This beach in Vadamarachchi East is amazing. After years of desertion, and barely a trickle of people returning, nature is pristine. Sitting there on the soft white sands, feet buried, quietly conversing in Tamil with colleagues was the first relaxing, organic experience since I moved to the Big City, Colombo. Rather comical yellow crabs scuttled to and fro adventurously playing against the waves, the less bold peeped at us from their threshold suspiciously analysing the change in landscape. A soft cool thick evening breeze carried the quiet tinkling of far away a lone bicycle bell. A military man hangs on to a 4 foot long aiyutham aimlessly absorbing his surroundings while he too buries his booted toes in the sand. A pair of fishermen wordlessly untangle their net as we talked about life in different cities, of the scars of war, and of how times change. On one side, the bold blue ocean clothed in the deepening night tones proudly claimed the apple of Eris, on the other, a setting sun silhouetted the spindly leaves of Jaffna’s famous, towering Palmyras while overhead - orange clouds played loftily in an atmospheric breeze simplistically unaware of how their awe-striking beauty contrasted brilliantly against deepening blue skies. If God ever painted a perfect picture, it wouldn’t be far from different from the shores of Vadamarachci.
It must have been 6:50pm when someone behind us said, ‘Orr aal inga vaango’ [one of you, come here]. Disgruntled at the disruption, I turned towards the harsh voice. Where there had been one 4 foot gun there were now two. The older of which beckoned with his free hand. The eldest staff got up to his feet and went over. After a brief conversation (all conversations with the military here are quite brief) he informs us, no one is allowed on the beach after 6. I grumbled that this was not the law. But, what could we do, we got up and left. Up against 8 collective feet of gun power none of us had the guts [or Sinhala linguistic skills, for that matter] to argue our rights in a post- conflict, post-Prevention of Terrorism Act era. So we bade grudging goodbyes to the swelling tide and trooped back to our place to have some murungakai curry & [for some] cuttle fish.
Turns out that by returning early, we got an entirely new and exciting experience! An inside peek into village drama! Having nothing else to do while we waited for dinner, we took a walk to our neighbourhood petti kade (corner store). The area never had electricity - not even in the pre-war periods) - it’s a really out of the way remote area – so it was seriously pitch black. No seriously pitch black! So much so that white teeth wouldn’t shine through a smile. So much so the grey of the abandoned railway tracks were not visible. Yet we made it to the store by the lights of our cell phones. The store owners were super jovial types and filled us in on all the going ons and going ins, like what was up with the man who lost his arm in the war down the road, & the koluvals [scrimmages] of their men with the neighbouring village men, or why She would never buy so much as a handful of rice from them, & why the last village priest left in a hurry.