Jaffna mother dreams of son as doc, ex-Tiger mentors reporters
Modi stirs a pot of milk (a house-warming ritual) while handing over homes in Jaffna on Saturday.
Thirty-six-year-old Varatharasan Shanthini can’t forget May 19, 2009. It was the day her husband Soosaipillai, who worked as a driver with the LTTE, disappeared. She believes he was taken away by the Sri Lankan army. Her baby boy was only 20 months old. She decided to rebuild her life.
On Saturday, Shanthini, one of the chosen “war widows”, was handed possession of an Indian government-built house in Jaffna by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
May 19, 2009 was also the day the Sri Lankan army killed LTTE chief V Prabhakaran. The next day, Daya Master, the LTTE spokesperson who had surrendered a month ago, helped identify the body. Brought from Colombo prison, Daya and colleague Karuna identified birthmarks on Prabhakaran’s thigh and hand.
Daya too has rebuilt his life since. He now works as a news editor for the local DAN TV.
In post-war Jaffna, thousands of Tamils are rebuilding lives, slowly, gradually. The new Sri Lankan government of Maithripala Sirisena has raised hopes of changing lives, and Modi’s visit to Jaffna, where he met TNA leaders, the Governor and laid the foundation stone of an India cultural centre in Jaffna, is a step in raising the morale of a people picking up the pieces of their lives.
Shanthini was in Kilinochchi when her husband disappeared. “He is missing, and will return one day.” She was abandoned by her parents and in-laws. “Ours was a love marriage.
So, both sides of the family left us.” A relative gave her some money, and she was able to live in a “temporary shelter”. In the initial days after the war, the government gave some dry ration — rice, dal, sugar, vegetable oil — and she somehow survived with her child. Then she landed a job as a pre-school teacher — she had completed higher secondary education in bio-sciences.
When the Indian project in Jaffna was announced, she was prioritised as a “vulnerable” war-affected survivor. Now, that she has a house, she wants one change: “I want an attached bathroom. The house has a bathroom outside. I live alone with my boy who is just eight years old. I will have to think twice to go to the washroom at night.”
Has her life changed? “Nothing has changed. But there is hope, things will change. For me, if my temporary job as a pre-school teacher gets regularised, it will be a big change.”
Son Kalai Aringan is her future. “He wants to become a doctor. I hope he becomes one, he is good in studies.”
Eighteen kilometres away lives 60-year-old Velautham Dayanidhi, better known as Prabhakaran aide Daya Master. As news editor of DAN TV, he is now surrounded by his reporters, listening to their day’s stories, instructing them on what to highlight.
The terror case against him still in court, he is reluctant to discuss the past. He was questioned and jailed. Granted bail in September 2009, he landed the DAN TV job next year.
Is his past a baggage? “No, I don’t face it. I have good access in the government, and the military. And I don’t have to report, so it’s okay.”
His wife and daughter, who surrendered with him in April 2009, were released before him. His daughter is now eight years old. “I had a late marriage, since I was too busy with the movement.”
He joined the LTTE in 1989 “during the IPKF episode” but says he never killed anyone. “I was never on the battlefield, I was always in the political wing.” He was once the sole Tiger interlocutor for the UN, Red Cross and the international media.
Does he get nightmares? “Yes, I do. I don’t want to remember them. But I can’t help it, I do think about them sometimes at night. They are unforgettable.”
He has great hopes from the Sirisena government. “What has been there for 30 years cannot be resolved in three months. You have to give them time.”
He yearns for peace, and the rights of the Tamil people. “I am leading a peaceful life. But I want peace for everyone.”
Source:: Indian Express