I’ve had this quintessential feeling of pride and deep emotion whenever I return to the land of my birth. Travelling back to Sri Lanka for me represents a wide array of sentiments and feelings that attest to a notion of finally coming home. Without a doubt I admit to shedding a quiet tear every time that plane touches down on Sri Lankan soil. The best way I can describe the emotion associated with this event is being engulfed in a warm, loving hug from a much loved family member.
This time round though returning to Sri Lanka will represent not only a trip in which I return to my beloved motherland, as I have done many times before. This particular trip will represent a first for me in which I will explore the North of my beautiful country; land in which I have never before set foot on in my close to 30 years of existence.
When the war ended in 2009 I remember having this feeling of strangeness take over me. For myself, and my entire generation, we had never known our homeland to be in anything but a state of warfare. Black July in 1983 saw the beginning of a full blown conflict in which my island nation changed forever. I was born in 1988 and entered the world into a country already feeling the effects of being ravaged by fighting for a full 5 years by that time.
After migrating out of the country in October 1990 my parents have been intentional in their once a year pursuit to return to Sri Lanka. The thinking being that by going back to my roots from a young age I would forever hold on to my Sri Lankan identity and thus never forget my homeland. So it would be easy to contend that this upcoming visit is yet another trip to call upon an old friend. Whilst this is true it also represents what I now see as being a sort of pilgrimage to a part of my nation, a part of my heart that I have always felt but am yet to explore.
I’ve so often thought about Jaffna and what this Northernmost city in my island nation encompasses. For too long this city and many of the areas which were controlled by the LTTE have been associated only with warfare, sadness and little else. After an extended period of this state of being one could easily fall into the trap of believing that these areas have little to offer outside of this. However, this element is one which couldn’t be further from the truth.
From what I have been told by those lucky enough to have visited Jaffna and its inhabitants both prior to and after the war, an underlying representation of resilience and dignity is first and foremost at its core. It’s people who endured so much remain as resolute and pride filled as they always have. A notion made all the more incredible given everything that they have lived through.
I often dream of the sights, the sounds and the smell of the cities of the North. Even now I can close my eyes, breath in its air and subconsciously feel the sea breeze of the coast blowing on my face. I envision the vivid colours of women draped in saris as they cross the road, wafts of tantalising rassam by the roadside and the bustle of worshippers as they make their early morning visits to temples dotted through the city.
So as I ready myself to embark on this adventure for the first time I look forward to the people I will encounter, the stories I will hear and the spirit of fight, of pride and dignity that will meet me.
To Jaffna, the city I have never physically encountered in this lifetime but which my heart and soul have known all too well within the realm of my dreams. I await you with love, patriotism and pride.
*Photos courtesy of: