– Having returned from Jaffna, Sri Lanka, this morning, I had so much to write about! So many things crossed my mind.
It was too much information to put in one blog post, as it had to include some personal history, for one to understand what I was trying to communicate.
So here goes Part I!!! –
It was year 2001, I was 21 years of age, studying at NIBM (National Institute of Business Management), Colombo, Sri Lanka. Quite organically, a group of friends were formed, which was multi-racial, multi-religious, and multi-cultural. I loved it!!! One of those friends was Sundhar.
One day, during our morning tea break, he asked me whether I watch Tamil movies, for which I replied “No”. He inquired why, and I recall stating that;
I don’t understand the language!
The Tamil movies I’ve briefly seen, both actors and actresses were not attractive!
All they do is fight, and the hero quite unnaturally is able to fight an entire army single handedly, and I’m not into fighting anyway!
Now, with some maturity up my sleeve, I can see that these answers, although honest, would have sounded really harsh. But, all he did was smile and ask me to watch Shakthi TV that particular day at 6.30pm, and mentioned that the movie Alaipayuthey (Translation: Waves are flowing) will be televised.
I asked him whether there were subtitles, and all he said was it’s producer, Mani Ratnam, was such a great producer, so I wouldn’t need subtitles. Inside I was cursing myself for not saying “No”. Now I had to watch it, in order to face him the next day. I briefly hated him, and his forever smiling face, for giving me such a task!
How dare he ask me to watch a movie that I wouldn’t understand!!!
However, I not only ended up watching it, but ended up falling in love with the movie, the songs, the main actress Shalini, and the main actor Madhavan. It goes without saying, I immediately had a crush on Madhavan! He was such a sweetheart!
So Sundhar was right after all, I didn’t need subtitles. Since then, I have watched so many Tamil movies;
are some of my personal favourites.
I liked Sundhar a lot, as a friend. Don’t get me wrong, he was uber attractive, and I loved his smile, but he was like a brother to me. As I would say;
He did the Bro on me, and that was that!
Despite his personal views on sexuality (He used to believe that it was a choice to be gay, and he condemned and rejected homosexuality and other sexuality variants that weren’t heterosexuality), he embraced me as a friend and he showed no difference to me at all. He was one of the first friends in University days that I had come out to. This was a relief to me, and I loved him so much more for loving me as a friend, eventhough my lifestyle was against his personal views.
Once, he took me to Trincomalee, Sri Lanka to visit his relatives during the war period.
We took the train there. He was physically a lot stronger than me, so he showed off his footboard travelling skills on the way there. It also rained on our way, and we got completely soaked in the rain while traveling on the footboard of the train (I was barely on the footboard, where as he was full swing showing off his manliness, by travelling on the footboard!!!). In my mind, it was like a Tamil movie, produced by Mani Ratnam, where two friends go on a journey to the unknown. In this instance, it was Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, but unknown sounds nicer. I mean, I already knew plenty of Tamil songs to add to the flavour, and randomly break into a song and dance! All I needed was to fall in love with a Tamil dude, probably someone I meet on the train, and he fall in love with a Sinhalese girl! I guess his mission is well accomplished now, he not only fell in love (not on the train, it happened years later!), he is happily married to a Sinhalese girl and have gorgeous kids. Meanwhile, my journey, with my legal status (Upto date Homosexuality is illegal in Sri Lanka), took so many different turns.
Before I get sidetracked too much with my imaginary Mani Ratnam movie, let me take you back to Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.
We arrived in Trincomalee quite late. We stayed at his cousin sister’s home. He adored her! I understood why immediately. He took me around walking to close by places the first day, and showed me a hotel which was said to be haunted. The bloody haunted hotel was too close to his sister’s home! I was so sure that the ghost would not have any trouble walking such a short distance!
Why on earth did he have to show me that?
Did he really think it was a tourist attraction?
When it got dark, it was too dark! Unlike in Colombo, there were hardly any lights. I mean, the house had lights, but once everyone went to sleep, turned all the lights off, it was pitch dark. I was already thinking of the ghost in the nearby hotel!
We were given our own space in the house. When we were ready to go to bed, Sundhar turned the lights off, and decided to play ghost. I was horrified, and I begged him to stop it right away. Of course, he was a 22 year old annoying brat! He didn’t stop. He seemed to appear and disappear with a torch stuck to his chin. I guess something in my voice would have indicated to him that I was serious, and dead scared. He turned all the lights on again, sat next to me and asked why I was so scared of the dead.
