Really, whenever a Tamilian heads to Sri Lanka, there is only one destination on their mind - Jaffna, once the cradle of Sri Lanka's Tamil culture, and a focal point of the Civil War. The birthplace of my father, it resonates deeply with me, as my Dad was never able to take me here while he was alive, due to the fighting, something that upset him greatly. However, I have made three trips to Jaffna on my own. Once in 2000, once in 2004 and again this year. Despite the peace that now lies over Sri Lanka, this was my shortest trip to Jaffna, just lasting 24 hours. Time was of the essence in this holiday, but it was enough time to see my relations. Although some elders had sadly passed away since my last visit, there was new family members to visit. Marriage and births meant that this was going to be the meeting of new people.
But it was still the same old Jaffna. War torn after a generation of bombardment and of course, by me, utterly unseen. For some curious reason, I have never done the touristic things. There are plenty of islands in the surrounding waters that I have not yet seen. The Fort, the Clock Tower and the (new) Library are all obvious sites, but I spend far too much time visiting family. After all, it is probably going to be at least four years until I see them again, and in that time, many things can and will change in Jaffna. So this particular post, unfortunately avoids the usual touristic haunts, and instead is a bit of reminiscing about an all too brief period of time spent in this northern town.
One place that I will make a point to visit next time I head to Jaffna is the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. My cousin lives a stone's throw from the temple, and as a regular worshiper, I have made her promise me that the next time I go to Jaffna, she will take me there. But, in spite of my three visits to Jaffna, I have always walked past this most famed sight of the city. Again, a picture from the outside would have to suffice, but the next time I go to Jaffna, I will hopefully be able to see inside and wander round this beautiful place of worship.
I look back at Jaffna with a lot of fondness and a tiny bit of hope. I do no know what will happen in Sri Lanka. In fact, everytime I go here, the situation always changes. I have my views on the war, none of them positive, but at least it is over. You can see when talking and interacting wth the locals, that nobody wants to fight anymore. A generation of bloodshed has left much of Northern Sri Lanka resembling little more than a wasteland. Jaffna will never reach the heady heights of its Colonial past, but being the home of my father, despite the fact that it is a dump, I still have a fondness for this city...