To My Friends with Tamil Surnames in the Sinhalese class
I never asked coz it never occurred to me then, but what was it like for you to be in a medium that was not your own mother’s tongue?
What was it like for your parents to take that decision, to make sure that their child did not suffer?
The anger, the condescension and the racism that post ‘83 brought.
Was it a fair thing to do? Some may vehemently say no.
Some may say they did it to survive.
Coz language is a part of your identity. Most of you do not speak Tamil.
Was that a conscious decision?
Do you wonder what it would have been like, had you been allowed to be you?
Free to learn in the medium that was your father’s or mother’s own?
Or is this survival at any cost? Is that cost fair?
Do you regret what was done or what happened?
We can’t go back but can we re-imagine what it was like for you?
Will that empathy help you or your parents?
Or will it be another token mockery of the injustice meted out over the years
Perhaps it’s better to let sleeping dragons lie
But I, I would like to not live that lie
Hence why I ask
But let me say, I am glad you were with me because I learned to have a friend regardless of their ethnicity
Because we were one class; skin colour, ethnicity, address, religion or caste rarely mattered.
I never saw you as an ‘other’ you were just another
Yet is that right?
We now speak English – Sri Lankan English. Our own variety.
Perhaps its role as a ‘link language’ is also cemented
Yet I wonder…