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Open wounds

January 22, 2013

I’m back after a very long break. I don’t know if the two things are related, but a few months after I began writing about Sri Lanka. pulling memories and deep buried emotions out from somewhere deep, I crashed, and fell ill. The doctors never found a proper diagnosis. Two operations later, faced with a freezing English winter, I decided that if I was going to be frail, I would rather do it in a country with sunshine and better food. So I bandaged myself up and went home to Jaffna, for the first time in nine years. I had always thought this return would be significant,emotional, meaningful, but I had been so unwell that all my thoughts were quotodian. Was there fresh water for the long drive through Elephant Pass? would the pock marked, battle scarred roads be too bumpy for my still gaping surgical wound? Would we find a decent guest house with enough hot water and clean sheets? The answers were yes, yes but painkillers helped, and yes.

And in Jaffna, I didn’t think too much. But we found a lovely, newly opened hotel. with a kindly chef who made me anything I remembered from my childhood. A few days with drinking coconut water, eating tumeric-dyed curries and sitting with my kindle in the warm air and I was cured. I still don’t know if the country almost killed me or saved me. Again.

Jaffna still feels a little sad, depleted, worn out after the war. It’s gone backwards. Buildings are more decrepit, its intellectual life is muted. But people are working with a grim determination to rebuild and catch up. And it’s still as green and as scented as I remember. It was good to be home.


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