My name is
Kowshalya Kathirgamanathan and I vividly remember that day. I
was 9 years old and was living in Aluthmawattha Road, Muttuhall
with my Periyammah and Periyappah. The day started pretty peaceful.
As usual I got ready to go to school and waited outside my door
step for my neighbour to take me to school with her. When we walked
to the bus stop the atmosphere was unusually quiet and another
thing I noticed was the school bus was less crowed. Even in school
and in my class only a few students had showed up and the teacher
seemed preoccupied with talking to other teachers and looking
out the window all the time. At about 10:00 am parents started
to show up one by one pick up their children. I knew something
was wrong and became anxious and started looking out the class
room window to see if my Periyammah or Peiyappah will be coming
to pick me up, but no one came for me.
12 noon the school bell rang and we were let go. I waited at the
usual place for my neighbour but she didn’t show up, I later
found out the higher grades were let out early and she had gone
home without me. I slowly started to make my way home. I decided
not to take the bus instead I walked and used my bus fair to buy
“Acharu”. About half way I realized that not a lot
of people were on the street and the buses weren’t as frequent
as usual. In a distance I could see large dark clouds, I became
worried and picked up pace and came home quickly. No one was at
home. I changed and ate my lunch. Just when I finished I heard
my neighbour at the front door calling for me, I went to the front
door to find out what was going on. She asked me to lock the door
and come over to her house and stay with them till my Periyammah
or Periyappa came home. I love going to their house to play with
my friend so I quickly locked the door and ran next door. We were
told to play quietly.
I was deep
in my role as Robin when Batman (friend) pointed out the window
and my eyes followed his finger to see about 20 or so men with
big sticks and chains going towards my house. I looked closer
and recognized some of them from the neighborhood. They banged
on my door and kicked the door down. It was quiet after that and
then I saw them walking out of my house with my TV, fan, my toys,
clothes and many other stuff. I was really scared and confused.
Just then my friend’s mom came and dragged us away from
the window and took us to the back of the house. We were made
to climb the back fence and we went to our other neighbours home.
By now I was really terrified and wanted to cry.
At our neighbours
house we hid in cupboards and was told to be very quiet. Tears
ran down my cheeks and my heart was beating a mile a minute. I
don’t remember how long we were in the cupboard but it felt
like hours. All of a sudden I heard people moving furniture and
the door opened. I was petrified. A man in Police uniform stood
there. Later my friend told me that the policeman was a relative.
We got on the police jeep and went to a police station near our
house. On the way I saw some shops burning and some homes that
have been smoldered already. People were afraid to come outside
but stood inside their gates talking to their neighbours and a
few men wearing sarong had sticks in their hands stood around
in groups. I wondered what happened to a friend of mine who lived
around the street corner as I passed her house which was already
destroy by fire. At the police station I saw many people who lived
around my neighborhood, they all looked frightened, sad, and were
crying. Many of them had scrapes, bruises and cut wounds. I kept
looking for Peiyammah and Periyappah.
there for the rest of the day and that night. The police station
was very uncomfortable. Lots of mosquitoes and we had to sleep
on the floor. No food was given to us and we were all hungry.
I saw little kids crying for food and people begging the Police
for milk and bread. But no one got any food.
day we travelled for a long time with the same policeman in his
jeep. We went to a place called Negamboo. It was the Policeman’s
home. Here we stayed for about 20 days still no word about Peiyammah
or Peiyappah. Every day I waited for them to come and take me
home. I missed my family very much my mom, dad and brothers lived
in Jaffna. I was sent to Colombo for a better education.
we were staying in Negamboo looked like a mini camp. More people
started showing up and they were relatives of my friend. We all
got some used clothes from the people we were staying with as
none of us had any. The children were told to play only in the
back yard. I remember turning 10 here and had a mini birthday
party with bread, butter and jam sandwiches instead of the usual
in August my Peiyammah showed up in a Taxi. She thanked the neighbours
and the others for taking good care of me and took me straight
to the train station. We boarded the train to Jaffna and went
home. On the way Peiyammah told me what had happened to her and
Periyappah and their near death experiences. How they survived
a mob chase and came home to an empty house. They had been looking
for me and trying to get in touch with the neighbours for a long
time. Periyammah got a visa to go to England shortly after that.
Peiyappah lived with us in Jaffna till the Indian Army arrived
in Jaffna in 1987 and we had to go through the same ordeal again.
left Jaffna in 1989 and came to Canada on a Ministers permit after
loosing everything we owned to the Indian Army Era. I am thankful
to Canada for welcoming us with open arms. I feel much safe here
and my nightmares have subsided and I am able to live serenely
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