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Kilali Crossing – a tale of despair and desire

August 30, 2009

By Prof. C. Suriyakumaran

FIRST CHAPTER:
UNCLE ARUN BOARDS THE TRAIN

It was dawn enough when Uncle Arun got down from his three wheeler at the country’s premier railway station at Colombo. The morning mist was still lingering partly and the weather was nippy. Uncle Arun, being old, was wearing a light pullover that contrasted boldly with the open chested and single shirted young bucks who were rushing into what was called the Fort Railway Station, almost jostling while doing so, to board the train that was by now waiting for them at No. 1 Platform, to go to Vavuniya. It was the usual slightly coldish weather of a January morning over most of Sri Lanka, and soon the mists were to clear away with a clear blue sky for the rest of the day.

But Uncle Arun had no thought or time for these, firstly with his age, secondly like for most other things, having lived through so many Januaries in his life and, above all, since he was most keen not to miss the train. He had reserved a seat alright, given the class he was travelling in, but he knew it was perilously close to departure time and of course bookings had nothing to do with this.

Uncle Arun managed to plough through the crowd somehow, lucky to find the correct bogey sooner than he thought and was soon seated comfortably by a window seat, as he always preferred, facing the direction of the engine.

As expected, passengers had already filled in, occupying their reservations. Uncle Arun quickly had a look around his own compartment set in the customary four rows with three seats in each, for he loved, being from the older generation, getting to know everybody around him and, in the usual Sri Lankan way, inquiring where they were from, where they were going to, why, for how long, when were they returning, and all of it. When he found the time was right, he would indulge in old stories which his listeners, who were much younger, fortunately loved to hear.

The train had not started yet but was obviously about to do so and Uncle Arun noticed, amidst the by now full complement, that two seats right in front of him were still vacant. Strange he thought, when almost with the blow of the whistle there rushed in a handsome young fella. Contrary to style he popped in first, took a firm grip of a beautiful girl’s hand obviously his new wife or friend and saw her firmly in. They smiled, deeply satisfied it seemed more in each other than even having jumped into the train in time. They certainly made a beautiful couple, she a nature’s product and he carrying the spit and polish of a young man from abroad, who seemed to have had a rich father. He was clearly Tamil, said Uncle Arun to himself. The girl was Tamil of course, but above all carrying a beauty which exceeded all artifacts, long haired although tied up in a knot – the `konde’, one of so many styles common to both Sinhalese and Tamils, betraying the similarities of their peoples, despite the murderous War that was going on between the two up in the North.

The train had now started moving after the usual shrill call of an overused diesel engine, and somehow, as in all these journeys everybody suddenly felt relaxed and ready to be friendly. The war had created a strange land. Here was a mixture of both Sinhalese and Tamil speaking passengers, the former primarily to Anuradhapura, before the train went on, some thirty miles north of Anuradhapura, to the border town of Vavuniya, but still around ninety miles south of the old time railway destination of Jaffna.

Uncle Arun himself was going only up to Vavuniya, but almost all other Tamil passengers on this train, which always had an overwhelming complement of Tamil passengers, were going to Jaffna, from Vavuniya by a tortuous land route, in which every journey, with delays, needed endurance and carried unimagined difficulties, and was an adventure by itself.

Uncle Arun knew at once that the young couple was destined for Jaffna. They had given Uncle Arun a smile of respect the moment they had seated themselves. Now when they had gathered their breaths and seemed more composed, Uncle Arun thought he should open up his first conversation, in the usual good old Jaffna fashion. He felt privileged of course since it seemed they had already taken him to be their paternal senior, in position and as well as in age. The train was now at fair speed, marked more by its noise and rattle, seemingly not able to go faster, for want of the condition of the rails or condition of the engine or both, beyond the forty miles per hour or thereabout that it seemed to be doing.

Talking under such circumstances to fellow passengers was not easy, but somehow Sri Lankans had a penchant for conversation during train travel and nothing could seemingly put them out. Uncle Arun was particularly seasoned in this, having known the good old days of the great steam engines, which threw coal dust in the air and no one seemed to care, and the trains themselves, with one change of the engines at half way point at Anuradhapura were symbols of power and, for those days, real speed – enjoyed by passengers and bystanders.

