Next destination after Kandy was Nuwara Eliya. I was very very particular that we do all the learning intensive trip in the beginning and chilling out and relaxing stuff later. So after brushing with history and culture, we gradually got into the relaxing mood. The first step towards it was Nuwara Eliya.
Its a hill country; got reminded of Idukki a lot seeing all those tea plantations. The colonial air is still present in the form of bungalows, post office, clubs and tea factories from that era still functional. One can wallow in its nostalgia of bygone era by visiting these buildings, old English style lawns and gardens.
Its also the only district in SL where the Indian Tamils form the majority with over 50% of the population. They are mostly tea plantation workers whose ancestors were brought to SL by the British from India in 19th century.
The icing on the cake was my husband's reunion with his ancestral family. His mom's ancestors probably migrated from India to work in tea factories and plantations. All his cousins but my husband and his siblings were born in Lanka. He tells me stories that his mom shared with them. They moved back to India in 1972 due to the pressure by then Bhandarnaike government to leave their country. So even though it was their land and they were born there; it seemed they had to surrender their land, property, assets and their earnings and flee their country or else were threatened to "be skinned alive and wear the skin as slippers". Such announcements were made until people fled. So his grandparents left the country with their kids; traveled by train to Mannar and boarded a ship back to India to never return. Its so ironical and sad for Indian Tamils since they were tricked by the British and forcefully hoarded them to work as plantation workers in other countries and now the so called rightful owners of the land, the real descendants of the Lord wanting the 'aliens' to leave so that they can cleanse themselves!!
Anyway, so one of the hidden agenda for my husband was to touch base and initiate contact with long lost family. He made sure that we had Nuwara Eliya in our plan even though I insisted its going to be like Idukki which we have visited numerous times. All we knew was information provided by his cousin who had a faded memory since he left the country when he was 10 years old. We knew the name of the estate they worked and searched for the estate; we traveled 40 kms from the town seeking directions before we found the estate; thanks to our Sri Lankan friend Indika who was sweet. Talked to few people outside the factory and tried to see if anyone identifies with one name who was probably staying/stayed there. After half hour, someone identified the name and we got the lead. I and Indika could not help but notice his joy of meeting his relatives; Indika felt a sense of elation as well for being part of the experience and satisfaction for having helped Velu meet his relatives. I always believe whatever happens its for good. I saw the conditions of his relatives and other Indian Tamils and until now; they were treated as war criminals. They were suppressed, harassed and always looked with suspicion as heard from his third cousin. Its obvious when you see their eyes sparkle as soon as we said we are from India and we know Tamil. Lot of questions, quest to know about their ancestral country, a map of TN adorning walls; they are more Tamils than Lankans.
My husband's relatives are living in a shanty house, probably the ones existing since early 1900s, no improvements, poor standard of living. There was disbelief, surprise, realization, happiness and longing to visit India and their relatives. If not for an old lady who recognized his mom; we would not have found them. His mom's parents might have left the country with a heavy heart but their children and their grand children definitely have a life worth dying for!
Whom to blame? The innocent Indians who were tricked by British? The cunning British? or the vicious so called real locals of the land?
Related post : No country for good men
The Estate - faintly remembered by his cousin
The Tea factory of the estate. Operational since 1940s
The broken road leading to the factory
The row of houses; the house in which his relatives stay was frequented by his mom when she was kid during 1960s
With the folks.
I promise to post picturesque Nuwara Eliya in my next post :)