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“We are here, we are here, we are here.”

May 3, 2013

Oh honestly. Now I’m getting tearful and moody over a Dr. Seuss movie and I don’t know if I’m even allowed to make these links – they seem so twee. But here they are anyway.

The movie was “Horton hears a Who” To summarise for those who don’t have seven year old boys. Horton is an elephant. One day he sees a speck of dust on a flower, and hears a noise from the speck. He hears it when no one else can because he is kind and has large ears. The noise he hears does indeed come from a person, who lives in Whoville, a town full of contented, tiny people who have no idea how precarious their existence is.

Horton is so protective of the speck of dust that the other animals, enraged at his belief that these small people actually exist, try to destroy it. Horton asks all of Whoville to make a loud noise so everyone in his world can hear they exist. So all the residents of Whoville, who had been so happy in their home, and have only just realised that their world is about to come crashing down around them, start shouting as loud as they can. “We are here. We are here. We are here.”

I’ve been invited to several screenings lately of “The Killing Fields.” I’ve not attended any of them because I’m a coward, and can’t bear to hear the screams and the raw grief and agony of those souls stranded on a blood soaked beach any more.

I try quite hard, quite often to forget about Sri Lanka. To turn my face westward and to my other, much more successful and fun life. I was at an academic lunch last week when someone asked me why I wrote about Sri Lanka. “Is it some sort of hobby?” I said I was born there and he nodded vaguely, still not understanding why I bothered to write, usually for no money, about a place I left long ago. I write just to prove that I exist.

I think that back to that time, in 2009, when the Tamil community knew what was going on and tried, desperately, to get the world to hear. The British Tamils who closed down Westminster with their massive, peaceful demonstration, the ones who wrote desperate letters to their M.P.s and the newspapers, the ones who were trying frantically to get news of their families from home.

We all live with dread, I think. Sri Lankan Tamils. We live with this feeling, deep down in our bellies, that our existences are so precarious and fragile they can be snuffed out with a careless swipe of a large beast’s paw. And in those awful weeks in 2009, all those fears proved correct. While hundreds on hundreds died in the place we had once been so happy, we stood on a tiny speck of dust, shouting over and over. “We are here, we are here, we are here.” I don’t think anyone heard.


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