“The night I escaped from my town clouds my thoughts every single day. I don’t remember too many things. I’ve tried to suppress these memories, but at the end of the day, you need to know what happened to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. It’s our truth that needs to be told. I’ll tell you what I still remember from that morning” Mum said as she sipped on her black tea crouching in her seat.
Sunlight shines under the door like the ghoul’s grin, yet gives the shutter a halo of golden rays. The morning at Palali, in 1983, was full of colour; especially green. Clatter of pots and pans can be heard, splutter of water from the bathroom faucet and the aroma of potato curry wafting from the kitchen all disturb my sleep. I pulled the blanket back and sat up from my bed.
As I stepped out of my bed, I reached for my towel and ran to the well outside for a bath. There was no time to waste. Drying myself, I grabbed my uniform from the ironing board and ran into my room. I pulled out my collar from under my jumper and looked into the mirror for a second. In a rush, I made my way into the kitchen and gripped onto a plate; placing some potato curry onto the middle. I stole some bread from the dining table and briskly started to eat.
Washing my hands, I remembered I had a school project to make a model house due today. It was probably the best idea to go to school earlier to work on the house, I thought to myself. Laying a hold onto both my sister’s wrists, I ran out with a full back-pack. Steadily pushing back the stand on my bike back, I stepped on and kissed my parents goodbye.
My sisters and I made it onto the main road fast and all our friends slowly joined us as we went. The sound of tyres pressing onto the rocky road, a bunch of girls chatting and laughing and the people on the side of the road greeting each other filled everyone’s ears. The dawn arrived as if it had overlooked the horizon and wanted nothing more than a dazzling gold to spice up the day.
We were finally coming closer to the school. , all the chatter and laughter quietened down as our science teacher was walking towards us with an umbrella and a few books in her folded arms. She scarcely looked at us with her glasses on the tip of her nose, as we got off our bike to greet her, taking our hats off.
As she disappeared into the distance behind us, we got back onto the bike and rode into the school to park it. As we saw another teacher approaching us, we stepped off our bike, but this time the ground was rumbling, as if a slow vehicle was moving towards us. Suddenly, there was a deafening noise.
There was a sudden thud in the air and within seconds everyone was running around and the thud continued. The teachers were panicking and told everyone to run into the bunkers on the school field. With trepidation, I looked around for my two little sisters.
Having spotted them, running around and crying, I ran to them, grabbing their arms, my sisters and I jumped into the bunkers. Trying to catch my breath, I tried to work out what on earth was happening. With curiosity, I peeked out of the bunker.
The rocky ground was filled with blood and the air was filled with screams. In the distance, I saw my friend run with her little sister in her hand and abruptlyâ€¦ on the ground crying, with blood. Without giving anything a proper thought, I sprung out the bunker to my friend.
“POOJA!” I screamed as I ran towards her. There she was on the ground, without a single breath left to breath, with a bloody body. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I didn’t want to either. Her little sister was on the ground, trying to wake her sister up, but little did she know, she went into forever slumber.
Suddenly, there were no more air strikes. The environment was much more quiet, but the screams and cries filled the surrounding again. With despair, I ran to the bunker and pulled my sisters out of the bunker. Carrying them out, I thought going home, is the safest at the moment.
All our bikes being demolished, we had to walk back. Walking back, the town over the way was still burning, the smoke filled air gave everyone a feel of a warm night. The crumbling stone lay ash-like on the ground, a cold dust over every blade of grass and leaf. Suddenly, I let loose one of my sister’s wrists.
“Akka, I can’t walk anymore” The younger sister said trying to catch her breath.
“Just a bit more, we’re almost home.” I said reaching my hand out.
“Akka, Akka! I’m hungry, do you have food?” Asked the other one.
“No, no I don’t but we’re almost home, amma would definitely have something to eat, lets go.” I said trying to convince them.
There, we walked in the middle of the silent road. Torn uniform, bed hair though we spent ten minutes combing it, a missing shoe and bloody hands.
As we were approaching our house, we felt a sense of hopeâ€¦.Relieved that I reached home safely with my sisters, I ran inside home with glee, to find an empty and ruined house. I looked around everywhere but nothing was to be seen but ashes and ruins.
I took a moment to actually believe what was happening and as a tear dropped down my warm cheeks, I spotted something laying under the ashes. It was a family picture we took 4 months ago when my baby brother was born. I wiped the tears that were racing down my face and got up.
I walked up to my sisters who were standing outside the ruins and crying. With a bit more confidence that I had my two sisters, I wiped the tears off my sisters’ face and walked out the house leaving all my memories and childhood behind.
I had no other choice but to go to my aunt’s house in the neighbouring town, Urumpirai. Taking all the possible short cuts I knew, I made it to my aunt’s town and looking around, I realised none of the houses were ruined. Without a lack of confidence, I walked up to my aunt’s door to see everyone walking up and down the house with panic.
I walked into the house and upto my aunt to tell her what had happened. My aunt and her family were actually moving out before their town got attacked. All my aunt knew was that my mother, father and baby brother had left the house to move somewhere else. She did tell her to keep my sisters and I with herself the whole time until we’re found.
There I was, a fifteen year old, with my two sisters and a slightly burnt photo to find the rest of my family. The journey to find my family began then….
As a tear dropped from my mother’s face, she placed her mug on the table and gathered herself together. I stared into her eyes and thought to myself how luck my siblings and I are to be in a safe environment.
Thoughts raced through my mind as if the people at the store were racing towards the last toilet tissue pack. I closed my eyes tightly and thought I needed to know more about the war. I opened my eyes and snuck my hand into my mother’s palm and smiled at her as silence filled the room.