Saturday, November 6, 2010

No country for good men

A brief 10 minutes talk with a man; made me shudder at the thought of living one's life away from the place you were born; the place which you consider your homeland.

While waiting in the queue for check-in to depart to San Francisco at Juan Santamaria International airport, San Jose, Costa Rica, I broke off from the queue to throw some stuff into trash can. There was this man in his mid 30s, who was standing near the trash can. I had seen him while waiting in the queue. It seemed to me that he was lost and restless. A tiny kit-bag was all the luggage he had. He was dressed very simple, he seemed to be traveling alone. A brown skinned man; who seemed Indian traveling alone from Costa Rica. He did not seem to be here on a vacation, was it business trip? The air around him didn't say so.

His presence was intimidating to me, but I had no other choice; the trash can was the nearest I could dispose off the trash. I am conscious of strangers and definitely think twice before talking to a stranger; this man's look seemed even strange. He was searching for a familiar face among that melee of crowd, that made me conscious even more.

I wanted to throw away the banana skin and move away from that place as soon as I could. When I was about to turn; I heard a voice "India-va?" I turned to see it was him. I nodded and gave a smile. Maybe my skin tone and my facial features with a nose stud made it obvious that I was an Indian. "Neengal Tamizha?" (Are you Tamil) - the next question stunned me. Indian fine, but were my looks too obvious to be rightly said a Tamil?

His accent told me lot of untold stories. His was a Sri Lankan Tamil accent. We started talking. His "Neengal Tamizha?" was because prior to talking with me; he spoke with Gautam. Ours was a 10 minute conversation. He was asking me about what I do, where I am from. He seemed obviously happy to have met a person who came from the same part of the world he was from and who spoke his language.

As I mentioned; I guessed right as soon as I made out his accent that his story would not be a pleasant one. He had his parents back in Sri Lanka; but he cannot go there. He escaped and sought refugee in France in the year 2004. France rejected and he was deported to Costa Rica where he spent 2 years at the immigration jail. Later he stayed in San Jose as a refugee and worked for 4 years. An American gentleman whom he met in San Jose offered to help him out. He mentioned that the gentleman worked for the America President's office and he is sponsoring his job now. This man was happy that his grueling ordeal is soon coming to an end. He had a temporary passport from Costa Rica. He was flying to Connecticut.

His life would start now, in his mid 30s. His family was scattered, sister in France, another in Sweden, his parents in Sri Lanka, now he was going to Connecticut. He would settle down in USA. For him, USA was the land of freedom. He wished he could bring his parents. He would not stop thanking God. His eyes were void, that unquenchable thirst to be together with his family, in his homeland, with his people. I thought how sad that the place he was born, grew up among his people, his friends, his memories..................he cant claim as his own.

I wished him all the very best, as I walked away, I got reminded of the cultural show and fun activities we at school put up for child refugees from Sri Lanka. There were these tiny tots of our ages who were separated from their parents and siblings,  now refugees in Bangalore. We invited them to our school, sponsored books and dolls for them, served them food on that day and put up dance shows for them; just to make them happy for at least a day.

 Where does he belong to? What is his identity? There are so many civilians like him in various parts of the world who are fighting for their identity, who cannot claim their motherland as their own. How lucky we are to proudly claim our nationality, our sense of belonging and citizenship.


  1. Very sad. Sri Lankan Tamils have suffered a lot. But the politicians and the tigers have taken advantage of these innocent people. Hope he has a good life in USA.

  2. what's the definition of a home?

    I believe it's different for different people..for many, home is where he has his family, for many it's the place where he was born, or the place that gave him happiness and so on..but for someone like him, who has lost everything he ever had, home is where he can find even the tiniest stability..right now, I do not know what is home for me :)

    I hope he finally finds happiness :)

  3. And how vainly do we do that! The poignant story of your friend is the story of millions across the world. That they should suffer is the whims of the people in power.

    In one of the blogs I frequent there was this mention of the Narmada dam displaced. A gentleman, NRA, said the electricity generated from the Dams was more important.
    He is probably a new generation techie somewhere in Silicon valley. What surprised and hurt me is the contemptuous tone in his words!

    In Kashmir, in northeast, in Chhathisgarh, in every possible tribal area in India, the same story repeats. And where else? Almost every country in the world has such victims.

    Identity? He should be thankful that he is alive. Perhaps in Connecticut he will find a Yankee - or a Chen-thamizh ponnu. Perhaps he will raise a family and one day his mother and sisters would join him. I can see that picture, them barbecuing in his backyard!

