I remember I was four getting off the plane and having the warm air brush against my face. Young men that looked like me called out to each other in the foreign language my mother spoke as well. A foreign language I had heard too sparsely in the land I was born – Oh, Canada.
I fell in love the moment I got off the plane. I wrapped my soul around it and tied a knot. I was bounded and I would love it forever. It was perfect in so many ways - A home away from home.
I stayed with my mother’s family. A smile always on a person’s face, when my little eyes had met there’s. They would offer me food, hug me, sit me on their lap and feed me. So, so much Love. I would run outside through the gates into our neighbor’s home and run back. I began to speak the foreign language my mother spoke. Sinhala she called it. And, I would talk and talk.
|A few of my very large family from the maternal side|
It was a place of constant life. In the morning the Fisherman stood at the gate, “malu, malu” he would bellow. The stray dogs guarded the streets roaming in packs or alone. In the Afternoon a stray herd of cows settled in slumber by the gates of our home. And, Grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins would endlessly stream in and out. And, when I ventured out small red stones rubbed against my small feet as the warm loving air hugged and kissed my little body.
|Outside by the gates of my grandparents home where the cows rest|
We are Sinhala, I learned. My large extended family would visit Buddhist temples together. All dressed in white. We would ceremoniously provide offerings to the Shrine of the Buddha. I would get down on my little knees and bow to the Monks that strolled through the open aired temple.
|My family in Sri Lanka attending Buddhist Temples and on occasion Hindu Temples as well.|
And, I would cry every time the months passed and it was time to part my family, my home. I’d hug my uncles and aunts tears streaming down my face my body tense. I hated goodbyes. I always hated the end.
The visits to the Island persisted over the years. As I grew older, I began to understand there was War. And, as I grew wiser I began to understand why it was so. My heart had been drawn to it from the very start. And, I had been drawn to the plight of the Tamil people.
This is because though I had loved that Island so much, there are moments I hadn’t been loved in return. There were moments I had felt unloved.
A child may not speak or intellectualize what they experience. But, we watch and we sense. And, I remember the injustices I experienced.
I was dark skinned and I remember watching my fair skin cousins with envy – knowing I wasn’t as beautiful because I’d been cursed with more melanin. Where this had come from, I do not recall. Maybe from the taunts of my older cousins, who in good humor would laugh about how dark I was.
“You look Tamil” they would laugh sometimes as well. And, I would wonder; why should I be ashamed of looking Tamil?
|With my little sister and cousin.|
In Sri Lanka there is racism, racial and ethnic discrimination. These are some Injustices I have experienced. And, the longer we deny that these are things that need to be improved in Sri Lanka – the longer that these injustices will persist in Sri Lanka and be carried in the bodies and minds of those who go abroad.
I love that Island. But, I cannot rest until I know that we have changed the spirit of the people. No child should grow up feeling less loved on an Island because of their skin tone or ethnicity.
Prashan De Visser’s and Christin Raja’s Social Movement Sri Lanka Unites explores the Inherent inequalities that push us apart. And, they believe these inherited prejudices can be trumped by inclusive education. They know that Reconciliation is a process – we need to purge inequities.
Please join us as we meet and understand a Social Movement that can change our country for the better.