I have never witnessed or been a part of a war-prone zone. Coming from a semi-urban town in Tamilnadu, life has always been peaceful, hassle-free without being affected by almost any of the burning issues that my nation is challenged with. Reading about the horrific experiences endured by fellow Indians during partition of the peninsula, the communal and religious riots, the Naxal and Maoist attacks, has caused deep anxiety and concern. But listening to the emotional turmoil that a victim has endured made me empathise with the hundreds and thousands of helpless humans on Earth.
I was then working at a college in Bangalore where students of various nationalities flock together to pursue their academic endeavor. One such student who had come all the way from Srilanka was Srejith(name changed). He was in his final year when I joined this institution. He was quite popular across the campus, for he was dynamic and was part of various activities like sports, theatre club, etc., apart from doing exceptionally well at academics. Srejith was desperately looking for an IELTS tutor and one of my colleagues had suggested my name to him. He came to me and inquired if I could guide him. I readily consented and helped him out mostly with writing and speaking modules of the test. It was during one such speaking practice sessions, I asked him to talk about an unforgettable experience in his life. He asked me if it was ok to talk about a personal problem. I consented and I started listening to this poignant episode from his life that I present to you.
Srejith was doing his A levels in Srilanka, then. Being an ethnic minority, he had to look out for options, outside his native soil, for his higher education. His first preference was India since it was geographically in the vicinity of his homeland and the cost of education was also nominal when compared to the west. He enrolled for B.Sc Biotechnology at Banglore University and started off quite well. He was an extrovert and a gregarious person by nature and he made friends in no time.
Srejith was at the end of his first semester when he received that fatal call from his father. He was lost for words but somehow managed to break the news to Srejith that the life of his younger brother was at stake. The separatist militant outfit fighting for the ethnic minority was threatening his family to send his younger brother to fight for their cause since the elder one is already out of the country for his higher studies. The separatists vouched to roust the entire family if they failed to abide by their terms and conditions. Srejith was completely devastated hearing this critical news from home. But poor soul, he too was completely clueless like his parents and didn’t know what to do. This news affected him mentally and emotionally to a large extent that he stayed aloof from his friends and rarely spoke to them. His academic graph also started to decline. His teachers were perplexed with his queer behavior because he never told anybody about the crisis he was going through.
Every other day Srejith called home to inquire about the safety of his family. Every call, until answered by his parents was a nightmare for him. His parents could neither take the help of the police nor the government since they belonged to the ethnic minority. They secretly guarded his brother, and kept him in hiding in an undisclosed destination. This continued for more than a year and by then the whole family was utterly hopeless and almost came to a conclusion that their situation is far from redemption. The civil war in Srilanka became more intense and pressure was mounting on Srejith’s parents to give away their second son. His father with a moderate income couldn’t afford to send his second son outside the country as he was already funding his elder son. Srejith even decided to quit his studies but that again was not going to help.
All of a sudden, there was a ray of hope. The Srilankan army gained an upper hand in the province where his parents lived which had been under the dominance of the militant outfit so far. This news, in fact, came as an immense relief to his family. Soon the war came to an end and separatist organization was completely wiped out. Life has returned to normalcy for Srejith’s family but the scar remains. The emotional turmoil and distress undergone by Srejith has brought a lot of changes in him. His perspective towards life has changed. A complete metamorphosis in his behavior, approach and personality. He busily engages himself in several activities across the campus essentially to forget those painful days.
What has impressed me in this young lad is that he is not ruminating the painful past, but with a positive approach looks forward for a bright future ahead. Today all those excruciating experiences are just shadows of the past which he rarely revisits. It has toughed his spirit and elevated him to scale greater heights in life.
Assistant Professor in English
Department of Science and Humanities
Kumaraguru College of Technology