tsunami times two for Nihal
Taking coverage worldwide into account, it is true, tsunami stories
are so common these days that they are almost coming out through
our ears….But, can blame be apportioned for this wave of reports??
Not considering the enormity of the tragedy. So the international
networks got it right - - if it is going to be the tsunami story,
it is going to be the tsunami story.
is one more then: Last week, some of us in a group met some of the
tsunami victims in Induruwa - - which fits in to the clichetic description
of any resort town - - sleepy, and idyllic.
week, Nihal was feeling sleepy too. But his was an overworked, overburdened
kind of sleepiness. He is a soldier counting 13 years of service
with the Sri Lankan forces. He was to an extent almost enjoying
the peacetime idyll offered by a three year ceasefire, serving in
the Eastern coastal island of Kinniya.
idyll was broken on December 26th, not by Prabhakran despite all
his thunderous threats, but by a force much bigger that than Prabhakran,
who his followers sometimes referred to as the Sun God. The Sun
God paled and looked like a 25 watt light bulb compared to the waterworks
unleashed in Kinniya that day. Nihal says he escaped clutching a
tree, and swimming a little.
all too familiar story - - the typical Tsunami-survivor story. Leaving
wrecked Kinniya behind for the global television networks to dissect,
Nihal came home: to Induruwa and that was like leaving a madman's
embrace to be cuddled by the devil himself. When he came to Induruwa,
despite all that he has heard about the Tsunami's dubious work along
the Southern coast, he wasn't prepared for what he was about to
used to be his house was now a pile of fallen brick walls stacked
around like a giant jigsaw. His wife and child were missing. But
Nihal typified the remarkable resilience of the Sri Lankan rural
spirit. Despite losing a comfortable dwelling by any standards,
having later learned that his wife and kids were safe with relatives,
Nihal now takes the philosophical route around his misfortunes.
He laughs, for good measure. He says, "they struck us really
good here'' - - and adds "in some towns close by, buildings
are still standing.'' He laughs again: "I can build another
house - - even out of cadjan…..but considering what happened
to many others, I am lucky to have my family around.''
a simple question that's intriguing us. To what can this resilience
be sourced? Most of the people in this Induruwa village have lost
everything - and if their houses are still standing they have still
lost a lot. Nihal's house is pulverised, but his resilience is born
out of a philosophical sense of fate, or wait a minute, is it borne
out of the practicality of relative luck?? They say that among beggars
on the street, a blanket is a sign of wealth. A rough-hewn comparison,
but the point is, in a community which has lost so many lives, the
man who lost a house thinks he is really lucky. It's a little bit
of that that has rubbed off on Nihal and appears as his resilience.
It might sound as if that takes something away from the courage
of people such as Nihal. No --- but as discretion is the better
part of valour, reality too can be the better part of resilience….?
another house, an album with family photographs lies in an open
space in what used to be a garden. It's a mocking epitaph for a
house that's no longer a home. The young are young. A small boy
asks for more helpings of a popular brand of cake we distributed
- - - but his eyes retain that eerie mix of coming to terms with
reality too soon, and of childhood insouciance.
another Induruwa house, a young man is in a hurry trying to get
his house back into shape. He laughs too, and says ''all my certificates
were consumed by the water.'' Then he gets busy squeezing the sea
water out of his room, and his spirit is yet another example of
resilience as thanksgiving: thanksgiving, for a devil that stooped
so low as to rob him of his hard earned certificates, but was yet
magnanimous enough to let him get away with his life…..