Random Thoughts

Remembering the 1995 Jaffna Exodus

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…

Discussing my experience of the displacement and its impact on my outlook at a talk.
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Why religious extremism cannot be avoided, ever…

The very construct of the concept of a religion leaves the potential for extremism within itself.

Let me explain why I think this:

  1. Religious beliefs are based on believing in an unknown or unexplainable higher power.
  2. The core thesis and different concepts of a religion are communicated through scriptures or mythology, or both.
  3. In most cases, these source material were produced for a significantly different cultural and historical context. Also, they are mostly vague about their concepts and leave a lot of room for interpretation.
  4. Most religions do not encourage, or are not very welcoming of critical questioning of such concepts and their core thesis.
  5. A significantly very large proportion of the believers of religions do not have any in-depth understanding of those source materials (2).
  6. Because of the vagueness in source materials (3), there is ample opportunity for widely varying interpretations, and some of them would inevitably be extreme in the context of current societal norms.
  7. When such extreme interpretations are presented to believers, they are less likely to question those or even cast any doubt, because of it is not the norm to question (4).
  8. In such situations, believers are also bound to believe them because of their lack of understanding of their own religion (5).
  9. In isolated and mono-cultural societies, this can go on for long without being questioned or challenged.
  10. Even if they are questioned or challenged, those arguments can always be countered by the core tenant of a belief (1), and such extreme beliefs can further get strengthened as a way of self-preservation at perceived persecution.

These are my thoughts as a non-believer. I may be totally off track, but at least this explains things for me. If there is any better explanation from believers, I am always open to listening.

Cover Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash.

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Protected: After 1 year… Towards a conclusion…

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I was sexually abused as a child – by a relative!

The Summary

This is something I have never shared with anyone. But I have decided to share my story now, openly. In short, I was sexually abused by an uncle when I was 12-13 years old. And I may still have some effects of it lingering around my life.

The Background

This happened when I was in grade 7, and it was about a year after moving to Colombo. During this time, I would often go to the house this particular relatives, after school on my way home. Most of the time there would be a number of people in that house, including some cousins and others. But on one particular day, everyone had gone out to some event (I cannot recall what it was) and only that uncle was there at the house.

The Act

As usual, I sat in front of the television and watched a children’s programme or a movie. This uncle came and sat next to my chair. It seemed normal. He put his arm on my thighs. It seemed okay (?). He put his hand through my shorts and touched my penis. It was confusing. He took my penis out and started licking it. It felt wrong.

The Reaction

I did not know what was happening, but I felt it was something bad. So I just pushed him away and took my school bag and ran out of the house. I ran up to the main street and was not sure which way was my house. I vaguely remembered some buildings and started walking that way. I did not have any money for the bus fare, but I also did not know which bus to take or where to get off. After walking for how long, and asking for directions from random people, I reached home. In the meantime, my mother had gone to pick me up from that house and found that I had already left. So when she got back home I had no good reason to tell and for some reason I also did not tell what had happened. And I have not told anyone about this since.

The Aftermath

This may seem an insignificant act to some, and it was only one time. I managed to avoid being alone with this uncle after this incident and I have grown to face him without any fear at this point. But when thinking about this now, after 21 years, I think it has affected me in a number of ways. I have grown up to become an adult fully cynical of families and relatives. I am very much a loner and actively avoid interacting with people when there is no absolute need. I was in significant self-doubt at least up until my mid twenties. However, I am not saying all of this because of the incident, but I cannot discount the fact that it may have had something to do with all these.

The Story

So why am I sharing this after all these years? Recently, I had an opportunity to hear from another person who also faced sexual abuse from a family relative, and how they had to endure many years thinking it was something only happened to them. At least by sharing these stories out, some victims can find that they are not alone and start on the path of healing.

Note: I am not going to name my abuser here on my discretion. I am certain he is going to read this, or at least his children would. I want to let him live the rest of his miserable life second guessing when I might out him. And I hope his children read this and be cautious when leaving their children, his grandchildren, around him…


6 Years in Australia

6 years. Yes, that’s right, it’s been six years since I came to Australia in April 2010. Looking back, it’s been an interesting journey so far, with lots of changes, yet some are still the same.

Why did I come?

Technically speaking, I came to Australia for my studies. But was that the only reason? Probably not. A key factor was that it was an easy way to get away from home. I also wanted to get away from work at that point as it wasn’t exciting anymore. So I think this seeking a new adventure and change was the main reason for my decision to move, and the opportunity to study paid for that chance.

What have I done?

So I ended up finishing my studies eventually (in about four and a half years) and got one tick for the whys above. But that’s only a small part of my time here.

Some of friends and family think that I’ve changed a lot, but others think I’m still the same person. I think both of those are true in a way. I think I’ve developed more as a person, with more passion to explore life and to be more carefree. In a way I’ve turned from a nerdy geek into a hippie geek (still a geek nevertheless).

I’ve also spent a fair amount of my time being on the road travelling, being a full-time activist, being unemployed for a while, and generally being silly. So that’s a fair bit of variation I guess.

What am I doing?

It started feeling like home within the first few years of being here. It’s not a bad thing, but that comfort is sometimes concerning. So I’ve been switching thing up a bit lately. I moved to Sydney a bit more than a year ago and the change has been interest to say the least.

I made a big switch in my career trajectory, and now working for a non-profit in a community services role. Don’t ask me why I’m doing this after studying engineering and IT, I don’t have a short answer for that. But it’s going great and the uncertainty is keeping me active.

On top of that I’m involved in some ‘brave’ experiments with couple of friends, making a band. Yes, that’s right a band that plays music. So that’s that.

Where am I going?

I think after 6 years in Australia, I’ve attained a temporal permanency as to how I see my life here. It’s exciting enough presently. And I’m looking for the next adventure to jump on.