தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Journey Down Memory Lane To Reach 'tamiz Izam'
R.Shanmugalingam

Chapter 33

"Child is the father of man." Many interpretations could be given. The one I like is when it means even as a child one attains the attributes of a man. What are they? It varies from culture to culture, time to time, place to place. But generally, the man develops a life’s philosophy. He builds on this over the years with experience, and at the saturation point or there about crystallizes into action, and in many cases realize his dreams.

Some of us may become men very early in life. Qualities or attributes are very evident very early in our lives. Responsibility in my view strikes out as the most important of manly attributes in children.. I do not want to claim that I was born with such traits, but I have often heard said by my parents that, so long as I was about nothing criminal or irreparable damage will be done. Yet I also carried the child in me and was prone to childish pranks. Very early in my life I broke many records-gramophone records.

Our parents have left us in the care of grandmother for a wedding. At the age of 7 or 8 attention on any thing lasts only that many minutes or even less. Boredom visits as frequently as attention departs. New and innovative forms of entertainment or attention grabbers have to be found. Unlike today, when with the remote control one could flip for different channels and change the monotony of a single program. Or, play the CD, or read or call your friends on the phone and make Ma Bell richer. These were unheard of in the 30s, 40s and even the 50s.

Perhaps bored with repeated songs, somebody flung a record and it sailed beautifully like a flying disc,-flying saucers were not heard of then- and that was a sight to behold. Here was a diversion, and we aimed records at the sand pit across the yard. We were not discuss throwing champions to target it smack on the sand pit. More records were broken than were saved. So that child in man also continues with many of us. The inherently trusting quality of a child in many of us made life simple in some cases and complicated in some others. But it is naive to trust somebody who for over 40 years and 40,000 lives later continue to demand our trust.

During the second world war, every community had its volunteer Air Raid Precaution unit. (ARP) Their job was to train people to protect the citizenry from direct line of fire or blast. We built air raid shelters called bunkers, underground, of which our children in ‘tamiz Izam’ are very knowledgeable today. They also announced to the people of an expected attack from the air. The schools practiced ARP drills. We had to carry a few things in our person all the time.

I remember only two of them. One was a 6" long twig tied with a piece of string that will go round the neck and flexible enough to hold the twig in your mouth like a horse bit. The second was cotton waste for both years to muffle any noise that may affect the hearing later, a sort of an ear plug. I do not remember others probably I did not like them or I did not find them to be of any use in the event of a bomb blast. This is typical of me, as I have a faint recollection of having to face the discipline master for not being in a state of preparedness in a bombing situation. On hearing the bell or siren or command from the teacher we had to creep under the table or bench with the twig in our mouth and the ears plugged until the clear signal. If you happen to be on the street you are required to run into the nearest shelter and lay down.

Oliver Goonetilleke, who later became the First native to become the King’s representative as Governor was Civil Defense Commissioner. There was a demonstration at Jaffna College of a simulated air raid and what actions would be taken to minimize human suffering. That probably was my first experience of a live march past. I was utterly fascinated by the symmetry and sound of marching booted feet to the music of the band.

Even more interesting was the dais from which the CDC took the salute surrounded by army brass and other civilian VIPs. I was captivated by the Parade Commander who gave orders in monosyllable words any of which I did not comprehend, yet the whole marching men did exactly the same turn or stop or whatever. I developed an interest in marching and in my junior classes was a drill leader blurting out commands such as "ten hun, ep turn, eyes ford’ etc. Airplanes still keep me spell bound. I do not miss to watch a landing and take-off whenever I am in an air field. I always make it a point to choose a shuttle launch and land in the TV over any other program live.

Naturally I wanted to join the Royal Ceylon Air Force as it was known in the early 50s after independence, before it became Dr. N. M. Perera’s Air Farce. Incidentally two of my wife’s brothers were in the Sri Lanka Air Force. One should have been the Air Force Commander, but he was not qualified because he was a full blooded ‘tamizan’ and he was branded a Federal Party man not by membership, but by association. His wife’s one brother was married to one time Senator Poddar Nadarasa. A crime in the land of the Mahavamsa Buddhists.