    You know, B, you write damn good! Authenticity is your forte. Never lose it!

  4. In my company there are several Sri Lankan people are working....Its really sad for the Tamil people .....anyway nice post

  5. Yes yaar, it was so sad to see that guy like that. I think you spoke to him more than I did. Actually he first started speaking in English with me, and from his accent I asked him if he was Sri Lankan and he said yes. Then I asked him if he knew Tamizh, and he said yes. Then I introduced myself and I told him that I had been living in Chennai for more than 10 years. He later asked me if I was traveling alone, and that was when I mentioned that I was with a friend. :-)

    I was once writing a statement of purpose for a close friend of mine, a refugee in India from Sri Lanka, who was applying to pursue his masters in Australia. His story was more agonizing, as they barely survived all the bombing. They were quite rich in Sri Lanka. To see all your property getting destroyed in front of your eyes is easy. :-(

  6. It is unfortunate that people get displaced from their homeland for reasons of not their own.But,on the other side,there are people who simply move out for greener pastures..the so called economic migrants. The imigrant rules all over the world are getting stricter, because of them. And also,there is planned migration these days, with a religious agenda.

    The real refugee deserves sympathy.I met some migrant Sri Lankans in Germany,who made it really well. On the other side,I also met some Malayalis who paid large amounts to get smuggled in to that country.The BBC once did a live coverage of some rfugees on their way from Palestine to Switzerland.Each of them had paid about 10,000 dollars to get smuggled in to Europe!
    We have spurious notions of nationality.After some time, I will not be surprised if you see this man some where, wagging his American passport in pride.He would have long forgotten the misery of his fellow Srilankans.His country is still the largest exporter of housemaids,to be tortured and raped in gulf countries.

    You write so well!!

  7. very emotional story
    hope he will find happiness in USA

  8. hey,

    I have no words to express his state, at the same time I feel we are some what lucky, having our families at our side.

    you have been 'tagged', see my blog. :)

  9. Insignia,

    Your best post ever.

    You touched a very difficult subject of refugees. Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka are still moving around the world without any place to be called home.

    Hidus/Sikhs who migrated from Pakistan during partition suffered a lot too...list is endless....I made a comprehensive list for UN post but did not publish. It is very very sad story.

    UN or USA or any other organization is unable to put a stop on states/countries from throwing people out.

  10. I forgot to ask,did you like the movie?

  11. That was a powerful narration.
    How many of his kind walk and go by each day? when we live in the comparatively comfortable cocoon that we are lucky to be in, we seldom notice or think of the many of this kind.
    I endorse Balan's view on this. And doc Antony's comment about the Yankee passport.
    Such is life, forgetfulness is a bliss for many.

  12. A very sad and emotional post. I hope he finds happiness in USA atleast. The situation is bad there.

  13. SG,

    Its not only about Sri Lankan Tamils. So many others. The Tibetans, the west bank settlers, on....

    Hope all these people live in peace.

  14. Neha,

    I agree. Somehow these people always miss the place they were brought up however happy and comfortable they are right now.
    Its that yearning. I hope he lives in peace :-)

  15. Bala,

    Yes, so many people share the same story as this man in many parts of the world.
    I told him that it was really nice of Costa Rica to have allowed him to stay in there and also give him a temporary passport.

    As you said, he might find a good girl and a nice life. And then I hope he remembers his old times and still remains thankful.

    Bala, thank you so much for appreciating. This is encouraging.

  16. Jidhu Jose,

    Its not only about the Tamils in SL. Its about these refugees. Anyway, thank you.

  17. Gautam,

    Yes it seems I spoke to him for a longer time.
    I can relate to it more as Velu's mother is from Sri Lanka and what happened to them was agonizing as well.

  18. dr.anthony,

    That what saddens, they are in turmoil for no fault of theirs.

    I just hope this man never forgets his past and does something for people who struggle like him.

    Thanks so much, glad you like my writing.

  19. Anurag,

    Yes, we are lucky to have a 'home'.
    Thanks for tagging me, I shall take it up.

  20. A,

    Thanks for mentioning that.
    Its really really sad state for those people who cant call their own place their 'home'.

    I will write a continuation on this sometime later.

  21. dr.anthony,

    Which movie? No country for old men?