Not sure whether the man in front knew Tamil enough, Uncle Arun started off in English. “Thamby”, which was the usual way of address of a younger person by an older, “Where are you both going?” Knowing Tamil already of course, despite Uncle Arun’s guess about his foreign links, and even more mindful of his beautiful girl he was taking with him who was totally Tamil speaking, the young man replied in excellent Tamil. “Aiyah, we are going of course to Jaffna and this is my bride to be who came all the way to Colombo with her Uncle, when I arrived from London. We are now going to where she lives with her parents for us to get married”. Ranee, which was the name of the girl, smiled coyly as she listened.

“You have not been to Jaffna before, have you?” he asked looking at the boy, whose name he had by now found out was Khanna. Uncle Arun, greatly relieved he could talk to them in Tamil, although he himself was equally conversant in English and Sinhalese, found out in true Jaffna style, Khanna’s background and brief life history. The latter had as a child been taken by his parents after the holocaust of 1983, all going as refugees to England. He remembered little of his country, therefore, had grown up abroad. Into his twenties now, he was a graduate, brimming with confidence, but above all, eager to marry a girl from back home. He did not carry much of the bitter memories that his parents carried from their home country, but had readily absorbed the language, habits and traditions of his people which his parents had fostered at their home and through the various cultural and other facilities that became plentiful in their new country.

He had already come to Sri Lanka, for the first time after his emigration, some months ago to be registered legally to his bride who had come down from Jaffna with her parents to Colombo for this purpose. Khanna’s parents had not come. In the Tamil custom, he knew that registration, although legally marriage, was taken simply as engagement. In order to live as husband and wife, the religious Hindu ceremony had to be completed. This was now his purpose. He was now going to his bride’s own home in Jaffna. While in Colombo for the registration, he and his bride had been given a little more freedom to be by themselves although that was not the old custom, and they had come to know each other, indeed in a deeply committed way. It was not surprising therefore that his bride to be was now going alone with him to Jaffna for their marriage.

Clearly Ranee was all excited herself although, being still the Jaffna girl, she could not show it. Uncle Arun learnt that Ranee’s parents were at Chavakachcheri in the southern segment of the Jaffna peninsula, living in a sprawling Jaffna style `Walawoo’ with its traditional airy front and back verandahs, spacious centre courtyard, open to the skies surrounded by rooms, a water well with all its accepted trappings discreetly on a side extension, straw thatched roofs at critical points for coolness, a traditional cattle shed behind for two cows that were always a source of their daily fresh warm milk early morning with green shredded palmyrah leaves in front of them, and some traditional beautiful flower gardens and Jaffna trees. The house was a haven for retired living. It had suffered from the unfortunate so called war of late but Ranee’s parents would never leave, for it was home and heaven. They lived with their two other younger children, eagerly awaiting Ranee’s arrival with her husband to be, preparing for the wedding of their daughter to Khanna, which has always in tradition taken place in the spacious home compound.

The train had stopped and started at a few stations, and it seemed time now when everybody thought that each should have a drink. In good Sri Lankan fashion, they had all brought their flasks or bottles with steaming hot tea and proceeded as if by some prior arrangement, to open them slowly, and silently have them. Unlike the western modes, oriental eating in at least what was known as the Indian Ocean countries, was a silent institution.

Uncle Arun proceeded to follow all, across the compartment. He observed that Khanna, apparently with his background, did not seem to opt for any for himself, but had thoughtfully brought a home made drink of coffee, which he knew people in Jaffna generally enjoyed more than their tea. Having opened a little flask which he had brought from England, and pouring out its contents into a beautiful holding cup, which seemed to become the unspoken envy of those around, he proceeded tenderly to give it to Ranee, holding her delicate fingers as if to help while she enjoyed his coffee. Knowing his English lifestyle and that he may indeed have made it himself, “So good”, she remarked in Tamil to Khanna, “did you make it yourself?” “Of course” he replied, “although my aunt with whom I am here is probably even better at it”. He took back his coffee cup slowly from her hand, reluctant to let his hand go off hers.

For a while they left themselves to their own thoughts. Ranee was looking through the window as she always loved to in the old days, watching the trees run past, punctuated by the artificial telegraphic poles, and all the while the blue sky with its patches of white cloud floating in it, so typical at this time of year. Ranee left herself to be enraptured in her thoughts, a strange mixture of past innocence, of simple living and robust rural joys, with her new found thrills of her womanhood with Khanna and look to every minute of their future lives together.

