Before the blood spilt

Before the blood spilt

The Tamil Tigers have been decimated and the decades long civil war in Sri Lanka has come to an end. So we are told. And even as we grapple with this reality, Love Marriage takes us through the many Tamil villages dotting northern Sri Lanka. Villages, where those who became Tigers to liberate Tamil Ealem were born and grew up. Villages where, before the concept of Ealem took hold of the consciousness of the inhabitants, the skies were usually light blue in colour, the fields, after the rainy season had passed, were ripe and gold with harvest.

It was a time when murder was still unusual, where disappearances were still unusual, and this was because it was a country in which people thought that the sky was considering turning blue, that the fields were growing full of richness and harvest, that the young men and women would go to school and the British would not be there and that meant that everything would eventually be all right. And it was in such times and in such villages that young Tamils like Vani and Murali grew up. One turned out to be a nurse and the other a doctor and oblivious of the other’s existence, they spread their wings individually and headed for foreign shores, where destiny brought them together. From backgrounds where only arranged marriages were known, Vani and Murali fall in love and enter into what is the first ever ‘love marriage’. Yalini is the product of this union and grows up in the USA, caught between the secrets and traditions of her Sri Lankan Tamil ancestors.

And in the comfort of her home on the shores of distant America, Yalini watches on TV, in the country of her parents ‘how people were being killed for their Tamilness. The news showed anti-Tamil riots on the streets of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, where members of the Sinhalese majority rioted against thousands of their Tamil countrymen. The news showed Tamil civilians beaten, robbed and killed, their property seized and ruined. And the Sri Lanka government had done nothing to defend them. Later, there was understanding that government authorities had handed enraged rioters voter lists which showed ethnicity, so that they could hunt down their Tamil neighbours, co-workers and schoolmates.

Till one day the routine of Yalini’s life is turned upside down when an uncle, Kumaran arrives from Sri Lanka with his daughter. Kumaran, an engineer by profession, had begun as someone who had planned to put places together. But in his native Jaffna, he watched his friends die next to him on the streets of his city, and they had been slain by soldiers who belonged to his government. A young man and so revolution-ripe, he became someone who planned to blow places apart. Kumaran joined the Tamil Tigers’. A rebellion had grown into the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — the separatist movement in northern Sri Lanka.

And now, decades later, spent and broken, Kumaran buys a safe passage for himself and his daughter to Canada, by vowing to continue working for ‘the cause’ by raising funds in Canada for the Tigers back home. In the home of his sister Vani, Kumaran strikes a curious friendship with Yalini and finds himself narrating to her about his life and his cause. And thus follows a narrative within a narrative.

Through the families of Vani and Murli, Love Marriage traces the lives of hundreds of ordinary Tamils in the years before the Tamil–Sinhalese conflict broke out, the genesis of the LTTE and what it meant to be a Tamil Tiger.

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