  22. anil,

    Thanks. I wrote down exactly what happened and how I felt.
    I agree with you. Maybe in future when he is a full-fledged American driving a fuel guzzling car; he wouldnt remember his struggle.
    But I hope he does remember and remains thankful.

  23. what a powerful post yar? real touching..i have seen such people and can fully understand the sentiments behind this...thanks insignia for sharing this:)

  24. That was a touching story bindu...i feel really bad for the srilankan tamil people...their plight is bad.

    It was good on ur school's part to invite them and imbibe some humanitarian values in children. I feel sad that my school never did this

  25. I pray that atleast now he finds his happiness... such atrocities by man against man has left so many wounded... forever. wonderful share.

  26. Yes, Sounded similar. And the "GoodFellas".Combination of good and the old!

  27. Ramesh,

    Thanks. Its sad to see people struggling for no fault of theirs.

  28. G3,

    Not only SL Tamils. there are such civilians displaced in various parts of the world. Sad.

    Yes, our school was considerate enough to invite those refugees and in turn teach us a lot of human values.

  29. Rajlakshmi,

    Thanks. Yeah I hope he gets to live in peace hereafter

  30. dr.anthony,

    yeah I watched "No country for old men" the very week it released in the USA. That was Nov 2007. After watching that movie, I was mesmerized and laughed at myself. I thought either I should be very smart or very dumb. Thats how the movie made me feel; excellent plot.

  31. makes me realise how lucky we are too..:)Lots of em,migrants,civilains suffering for survival..!

  32. It is really unfortunate when someone is forced to leave their homeland and take refuge in another country, where he would be treated as a refugee for life! It's instances such as these when we realize how very fortunate we are.

  33. Madhu,

    Yes, we are all lucky that way

  34. RGB,

    Yes, there is nothing worse than that. We are really fortunate that way

  35. Often times i wonder, where our lives are headed ! With such fighting and distancing our love...for each other.... for what !!!??!!

    For some piece of land !! Sigh !!

    Thanks for sharing and reminding me that more needs to be done !

  36. u are married?? jeez! I did not know that..:)

  37. Hope that gentleman has a peaceful life in future.Thanks for sharing.

  38. Kavi,

    Yeah, for what? Thats the question most of us ponder. Thank you.

  39. Madhu,

    Yes I am. Hm, I know, there was no way for anyone to know that, as I dont write about my personal life on my blog :-)

  40. chitra,

    Yes, I hope so. Thank you

  41. I have a feeling that all that he said is not true.

  42. very touching post indeed... but on second thought i think that guy weaved a good yarn. he shd go back to Sri Lanka now that the situation is well under control there.

  43. Haddock,

    Belief is what binds us all. I don't know if he cooked it up or not; but he seemed genuine to me. He also showed his temporary passport from Costa Rica. He was not looking for any favor as such from me; so I do see why he should be lying.

  44. Vivek,

    Hmmm...his choice finally :-)

  45. I read all the comments one more time. I think I agree with Haddock (somewhat). I know many guys telling sad stories to sweep a girl off her feet. I am also guilty, guilty, guilty.

    Want to listen to my sad story?

  46. I would hate to use the term "refugee",but, doesn't life take very unexpected turns?
    In Hindi, there is a saying

  47. A touching post, reminding of all those who have to flee their homeland, a feeling only such people can understand.
    Those lucky ones who can claim their nationality may never think about these.
    The race for power, the race for money and the race for all the materialistic possession is the root cause for all this. How long will we remain lucky? only time will tell !!

  48. SG,

    I dont know whom he was trying to sweep off the feet.

  49. Chowla sir,

    Yes, it does. For no fault of ours!
    Hope he finds peace


    welcome to B Log.
    Yeah all said and done, we can never understand their pain unless we are in their position.

    Hope we are lucky forever.

  51. We only realize pain when we have a glimpse of it. This memory too, is for a little while. What happens after ten days? We all forget about the heart-breaking event.

    But the good thing is we realize what we have that others don't and start to value it.

    Your most of the posts(including this one) are just simply great and awesome!

  52. Enigma,

    Thank you. True, we forget it after a while, but at the least, it makes us ponder and appreciate our good lives for a while.

    I am glad you like my posts, thanks for being so nice to me :-)

  53. You are Welcome! It's because you really do write well, not just some random stuff, but some heart warming, some heart touching posts.

    And Thank you for dropping by my blog! :)

  54. Enigma,

    Thanks so much, i am glad you relate to my posts. My pleasure :-)


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