The worries we have today do not involve a war

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The worries we have today do not involve a war

By Avanthi Kottegoda.

As I step out of my home every morning to go to work, I am so thankful that the only things I have to worry about are the insane traffic, pesky three wheeler drivers & accidently knocking down pedestrians who always inevitably cross the road from the front of the vehicle ahead of you! Always from the front! Being a part of Generation Y in Sri Lanka, I vividly remember a time where the aforementioned were the least of my worries. Add to that coming from a military family, the worries were a million fold.

War was sadly a norm in our lives. These days when I see the international outrage at war crimes committed all over the world, I wonder why no one protested when it was happening to us. I remember watching Hollywood action movies as a child and in all naivety and innocence of a child I wished that we had all the people and machines in the movies from America to fight the war so that my father wouldn’t have to and we wouldn’t have to worry so much about his safety. Oh the weight of worrying. The weight of fear.  Constant fear for the safety of your loved one. It is suffocating, it is debilitating, and it is overwhelming. It comes out from every pore of your skin; it lives in you growing stronger and stronger feeding on your happiness, peace, and above all your childhood. Eventually it kills the senses in you and you become numb.

We were afraid of everything. We were afraid to listen to the news, we were afraid when someone from the Army compound we lived in came to visit us for no apparent reason, we were afraid when the phone rang, we looked for any changes in our teachers or friends when they looked at us in school, were they being particularly nice? If so why? Are they trying to break some bad news? We were afraid every moment of our lives. There used to be a small undertaker shop which we had to pass to and from my home and I hated that shop. To me it was a blaring sign of death.  Every single time I passed that shop I would hold my breath until we were safely past it. I believed that if I held my breath while I passed that shop, my father will be ok. That he would come home.

In retrospect I feel so much pain for that child I was. It seemed like every action, every thought of our young lives were shaped by the fear we lived in for the fathers, brothers, husbands and sons who were a part of the war. Military funerals, visiting war casualties at the Army hospital, attending alms giving’s of loved ones, were a part of our daily lives. As morbid as it may seem, every single time we were at a military funeral, I wondered if it will be my father next. We all wondered that. As much as we despised the thought, we couldn’t shut it up. Then when the perimeters of the war were being pushed to the safe haven of the south, we worried for our own lives. The bomb explosions in the non war zones made everyone feel the heat. Parents, children, relatives, friends, we all worried about each other’s safety. We were grateful to return home in one piece at the end of the day. This was us. What about the people who lived in border villages? The people who were by no choice a part of a war, except that they were geographically placed in the middle of it all? The people who had to leave the safety of their houses every night and hide in every which place possible until the thundering storms of the gun fire subsided?

As we still remember the fear & the pain of loss, so do they. They still feel the ringing of their ears from hours of gun fire, the loss of hope, and the carnage their eyes witnessed, the eventual numbness to feeling. We all suffered in different ways. We have all lost. Some of us lost our loved ones, so many lost their lives, others lost parts that made them whole, some lost property, some lost their will to survive, some their identity, some their sense of belonging, some their innocence but all of us lost  a part of our lives that we can never get back. None of us have really “won”, because we have lost so much on a deeper level. Yes we are still resilient, we are still standing and what’s more we are still standing with a smile on our faces. But we are all marked by the scars engraved on us. What I am happy about is that the war is over. I am so glad that the worries we have today do not involve a war. I am so happy that an entire generation will be born not knowing what it is to live in a country raged by war. I am so thankful that their worries will be different to ours. Much different. They will only learn of what happened in the pages of their history books. And I pray that they will never come to know that kind of loss.

I have tried many a times to actually pen down what it was to grow up in a time like that and every time I have failed. Somehow the words that stare at me on paper just don’t seem to do justice to what it actually was like. Nevertheless I decided that I will write, not only for the ones who grew up like me but for everyone who knew fear and I can only hope that the enormity of it can be conveyed. My father came back home. Many didn’t make it. This is for those who lost, in one way or another, for those still living in pain, for those whose loved ones never came home.

Thoughts of the Publisher: “from a positive mind-frame, what is good now is that the worries we have do not involve a war. As such, we should be grateful to the people who brought peace and take a futuristic positive attitude in all what we do”