Friday, February 6, 2009

Meeting the "killer of a child" - Part II

Chinnaiah (pronounced chin-na-ya) is a colorful personality. A man fond of life's amenities he is known to enjoy God's givings with plenty however, within means of his family and surroundings.

Chinnaiah was taught to drink and smoke by my father, so I've been told, when they were in their early teens, behind their house, hidden in Palmyra forests and near railway tracks, sitting in between parked railcars that carried provisions to Jaffna from the South. They both got immersed in many non-curricular activities together, again - I've been told, that their parents almost gave up in controlling and disciplining and that both were let to live and learn from their life experiences alone. The schools they were enrolled would have seen only a less than acceptable attendance. The girls they befriended would have had their hearts broken many times over. The pranks they played may have wrecked havoc in many lives. Yet, they remained committed friends for a long time.

Years moved on. Teens became adults. My father became a journalist and Chinnaiah formed himself as a pharmacist, working for Doctors, clinics and hospitals.

Chinnaiah also had a son, amongst other children, who was a Major with the Tamil Tigers during the mid to late eighties. Major Naren - the nom de guerre given to him by the Tiger leadership - if lived, would have been my age by now, with a family and possibly wife and abundance of children. During the Indian Army's involvement in the Sri Lankan affairs in late eighties and during a conflict in the North West Mannar region, Major Naren took his life by swallowing cyanide capsule to ensure not to be captured alive, a non-written pronouncement of committed Tiger cadre.

A devastated Chinnaiah and his wife moved to India and then onto Toronto, to live with their other children and extended families. Few more years moved on with monsoons, draughts, snow storms, riots and peace times. Then one fine day in late summer Toronto, I got married to Chinnaiah's older brother's daughter - not by arrangement for the record - thus becoming a relative-by-marriage to him.

Chinnaiah, a fan of Scotch, when under little influence would tell us stories about his past endeavors and experiences of meeting people and places. We would sit around him, during family gatherings, BBQs and wintery evenings to indulge in these past that we never saw, of the dusty streets of Jaffna peninsula, of the beaten path of railway tracks and palmyrah forests.

Chinnaiah is also known to have faced the LTTE supremo one evening, at their house in Navalar Road, during the times when Mr. Prabhakaran was free enough to roam the lanes of Jaffna, without much security and pomp. During this intersection, knowing Chinnaiah's "state of affairs", Mr. Prabhakaran apparently had made a comment stating that "Chinnaiah would continue to drink whether the Tigers are alive or dead". Then Mr. Prabhakaran laughed heartedly and patted Chinnaiah's back to go off and have dinner with Major Naren at their kitchen table.

Few days ago - let's let go of the past for a while and move to present day - I read a blog written by a former Indian Military Intelligence Chief named Col. Hariharan. This gentleman had served and spent three years in Northern Sri Lanka during the IPKF time, from 1987 to 1989, I think. While reading the blog, something struck me as if I have already knew the story that Col. Hariharan tried to describe and detail in his writings.

Immediately I called up Chinnaiah in Toronto and asked him to recall few incidents that were in Col. Hariharan's blog. Now, what you need to know is that Chinnaiah has already transformed himself into a teetotaler. No scotch, no Gold-Leaf, and no beetle chewing. And as such and unfortunately his memory isn't as crispy as before. So, he noted down what I said however didn't say much in return. Disappointed, I emailed one of my cousins to print and deliver the article to him to jog his 'sober' memory.

Then the next day, while I was sitting at the lounge of Renaissance hotel of Atyrau, in Kazakhstan, looking out at the frozen streets, sipping an Efes, I got a call from Chinnaiah. He was in rather anxious mood with a broken voice. I noted emotions through the receiver that was abnormal to Chinnaiah's usual calm and cheery manner.

He apparently had met the "killer of his son" - a second time over, in black and white, in precise print and in writing. However, this time the presumed "killer" himself seems to have come to terms with war and tragedy and that with emotions of reminiscence he's trying to heal, reconcile and reach out.

I expressed to Chinnaiah that we must eventually reconcile our past and move on. He paused for a while then said, "Look Thambi, Col. Hariharan was a friend of my son before he passed away tragically. So, as long as I have fond memories of my son, I too will have fond memories of the Colonel. I wish him well with all my heart".

[Please read Col. Hariharan's blog to dot and connect the lines]

1 comment:

naanjil said...