Strangers to good buddies, Memories for a lifetime

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

We all are afraid of strangers because they are hard to predict. And sometimes, the lesser we know a person, the more we like that person. Despite all the friends and the strangers, we all want to overcome the boundaries and fence lines which are born out of our own perspectives at times when we wanted to enhance our discrepancies, and to feel a bit more superior to the other. Yet, when some journeys that were not even in our dreams become a fact, our impulses get to change, most of the time, for the better.

Taking myself to different places was a thing I didn’t think of too deep. I just loved the idea of being here and there, fantasizing about the beauty and the grace of the places and of having been to them. So, after all this time, I stumble across this occasion where I had to eitherlove the entire journey or to dump it when I was offered the chance. I didn’t have much time to get things done. So, I didn’t plan much, I didn’t prepare myself so well.Me and one of my friends got in to the train from Colombo around 6 in the morning. The others were waiting to get in halfway. Though I knew it wasn’t going to be a vacation for me, I felt it like something more than a vacation, a gateway to a lighthearted few days. For me, it was a journey to the opposite edge: from Galle to Jaffna. The most compelling thing about this was, that I had to try predicting what it all was going to be like. We tried to freeze the best scenes and momentsin our photo galleries as much as possible. The train was way too much spacious and we roamed inside talking to strangers.

It was around four in the evening when we reached Jaffna. My bag was too heavy in my hands and we were waiting for our buddies from Jaffna. A chill of fear ran through me when I realized that I wasn’t having any proper idea of how the next few days are going to be. I first visited Jaffna in 2011. After seven years of time, I noticed that the atmosphere has changed a lot for the better. We found a small eatery near to where we chose to spend the nights. From the next day, our Jaffna buddies took us to many places. We were in search of people and spots where we can relate to the issues that had made their lives harder. People from my friends’ community were looking at us every now and then as if to get some trace of us. I knew from the very beginning that we were going to look different to them, but on the first day itself, it looked like our differences hadn’t make much of a confusion or embarrassment. We stumbled across people who were so happy and keen to know who we were and where we were from. They introduced themselves with so much of mirth in their faces that sometimes it made me wonder how in vainly were we struggling to press the other one down and to rise above them when all we could be doing was to go forward hand-in-hand.

During the next few days, we hardly had the exact idea, ‘where-to-go’. So, most of our walkabouts took much of our time and trouble, but still we walked the streets till it was almost dusk. We were both sightseeing and story-hunting, that we didn’t know where we were actually going to end up. Our visit to the fishing community startlingly let us on about many other stories that were buried in a thirty-year-old history. Even though we assume that this history doesn’t annoy them anymore, it still does, obviously. That was what I was telling to myself when walking among the fishermen trying to say at least ‘something’ to a deaf, dumb man we chanced upon who was sitting on a trunk with just one intact limb. Yet he had a broader smile on his lips than that of the oneswe had in our faces. Doing his best to convince his story to us, he rode his cycleon the street, still smiling gratefully, waving goodbye with one of his blown-out limbs letting us know a lot more. We spent nearly a whole day roaming inside the fishing community and we could talk to several fishermen. We could pay brief visits to the Jaffna public library and to the Nallur Kovil too. In one of the memorable evenings, we took a stroll through the Jaffna Fort and that indeed turned out the most splendid walkof the stay.

The two-hour bus ride to Point Pedro was the longest and the most exhausting trip, yet, the memories we created there made our phone storages run out of space. We payed a visit to a house which was funded by the Ministry of Resettlement. The residents were only two people; a disabled woman and her son. Being all ears to her story brought tears to my eyes and I was really awed by the way this warm-hearted woman chose to treat us with all of the good snacks she had along with a cup of tea. Her husband had gone missing during the master war missions in 2009 and she had lost both her daughter and her younger brother from a bomb blast. Such a gracious woman she was despite all the trauma that has tried to grab her life.

The day before the last day, we enjoyed a brief evening at RIO since it was too bad to miss a luscious cup of ice-cream from RIO, Jaffna. At night, we were so fondly entertained by a delicious dinner by some relations of one of our Jaffna friends. After coming back, we had some singing sessions to conclude our beautiful sojourn. By the day we were ready to come back home, the thundershowers had almost started pouring down to Jaffna. All that I learned and gathered from this journey is unprecedented for me both personally and professionally, all of them will be worth cherishing even after many years. And now it’s time to redefine the thought, ‘The more we get to know, the more we start hating each other’into ‘The more we get to know, the more we start liking each other’.

By Indusara Pathirana