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
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.