On this day, 24 years ago, we left our home in Kondavil after a Sri Lankan Air Force bomber dropped a bomb in our backyard. We were not alone, joined by the hundreds of thousands, adults and children, crossing the Chemmani Bridge.
The one thing I still remember is that it was a very long walk. We started around 7 in the morning, and went on till late in the evening, and I don’t think we had much to eat along the way. Occasionally, we were visited by helicopters, which were shooting in the vicinity. Each time we hit the ground, got up, and continued walking after it had left. There were few dead bodies along the way, but for a 10 year old boy born in a war zone, and lived around the constant occurrence of bombings, it wasn’t much different from any other day.
My sister, 4 at that time, was on my mother’s bicycle. My father’s bicycle was loaded with some household items, with the understanding that we wouldn’t be returning any time soon. We didn’t take much personal effects, except for some clothing and some cooking utensils. As a child, I was really sad to leave some of my toys, especially a remote controlled car that I got as a birthday gift the previous year. (In fact, we didn’t return home for another 7 years, and when we did we were greeted by a looted empty house with partial roofing.)
In the months that followed, we were living in temporary accommodations, moving from place to place, as the battle front creped towards us. But for me personally, it was one of the memorable periods of my life. There was no school (most of them were now displacement camps), and had all the time to play. This is when I developed my interest for electronics, guided by a curious older boy who was always trying to do something with bits and pieces of old radios and amplifiers. We had to wait in long queues to get any food items, and many ingenious families started experimenting with eating various plants, fruits and root vegetables that were not part of the normal cuisine.
When I had a chance to reflect on this experience later in my life, my experience as a child and my reflection on the same experience as an adult were much different. Our perspectives are shaped by our experiences and our experiences are felt through our perspectives.
There’s always a takeaway, some are lessons and some are baggages…