She knew something that only she and Khanna knew so far. Quite contrary to all tradition, in the knowledge that Khanna was on a visit for his engagement on the last occasion and was soon going back, she was now carrying their baby. The wedding ceremony for which they were both going to Jaffna, almost without delay, was therefore good for them both. Even as Khanna was as keen to safeguard his bride’s name, as she was afraid to have her beautiful secret known, in truth they could not just wait to be away from each other any more.

To Khanna she was his goddess now, beautiful beyond compare, and exceeding all those who he had known so well and intimately in his life abroad.

Ranee was indeed exceedingly striking. So Uncle Arun had thought too the moment he saw them, and he was himself one who had travelled far and wide in his time. Long haired, as he had noticed when she came aboard, she had an exceedingly soft complexion of lightest chestnut hue which it was clear to anybody ran through her entire body, if at all only more silken and fair than her striking face and limbs. Even though dressed conventionally she looked statuesque both in body and deportment.

It seemed the right moment, all looking relaxed, for Uncle Arun to talk of what he liked most, namely to tell his younger listeners things of moment to him which he was sure they would not know. Here he had two areas for him to talk. One was something more about their journey beyond Vavuniya, where the train would stop, and they would proceed on their own, although with scores of others who would be more familiar, to the Crossing and then to Jaffna.

The other was on the real Jaffna as it was before this wholly mischievous, politically created war had had its beginnings sometime in the Sixties, and when ordinary Sinhalese and Tamils moved around closely, and so many of the latter would receive them like brothers in Jaffna.

“I am sure neither of you know much about the route from Vavuniya to the Crossing, do you?” asked Uncle Arun of Khanna and Ranee. They nodded, affirming what he said, adding that the arrangements, both from Vavuniya to the short transit point into so called Tamil territory, and thence the trip to the beach head, were matters they were told they would pick up for themselves from their fellow travellers, who would even be sympathetic and ready to help. Ranee quickly added that also, as it happened, a mutual friend of both the families, who was on one of his innumerable journeys back and forth to his own family, would be meeting them at Vavuniya. “That is particularly good,” said Uncle Arun. “There is nothing like somebody known going along with you in your situation”. In a sense he was happy he did not have to spend much time on this with them, for he could go to his favourite topic, of the `good old days’ of Jaffna, the travel by the great trains of those days from the South, and the life styles of the old Jaffna, so spacious, so relaxed, healthy, and friendly to all comers.

“When you go to Jaffna please breathe every inch of its air, and the many fragrant scents of its soils. That is the nearest you will get to the old days of my time, which is the greatest sadness I feel for younger people who I know still love their home, as all – my Sinhala brothers as well as my Tamil brothers – love theirs”, he said addressing himself particularly to Khanna. “Yes, Uncle,” said Khanna, “we are looking forward, at least to carry back what we could when we return, for I do not know when we shall have peace once more”. After some pause they both said in strange coincidence, “Tell us something about the Jaffna that you knew, Uncle”. That gave Uncle Arun the rarest opportunity to reminisce on the great lost days as he used to mention so often, with as much sorrow that they were never to return, as a serene joy at drinking deep of those vivid sagas gone by.

“For one thing,” Uncle Arun began, “this train that you are travelling in is only a poor shadow of the great trains we had in the old days. Those began at No. 5 Platform right at the other end of the No. 1 Platform of the Fort Railway Station where you got in. The entrance to that great platform was by a broad roadway behind, then called McCallum Road, where the concourse at departure times was so great that this exclusive arrangement became noted as the departure platform for Jaffna.

There used to be two long passenger trains on normal days around the year, a Day Train and Night Mail, apart from the several Goods Trains. But during seasons, partly Christmas and mainly what was then called Easter Holidays, when schools and government servants had their longest vacations, the trains were as frequent as necessary – usually two by day and three by night – and filled to capacity. The famous No. 5 Platform during these periods was a veritable carnival, of as many people as the passengers themselves, who came to see their passengers off. They would be there at each window, with messages to their loved ones – for many ordinary families lived bachelor lives here, with their wives back home – telling them again and again what to bring when they come, the favourite Gingely (Sesame) Oil, and Drumsticks (Murunga in Sinhala or Tamil), and of course the great Palmyrah roots, fresh, dried, powdered, cooked and what not. Assurances seemed to be given and asked repeatedly through the windows simply in expressions of sentiments rather than in conformations of action, and the senders off would, with the deep whistle of the big steam engine starting off the train, keep walking, engaging in the same interminable conversations, till the end of the platform as it were and standing there till the last carriage and the guard’s green flag disappeared out of sight. The crowd would slowly turn back seemingly happy but sad they were staying behind, and soon the platform would be empty and silent again.”

