Saturday, December 6, 2008

Majority complex
is there such a thing?

Minority complex is something that is always tag along with my kind of people. I very well know what it is and what it feels like, being a Tamil from Jaffna. Suspicious looks; piercing questions; tearing comments. More than anything, something that makes me feel so so smaller than a mustard seed and incapable of even an act like moving the same mustard seed, is the over flowing, readily given, effortlessly shown sympathy. It is the ‘Aney Poor little darling’ thing. But there are blessings in disguise. Some of my experiences with the majority community assured that there are blessings in disguise for sure.

“Could you hear the sound of Anuradhapura blast?” A colleague of mine asked me over the phone while I was on field trip in Batticaloa. I tried my best not to sound annoyed at her over flowing knowledge on SriLankan geography and explained to her that AP was very far from Batticaloa and there was no possibility I could hear it. “Even we couldn’t hear it” she said and fired her next question with so much love and concern on her tone “are you going to visit your father this time?” I couldn’t get her, so asked her what she was talking about. “No, you are in a Tamil area no, North and East no, so I thought good chance for you to go and see your father.” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You need little bit of history here before I could continue further.
My father lives in Jaffna and I haven’t visited him in ages. I was missing him terribly and was sharing it with this colleague of mine just a day before I left for Batticaloa and the Anuradhapura blast that killed an ex military general and his wife. You might want to have a look at a SriLankan map for the locations of Jaffna, Colombo, Anuradhapura and Batticaloa.

This was not the first time Jaffna got shifted from its location on the map. I got tired of explaining to my class mates who would ask me every time they saw me on a weekend class “Are you coming straight from Jaffna?” as if Jaffna is right next to Fort railway station. I am so happy that the course I was doing is finally over for this matter.Further info for confused readers:1. Fort railway station is the central train station in Colombo.2. Jaffna got cut off from rest of the SriLanka for more than 20 years. The last train that entered Jaffna or left from Jaffna was in 1989. Rail tracks had been removed and the materials were used in construction of LTTE buildings. Even the road that connected Jaffna peninsula to the main land had been closed for many years, but got reopened after the cease fire agreement in 2002. It took at least 12 hours to reach Jaffna in buses (had to change 5-6 busses); in addition there were security checks of govt. military and the LTTE, military security clearance, LTTE entry pass and so many other things to be taken care of. The A9 road was only opened at six in the morning and was closed at 6 in the evening, so the journey actually took two days. There was no way I could show up in class at 8 in the morning fresh as a flower ;) not humanly possible.

A couple of years ago in another incident, a fellow SriLankan citizen made me ask myself “Rakshi, are you sure you are SriLankan?”I was waiting out side the Indian Embassy on Galle road for my sister who went in to collect her Indian student visa. There were so many other sisters, brothers, friends and parents waiting for more students to emerge from the visa office gate. An aunt walked up to me and smiled. She looked to me as if she was bored and was looking for someone to talk. I pushed the book I was reading in my bag and smiled back at her. We exchanged hellos and exchanged names and courses and universities of my sister with her daughter’s. “Where are you from?” I said “Jaffna”. “That is why your sister got scholarship. It is very difficult for SriLankans to get Indian scholarships you know”. I thought she didn’t hear me saying I was from Jaffna and repeated it for her. “You are Tamil?” I nodded my head. “That is what I am saying darling. For SriLankans, they don’t easily give scholarships. They would anyways give preference to their people no”; she sounded very sure and confident about what she was talking. I really had to ask my self, “are you sure you are SriLankan? May be my parents were lying about Jaffna being part of SriLanka”. I have had long and irritating arguments with my Indian friends defending my SriLankan identity and trying to establish the fact that being Tamil and being SriLankan at the same time is not a mission impossible. But now, I didn’t feel like explaining anything to her. It was too annoying and irritating to cook up the effort for anything at all.

Strange enough, all the people I have spoken about in the above three incidents (amongst many other similar ones) are form the majority community i.e. Sinhalaese. I am forced to break SriLanka into majority and minority as for the demands of this post’s subject. The majority Sinhala speaking population of SriLanka has more access to information, any information that is available in this country. No one can deny it. Sinhala being the most spoken language is not the only reason, many sources of information themselves, be it public or private are Sinhala medium sources. Especially Colombo and the districts around it have the best access to information and the technologies that facilitate information sharing. But it looks to me that many of my Sinhala friends never care to learn about what is going around them and update themselves on the current events of SriLanka or the international arena per say. They are particularly very indifferent to events and information that involves the North and East and war and terrorism, as if these will only have the least impact on their lives. Yes right. It is in a way true. It is the Tamil speaking SriLankan population that is affected by every single bullet that is been fired from any riffle, be it LTTE’s or the govt. military’s.This sheer factor has kept the Tamils at their feet, always updated on security information. Tamils in North and East, though had been cut off from modern technology and the world news, still prove to have better knowledge about where each district sits on the SriLankan map. Being the minority and being a species of people who were always looked upon with suspicious eyes where ever they are, where ever they go, have made the Tamils to be awake all the time and to gather some general knowledge when ever and where ever possible. Constant vulnerability has demanded great amount of common sense and presence of mind from us as a minority group of people. We were, in Jaffna, burning lamps on a thin layer of coconut oil that floated on a bottle of water as there was very little or no supply of oil coming into the peninsula, while the rest of the nation burnt tires on streets protesting against a few rupees increase in oil prices. The fear of being out of place or being the odd person out has made us master all the places and situations. You see more bilinguals in the minority communities than the majority community.
To see it through a harsh metaphor, it is the deer being chased that should have more presence of mind and not the tiger that is chasing the deer. A blessing in disguise!!!!!