A thousand butterflies and a can of stout
The sun turns crimson and then pink, the flying birds silhouette trying to settle from one grove to another to the din of the distant mortar. Wanni is such a hated place but gives you these beautiful evenings. This is the last battle and I have been left behind at the rear with a bunch of Moratuwa boys. I was 21 when I joined the Sri Lankan army one of the last Tamil to be recruited before the civil war or was it a war between two nations, I never knew.
There was the IC which declared I was an Indian Tamil and place of birth as Colombo, this meant I had the right to be in Colombo with bonafide reason and had it been Sri Lankan Tamil with place of birth as Jaffna, I still would have reasonable reason to be in Colombo and had it said Sri Lankan Tamil or Indian Tamil with place of birth as Killinochi, then there was no reason for me to be in Colombo technically speaking.
I always felt like the Irish man in WB Yeats poem, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”. This great island of Buddha, his chosen land is in the middle of a catastrophic period and bloodletting is like opening the can of Lion Stout after a bumpy ride from Nedunkerni to Mangulam.
I once remember seeing a thousand butterflies surround my bike on a run from the Tiger’s lead and fury during Jayasikuri war but could not take my eyes of those beautiful angels on wings surround us with love and kiss. Corporal Priyanka was holding on to dear life and me, when we reached a safe point his hands would not let go of me, only to see his eyes staring at me when I had to shake him off the bike. Blood poured from his mouth and his face was covered with the butterflies. I thought angels and butterflies only drank nectar and not blood.
One of the Moratuwa boys comes to me with a Gold leaf (cigarette) and a bottle of Stout and motions me to drink to the victory of our armed forces. I reciprocate.
Deep inside I don’t want this war to end the way it wants to end or it has to end. The people at the helm of affairs don’t care how many will die on both sides, the Moratuwa boys are gleaming with their guns all polished. The laugher and chitter chatter in southern Sinhala, the baila in the distance by another young team makes me more sad. Just as sad when Priyanka’s face was covered with blood sucking Butterflies.
I sit and contemplate as to what will happen to me, my family, my fellow soldiers, the Wanni people, my nation. The commotion draws me to Major Vithanage, who says there has been a breach and over hundred thousand people have crossed the lagoon to the army side, like the can of Stout that has gone through a bumpy ride from Nedunkerni to Mangaulam, pouring out unstoppable wetting your hands and trousers. I wait with unabated eyelids, a humanity that will be shoved towards a freedom they never chose nor to the life despised after the war started In the ’80s.
Food is being prepared like on a grand Vesak day only without the grandeur, I can only think of the curry chicken in Welawatte market that is kept caged and fed till the final slaughter.
I wake up to the sky crimsoning again, the camp at Omanthai is abuzz, young soldiers are jogging across and crack commandos are doing their mandatory 10km run, It is another normal day like the war is still on. My vehicle is ready and I am being moved to a desk job in Colombo
The sun is blaring hot and the wind sweeps off the red dust in a relentless fury and soldiers with masks are moving vehicles that will ply the people from Mullaitivu to the newly created detention camps.
I reach Vavuniya train station and take an empty coach to Colombo. My thoughts are with my daughters Thushi and Tharika, who await my visit from the very end of earth (in their eyes). I hope the Identity cards of the future generation could be just Sri Lankan from now?
As I watch triumphalism march over humanism, and waves and waves of Sri Lankan youths with the Lion flag march down the streets. I swallow a fear, hoping against hope that this will be the last battle ever and the last sign of identity politics on this land of Buddha, (peace be upon him) where blood has been shades of red & skin, shades in black.