Now it was Uncle Arun’s turn to tell Khanna and Ranee of what it was like being a passenger in those great trains. Pleasantly to Uncle Arun’s surprise at the end of it, he felt that the young couple seemed to have enjoyed all of it so much themselves. Thus began his  long story.

In those days for those of us who had our families in Colombo, and especially during the holiday season, we always travelled as a family. Those with children opted for the Day trains. It was too expensive, except for government servants of staff rank or the really rich to travel by 1st Class, where the night mails as they were called had their wonderful sleeping berths, bed sheets, pillows, attached bathrooms, night attendants who really attended and were immaculate. During the season there used to be four or five carriages to a night train only with berths. Most of them were what were called two berth compartments, but there were also a few amazingly fascinating, four-berth compartments for larger families – father, mother using the lower berths, the grown-up children on the upper, and the little ones happiest on the broad carpeted floors. It was all a great event for those who went in these compartments. Special meals ordered and brought along were had in the magic comfort of the trains, the rhythm of their wheels, hum of their fans, and the general chatter in the outside corridors, as on the station platforms wherever the trains stopped, all combining with the expectation, starting from leaving home in Colombo, of going to Jaffna, to its rarefied atmosphere, fine sands all around and its such totally relaxed surroundings.

Day trains or Night trains, not only the anticipations and the enjoyments were the same but the chatter were the same. The trains themselves seemed to prepare the atmosphere for all these. The number of bogeys made them so much longer than any during normal times and the steaming throttle of the great engines in front that were there to pull these trains, the 240 miles to Jaffna, completed the never fading novelty of these great giant serpents. The great steam engines were quite unlike the diesels of today, which had such anaemic whistles. One could hear the stentorian call of the engine, now with full steam, its deep long signalling to all in and alongside, that it was ready to go, slowly enveloping everybody.

The travel by day was soon like all travel inside compartments, punctuated by the usual silences, some chatter and a lot of snoozing, until they came up to border point at Vavuniya, entering into the Wanni and beyond. Elders would relax, satisfaction visibly on their faces, and the children would gaze out of the windows at the sudden transformation of the landscape, thick with primeval foliage and lazy white clouds set in deepest blue skies above.

There would be a change of engines at Anuradhapura, at the halfway point to Jaffna, that had a slightly shrill note, even though perhaps not by design, still seeming to fit into the wild open spaces that the train was now going through.

Just when all were getting somewhat jaded, having also long finished their aromatic lunches, the train would suddenly shake itself out of the thick forest covers, having left Mankulam station, and now just on the outskirts of what was called Paranthan. The entire train would wake up, for it was nearing home for all of its passengers, and the landscape itself changed so suddenly as if to tell them. Paranthan had a sparse look with dry vegetation and a few wells for irrigation, having just left at ‘Kilinochchi’, the last of the major natural reservoirs, known as Tanks, that dotted the entire landscape so majestically from the areas around Anuradhapura to the North.

Everybody now knew that the train was to leave all these behind and enter upon the distinctive landscape that was Jaffna. And so it did. Even small shrubs became fewer, purest white sands lay around, with only some vast man made salterns at slight distance away. The local tulip trees, (Poo-arasu, king of flowers, in Tamil) distinctive in their always slightly curved trunks, carrying broad green leaves and bright yellow flowers – the first being a source of wood for the ancient builders of Nelsonian calibre sailing ships that now are no more, and were built in Kayts and at a beach point called Thondaimannar near to Point Pedro; the leaves a favourite of the goats whose milk was a popular household diet in the Jaffna homes; and the flowers, which were later to become the symbol of popular national resistance to imperialism (the “Suriya-Mal” in Sinhalese).

They too ended as it were, and soon, all were amidst pure sand. The train, seeming to slow down, came into a beach fronted stretch of clear blue water, cutting across left and right, and it seemed to be running some distance almost at the same level. Here was the historic Elephant Pass, with a beautiful Dutch Fort, of later vintage, on the opposite side of the lagoon, to the right of the train. Having run on a causeway some distance and entering deeper water, the train by now quite slow was on a metallic bridge which carried it on across to the next causeway that finally led to the Peninsula which was Jaffna.

