Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Triumph of Friendships Over Ethnic Divisions

Hasith Sanjaya from Kegalle
He is Tamil and comes from Jaffna in North; and he is a Kegalle lad from the town nestled between the central highlands and western southern plains and Sinhalese to the core. His uncle was allegedly shot by the Sinhalese Army; and his father has been part of the naval force that fought the LTTE. They could not have been any farther apart from each other. Yet theirs is a friendship that could make for an interesting movie and is the harbinger of the sustainable peace in the island country of Sri Lanka after three decades of bloody war.

It was in 2010 that they first meet each other there was a huge barrier of hate between them perpetuated by decades of violence where communities knew no other emotions towards each other. Also the language barrier was not of much help. For Sanjay from Kegalle it was for the first time to meet a Tamil in person and shake hands with him. For Thilak as well this was the first opportunity to meet a Sinhalese person of his age. Before this, Thilak’s heart was filled only with negative emotions conditioned by the years of conflict.

“In my village every home has lost at least a member as LTTE had made it compulsory to join the organization. My mother had lost her brother so she was angry,” said Thilak, he is from Kondavil. “My father was in Navy and one of his arms were damaged during the final war against LTTE. But still he always made a point to tell me that not all Tamils are bad,” said Sanjay in Sinhalese with an innocence peculiar to his age. 

Thilak Lakshaya from Jaffna

So the chance meeting during the second edition of the Future Leaders’ Conference (FLC) did not make them fast friends immediately. Rather when Sanjay went home after the conference and started talking on phone, which considering the language barrier was a herculean task. Later Sanjay visited Thilak family in Jaffna and his mom went to the extent of writing a letter in Tamil. “Sanjay’s mother did not know Tamil, but still she wrote a letter to me in Tamil and calls me on my Birthday,” Thilak said underlining how easy it is to be friend with someone. “My father never believed in reconciliation but once he visited Sanjay’s home their opinions have also changed,” added Thilak. Sanjay chipped in, “My family has visited them in Jaffna and now we are family friends. Our siblings also get along like house on fire.” It is the first time for Sanjay’s family in Jaffna – that has been one of the main theaters during the war. “Till I was five years old I lived in Trincomalee and only saw the sufferings of my own people, but it was during the FLC that I came across the stories about the loss suffered by people pitted against us,” added Sanjay. 

Now both of them are ready to strengthen their friendship more by working on their language skills. “I can understand and speak a bit of English. So we do not express freely because of the language barrier and we are only managing. But now I intend to brush up my English,” Sanjay said, as Thilak smiled back.  

With an air of finality, Sanjay added, “You do not have to look at ethnicity or religion to become good friends.” Coming from the mouth of the 20 year olds, the emotions augur well for Sri Lanka’s future.

No comments:

Post a Comment