praying nobody should injured or nobody should be dead. We slept in the bunker. did not dare to come out of the bunker even after the roaring sound of the bombers stopped. You never knew what lies in the dark. We know better to avoid uncertainty. We never go out in the dark. We avoid going out in the first light of the dawn if there were dogs barking all night. We wait till nooks and corners are brightened with the sunlight. We wait till the milkman’s bicycle make the sounds. The rusted trims “creech”. We wait till he rings his bell at the first house. We wait till the sound of the gate opening. We wait till the sound of the milk being poured into a jug. The morning would be very quiet. It would feel like even the wind is frozen.
The calmness and the spell would be broken by a heartbreaking scream. A mother or a sister or a daughter would be screaming. A clear sign somebody died or severely injured. A calamity would follow. People would be running in that direction to help, to see what happened, to make decision if they should move somewhere else to protect their family or not.
That day, ignoring all my mother’s protest, I went out. I went in the direction where the cries are coming from. It was the small house adjoining the church. The caretaker’s family lives there with four kids. The rocket that was launched from the helicopter fell on the family’s house even before the family had time to get in to the bunker. The shrapnels had pierced the kids. The kids not knowing they were pierced by the shrapnels ran around the church probably thinking that the tall building would be a cover. They ran circling the building bleeding through the tears. They fainted bleeding profusely. All the four kids were found dead in the narrow pathway around the church one behind the other. The heart piercing scream the mother made still rings in my ear. That was just one house. There were cries of mourning of from several other houses.
The siege was broken. The military captured the Jaffna Peninsula.
We survived that night and the next day and many other days and nights with the help of that bunker while military was held in the camp. Not any more.
We, three families from the neighbourhood, built the bunker together. It is a lot of hard work. You have to dig at least a six feet deep pit. The width has to be less than six feet so we can cover the top with palmyrah trunks.The length would differ depending on the number of people. Our bunker has six feet width for ten of us. The bunker on the top was covered with stack of palmyrah trunks and sandbags on top of them. Bringing in the palmyrah trees is another story. We had to find people to cut that tall, strong tree and make into pieces. And rolling them off the lorry to the back yard on top of the bunker would be a nightmare. Without the help of the neighbourhood boys, It would not be possible.
Being together in the dark bunker with a small candle at the back of the bunker, so no one could see us from outside, gives us some strength and a ray of hope. Having others next to you prevent us from dark imaginations. Crawling scorpions; slime snakes; disgusting leeches; army throwing a hand grenade into the bunker; some thieves entering the house. All sort of imaginations are screened and blocked by holding the hands, whispering to each other, praying together, sharing the cookies, bread and banana. It is another story that there was a time with no bread at all. We are a nice bunch of group me and my aunt Rita, the right next door Deva uncle, Punitha aunty, grandma and their two kids Nila and Kumaran, the left next door uncle Sri, aunty Mani and their son Seelan who is a university student. It is always a struggle to drag Seelan into the bunker. He would yell at his parents.
“Let me stay out. I am not scared as you.”
For him, it was a pride issue. Getting into the bunker for safety was a sign of weakness for him. It was his youth. He does not understand the inevitably of saving ones lives. He did not understand that this was nothing to do with fear but it was to do with safety of not only him but also others. If a helicopter could see a movement outside, they would blast that spot with whatever they have. So you have to get into the bunker at least to prevent others from hurting. But finally he would reluctantly come into the bunker just for his parents. Grandma would be praying, listing all her Hindu deities.
“Vairava, Muruga, Pillaiyarappa, Ammalachi, Shivashiva, Save us all!”
Rita aunty would be clutching her Rosary close to her heart, murmuring a prayer. Prayers, closeness of the friendships everything kept us strong and alive.
“You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
Waves will continue to crash…. Chapter 2