There used to be utter transformation of joy without ill will to anyone, exclaimed Uncle Arun to his two young listeners. In those days we had some gentry in what were called Mudaliyar’s Uniforms, which was the normal dress at one time of gentlemen. Given up by most, it was still donned by people steeped in their Tamil culture and professionally in what were called the Interpreter Mudliyars of the Supreme Courts of our land. I remember, said Uncle Arun, one of these Mudliyars, for all his old vintage, still so carried away as to stand up from his seat and recite an old Tamil stanza about the pure joy of `the land of his language and the honeyed music that it brought to his ears’.

As if to correct this, however Uncle Arun was quick to point out to his two young listeners that in truth, the beautiful Elephant Pass that they had crossed was not the dividing point between the Peninsula and the Wanni which the train had so far traversed from a little after mid day at Vavuniya till now, but its `umbilical cord’ between the two. For the Wanni, as it was known from time immemorial was an essential cultural, ecological, economic and historic part of the Peninsula. At the humble level, it was to the Wanni that cattle were sent from Jaffna for fattening and for calving, and firewood was brought in, and extended paddy lands cultivated. Family ties were maintained and family alliances forged right through. Uncle Arun recalled the railway stop at Omanthai, shortly after Vavuniya, which one of his friend’s grandfather used to recall as the stronghold of the last Wanniya Princess, Ponnar Wannichi, who he said was an ancestor of his, and was captured in her palace, still visible in ruins, by the British as late as 1818 or so, and taken prisoner to Trincomalee where she lived thereafter and died. The profusion of people’s names in Jaffna – Vanniasuriyas, Vanniasinghams, Vannianathans, Vanniasekarans, and others – were all of the same links, which in fact in the old days went right up to the Sinhala Kingdom of Anuradhapura and in particular to what was called the Nuwara Wewa – Bulankulame families, who also had a link with the ancestral name of Suriyakumara that again ran in the Jaffna families.

It was now well into the evening, and the Western sun was casting its shadows on the typical Jaffna fences made of palmyrah leaves that was the hallmark of every Jaffna home, whose very aromas thrilled the hearts of all Jaffna people coming back home. The train whistled its way from time to time mainly for cattle on the line, and with cheers from the little ones along the road that was running parallel from Elephant Pass almost up to Jaffna Town. The soil was still of the usual beautiful white sands, with fair profusions of coconut, the ubiquitous palmyrah and the clean wattle and daub cottages roofed with the leaves of palmyrah, interspersed with the occasional brick and mortar buildings, a hospital or institution here and there and, notably, schools small and large almost every where.

After several stops along its way, the train finally came to Jaffna station where most of the passengers would disembark. But there were many who went beyond too, to various points up to the final stop at the beautiful little port town of Kankesanturai on the northern coast lying between Point Pedro to its East and Keerimalai, the historical natural Spring by the sea, to its West. Uncle Arun would proceed up to a point near Palaly where the Airport is now, and in between was that most fertile red soil region of Jaffna, for miles East and West of the railway line, which produced the delicious Jaffna mangoes and the red onions and bananas, and were so famous right through the Island.

Uncle Arun had already told the young hearers when he had started his story in Colombo, of the great Night Mails with their reserved sleeping berths. On crossing through Elephant Pass and entering Jaffna, he told them how, while it was a different type of expectation, and to the little ones a special thrill, most of the  night travel was spent in slumber. To the little ones in the four-berth first class compartments as he had recalled, sleeping on the carpeted floor within, it all was a dream land that kept them happily awake, gazing at what looked like such a high ceiling from where they were, and with powerful fans throwing enough breeze at them, finally sending them happily into deep slumber till daylight – which was about the time the Night Mail would sight Elephant Pass.

The children would rub their eyes, and come out to gaze through the lifting mist and a shining sun, at the placid waters, which was Elephant Pass, and which in those days had not receded as now, and would lap the very walls of the Fort.

