It was the first day at the university after the fresher’s night. Freedom was all over me like the incessant winds. Although the Jaffna University was a strange place with fresh and crispy air, it was a new beginning under a brand new sky.
Then, I saw him standing there. I can still feel the warmth and sincerity of his glance which was familiar and intimate.
He was a good looking Tamil boy with dark complexion and curly hair. His name was Haran, a third year student at the university. Just like yesterday, I remember his enchanting glance and the glow in his eyes which bewildered and confused me at the same time. He spoke fluent Sinhala and his presence gave me great consolation in this unfamiliar place.
Usually, I was not good at talking with boys as I grew up in a conservative convent where I was manhandled by nuns, of course with good intentions. Our first conversation was discomforting to say the least. He followed me to the canteen and spoke to me at length and I never got a chance to speak. Then he followed me to the class like a guardian angel and offered to show me around the university. I accepted. It took some time, but, very soon he became my closest friend.
Thereafter, I rarely ate my lunch from the canteen, because he insisted that I eat the lunch which was prepared by his mother. He was always savior in times of need and I eventually depended on him for everything.
A few months later, he asked me to come with him to the Kovil, and said that he wanted to give me a surprise. There he introduced me to a lady who looked very dignified and warm. She was his mother. From the way she spoke, I assumed that she was an open-hearted sensitive woman who has gained maturity through hardships in life. The fact that I was a Sinhalese did not bother her. I visited her every week. The more I got to know her, the more I liked her. She told me of her life in Colombo prior to 1983 and how happy she was. She had had many Sinhalese friends who loved her unconditionally. However, the Black July had put an end to her happiness.
Although I have heard about that violence against Tamils, I was not interested. I was an upper middle class convent girl, and I had my own problems. But, I felt humiliated about this violence now. It seemed unreasonable to commit violence against these people who are like any other people anywhere in the world. Through my friendship with her I realized that she sounded very much like my father who was a broad minded person and someone who valued life. My father, I suddenly remembered, went to Kovil and temple both. Sometimes my mother would ask him “why”? He answered with silence.
My mother gave me the usual phone call in the evening and told me that they were coming to spend the weekend with me. I was worried because I was wondering how to tell them about Haran. I had kept our blossoming whatever — a relationship? a friendship — a secret all this while. I did not feel very comfortable talking to them on the phone about Haran. May be I could tell them face to face. After all, I am no longer the convent girl, I am an undergraduate now.
On Friday evening I heard the sound of a familiar vehicle. I was actually glad to see my parents. I sprinted out with booms of happiness. The next morning we went site seeing. I took them to the Kovil where I met Haran’s mother. Of course, the last thing I expected was to meet Haran and his family. I wanted to introduce my best companions to my parents, so I rushed towards them and asked them to come and meet my parents. They gladly obliged. “Appachchi, Amma this is my best buddy in the university and that is his amma.”
I noticed that my father looked nervous and his face lost its brightness. Haran’s mother’s smile vanished like lightning. She said that she had to go home immediately and disappeared as if she had been frightened by something. Haran was astonished. He could not understand what was going on.
That was how I noticed how my father and Haran looked strikingly similar. No wonder I felt so warm and protected when I was with Haran. It was just like being with my father.
Later that evening, my father told me an episode from his past. How he was in love with a beautiful Tamil girl from the North and how they were violently separated, first by his parents, and then, by the 1983 violence. Of course he was unaware that the girl was pregnant when they were separated.