The second distinguished himself as a chopper pilot and was involved in many high sea rescues. He was the pilot of the chopper that ‘dropped like a giant bird’ in Thalayadi with Army Commander Wijeykone. The two brothers had the distinction of crash landing with Army commanders. The Senior had to crash land with Gen. Muthukumar, but fortunately in both instances the generals escaped unhurt.

Long before I came into this family after high School I wanted to join the Air Force. It was conditional that parental consent was necessary for consideration. I had to give into parental desire supposedly in our interest and in every case where my parents wanted me to change my likes and dislikes later proved they were right. They had my safety and future at heart more than the usual accusation they were selfish. My father did block a few of my advancement as I thought they were, but they turned out to be for my good and my family. Of course I have not paid much attention to what they would have been, except the fact those changed views did not harm anyone.

When I came to the US, some prospective employer gave me a computer personality test. The results indicated strong bias for an army career. A good friend for the last 15 years Michael Tallis a retired Chemist and now a free thinker, always tell me that my aura fascinates him and that I am a warrior and the US army could use me well. He has even suggested that he will introduce me to some of his army buddies. Well perhaps, it is better I fight for ‘tamiz Izam’ with striking keys of a keyboard and launch missiles of words instead of war heads.

I have just been informed that a Russian built helicopter with 39 passengers has crashed near Point Pedro, and a Senior Sinhala Army officer was one of the crash victims. The freedom fighters have not wasted any time in claiming responsibility for the downing of the monster. I do not know how many of you pay attention to what I say in these journeys. I think as a full blooded ‘tamizan’ and therefore able to predict sometimes freedom fighter strategy or action. Rsuresh has posted in circle653 Reuters report dated 21, January.

Sivagnanam Karikalan the Deputy Political Leader of  LTTE. has said among other things, "We are not politicians now, we are freedom fighters. If the government comes up with a good political package, then we might change to politicians." The freedom fighters are good at keeping the Sinhalas on their toes and away from ‘tamiz’ lands. This will be sooner than most of us think. But once they get involved with civilian protection and provision, their strength is like Samson’s after a hair cut.

We of the Diaspora should work out the strategy and plan to fit the Master plan of the freedom fighters. The foremost of such a plan is to get international support. Those who still doubt America cannot be influenced to help ‘tamizar’ please go over the various materials by the international press that could be used to change even the rock hard heart. It should not be difficult for some of us who stand in front of granite and plead to change our material embarrassments or alleviate our pains of a decaying body. Did someone say? "God helps those who help themselves."

My un-catalogued library came out with a page from the Economist of October 29, 1994 in the Asia page 34, and I excerpt a few paragraphs. These passages refer to Gamini Dissanayake’s demise.

"In most countries, such possibilities would be dismissed as conspiracy theories. But in Sri Lanka the customs of civilized democratic life have yet to recover from a decade of violence and dislocation . Only five years ago its rivers and beaches were filled with mutilated corpses, victims of government-sponsored death squads unleashed to annihilate a Maoist-style insurrection in the Sinhalese South. Up to 60,000 people died in that conflict-twice the number of casualties in the ethnic war. Ranasinghe Premadasa, who presided over the death squads and was himself killed, was believed to have employed Tamil militants to get rid of his Sinhalese political opponents.

The defeat of the UNP and the election of Mrs. Kumaratunga as prime minister in August gave rise to predictions of a new era for Sri Lanka. It was hoped, even as mass graves from the anarchy of five years ago were being dug up, that the ghosts of the past could be laid to rest. But the assassination of Mr. Dissanayake shows that it will not be that easy. Mrs. Kumaratunga will probably still win next month’s Presidential election: A mass sympathy vote for Mr. Dissanayake’s widow is unlikely. But if Mrs. Kumarattunga does secure the all powerful past of president, she will be no closer to solving her country’s twin problems: Its ethnic conflict and its culture of political violence."

It is no prediction, but a logical deduction, that the more aloof we get from participation and support for a practical acceptable PR in the international arena, the longer we will allow the suffering of our people to continue. Do not be a party to that irresponsibility.

continued

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