Adults were all by their window seats, where the berths were, and children in the corridors breathing in the freshness of the air that was so completely different from the humidified atmosphere from where they were coming. Those who knew the deep South knew however, how much there were shared links with that of the far North. Now the sun was rising from its East, with of course the Train proceeding northwards and the rural homes were all bright, people picking up the fallen leaves with quaint long forks, and sweeping their ever clean compounds that surrounded their humble houses. All of these, along with leaves of carefully planted trees and hedges around each fence, and well dried leaves of the palmyrah, would go every season into the soils for the next cultivation – an acme of `environmental resources management’ long before our new fangled slogan mongers came in, and, seemingly played their part so unconvincingly. At the main destination of Jaffna, night mails had larger numbers disgorging their passengers and equally large numbers awaiting them at the platform, with their evergreen, forty years old British Austin cars so reputed in Jaffna, standing in casual formation around the station.

Thus ended Uncle Arun’s tales of two regions, or two eras, as he called them. It was as well for the pedestrian morning diesel train they were in was now nearing Vavuniya and the long low whistle of the engine seemed to announce it to them.

Uncle Arun’s descriptions of the great trains of his day had led Khanna to contemplate, not without some amusement, his own emotional experiences with what he thought were the great trains of today. Coming to Colombo, Khanna had this time decided to do so, through Delhi, the season being fine for him, and he put up at a reasonable, out of city-centre hotel for the two days that he was going to spend there. Early the first night in his room, through one of the small windows that were customary above the large ones, kept open in the night, he woke up when it was still dark, and could see the fair heavy mist outside through the gas lights that were burning bright on the road. As he lazed in half slumber, he began to hear, first one, then another, and at quick regular intervals thereafter, a whole symphony of the great whistles – giants heaving as it were -of the powerful diesel railway engines of today and, remotely, even the noise of one or two of the trains whenever the gentle breeze that was typical at the time came his way. He knew what they were, for they were the processions of the magnificent night mails that were converging on Delhi, from all over this vast country, travelling hundreds, some times a thousand miles. Their engine whistles, deceptively sounding like so many wails, were yet so loud that only a Classical Homeric super human being or monster would have produced such volume. They were really long powerfully drawn trains, far more so than any of Uncle Arun’s old days, and pulled as many as sixteen to eighteen carriages averaging around sixty to eighty miles per hour. There were so many of them obviously converging on Delhi. Khanna had then suddenly wanted to write a little poem on them and he turned the title over in his head with the words “When The Trains Started Coming In…………..” or something of the sort.

He had forgotten about it by the time he arrived in Colombo, but went back vividly to it while listening to Uncle Arun. He himself understood the romance of the old big steam engines and recalled the thrill the crowds in England had when the great Flying Scotsman was taken out of a shed sometime ago for a special showpiece journey all the way down from the Highlands to London.

Khanna and Rani thanked Uncle Arun deeply and got down his address, and gave theirs in return, which Uncle Arun had wanted to ask for. He gave them also the address of a large Walawoo in Jaffna, which was really worth it he said, even for a little honeymoon, and he was informing his friend about it. He wished them well, a beautiful marriage, many many children and a wonderful life when they got back to England, but never to forget this land of their birth. The train was now at destination and with assurances exchanged once again, they all disembarked.

Uncle Arun’s final word was enough to tell his young couple not to worry and that everything would be fine. As if to strengthen this, Khanna and Ranee’s friend whom they had talked of earlier hailed them on the platform. His name was Somu, a husky well framed lawyer from Colombo. With a quick introduction of Somu to Uncle Arun, they went their way, Somu leading Khanna and Ranee along. He was distinctive of appearance, spoke with assurance and an accent as if to convey that he was a lawyer of the Supreme Court, always his Conan Doyle pipe in his mouth, pulling it out only to speak. He seemed as well to know most of the local establishments which were now particularly Sri Lanka police and army brass. Somu had impressed them after his many trips even though he spoke only English with them. Perhaps he did only this, knowing all of these gave him, and now his two companions, relatively easy passage, amidst the many obstacles that were part and parcel of their new bizarre journey, totally man made between this Northern most Tamil speaking point of Vavuniya and beyond, and the South.

Somu was to tell them many stories, not false, but certainly with hyperbole and elan. But that had to wait, for their task now was the checkpoint called Thandikulam, a short distance away from the town, but to which everyone had to proceed for clearance, before being eventually allowed to go on to the so called Tiger Territory checkpoint, from which the long trek to the beachhead began.

Copyright © C. Suriyakumaran

Vijitha Yapa Publications

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