I can’t remember what my answer was. But I remember very well his explanation as to why he wasn’t scared of the dead. It was related to the war, where his 9 year old self, and his family was hiding in bunkers, to stay safe from the bombs, once the bombing was over they would come out, and fall asleep, only to realise in the morning that they were sleeping surrounded by dead bodies, or something along those lines. I was getting teary, I wanted to cry. I imagined everything he said, and I wanted to go back to his younger days and rescue him, and everyone who died. I wanted to hug him. I think I held his hand instead.
But, he didn’t appear to be sad. He casually turned the lights off again, and went right back to playing ghost. This time with an added horrifying laughter. I’m sure I hugged him tight! I mean, it was better to hug the ghost than to run away. At least you knew where it was. It couldn’t surprise you anymore with the appearing and disappearing act!!!
The following days he took me around, introduced me to his friends. Oh Boy, it was a task. All his friends were thin, had pure lean muscle, and mostly shirtless. It is also quite normal for Sri Lankan boys to be very touchy-feely. It’s not sexual. They freely express their brotherly love. So, in their view, I was Sundhar’s friend, a brother. So they had no issues expressing their love. Fuck brotherly love, I felt I was tortured! They were too damn hot, and I didn’t want any of them that close to me!! And unlike Sundhar, they weren’t “brothers” yet for me, as I was having the hots for them!!! Being Gay was wrong enough, I wasn’t ready to add incestuous relationships into my list of crimes!!!!
One time, we had gone for a swim in the ocean, and it was quite funny when they touched my body, poking my fatty bits like I was some Alien, and stated bluntly;
You’re too soft. Your skin and flesh is soft like a girl. A man should be stronger!
One other time, we had gone to see the natural hot water wells in Sundhar’s friend’s jeep. On the way back, we were stopped by a Sri Lankan Army check point. I was dressed in a “Vetti“, and also had “Vibhuti” on my forehead. I gave my National Identity Card, but they kept on asking me for a “Family Card”. I continuously said that I live in Colombo, I was Sinhalese, and I had no idea what a “Family Card” was. But the Army officers looked confused, and continued to question me. I was even more confused for being checked heavily, when the officers had no issues with the Tamil boys!!! I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be racist, but as far as I knew the LTTE didn’t hire Sinhalese, Muslims, or any other race than Tamils. That’s when Sundhar’s friend said to me that I spoke my native language, Sinhala, like a Tamil, in their accent. It didn’t occur to me that I had become one of them, one of the brothers, and had picked up the accent. That explained why the Army officers were confused. I spoke like a Tamil, I was dressed like a Tamil, I was hanging out with a group of Tamils, but my name was Sinhalese, and I claimed that I live in Colombo and had no “Family Card”. Thank God they didn’t know my father was a Muslim to add to the confusion. Since it was highlighted, I managed to attempt to switch my accent, and we were released.
It didn’t take me a lot to fall in love with the community. I liked their routines. Waking up early morning to go to Hindu temple. I liked their “Vetti“, a piece of cloth that boys wore. Especially when shirtless boys rode bikes dressed in a “Vetti” to go to Hindu temple in the morning. I liked how women travelled on the motorbikes. I liked how the boys treated the girls. I liked their customs and traditions. I thought all boys were hot with their little moustaches. I liked everything. At least everything that I saw and percieved to be true.
After creating many more memories with Sundhar, his family, and friends, we returned to Colombo. I fought with him on the way. On top of feeling sad, leaving Trincomalee, it’s people, culture, his sister and family, and his hot friends behind, Sundhar decided to catch the Bus instead of the Train. I was so angry, but it went his way, as he had already gotten into a bus and was seated. I didn’t speak to him most of the way home. But, of course I couldn’t stay that long without talking. So I disturbed his peace, nudged him, attempted to tickle him, and declared that I was ready to be friends again, and he may speak! He laughed saying that I behaved like a kid, in my native language, in his Tamil accent:
මොකද්ද බං! පොඩි එකෙක් වගේ!!!
He promised to take me to Jaffna next.
Jaffna Peninsula! All I had heard were stories from my parents and my maternal grandfather, who was a railway Head Guard. The train no longer went to Jaffna, it stopped at Vavunia, Sri Lanka, as the train line was damaged. I’ve heard that one of the Yāl Dēvi trains, the train travelling to Jaffna, was blown up by a bomb that was setup by the LTTE. I was dreaming of the day, to see Jaffna, and to travel on the Yāl Dēvi train, the longest train in Sri Lanka!!!
And Sundhar kept his promise. He took me to Jaffna. Not on the train, as there were no trains. But, we flew there. My first ever flying experience. Ratmalana, Sri Lanka to Jaffna, Sri Lanka, on a Lion Air domestic flight.
To be continued …