My First Visit

 

by Gary Paramanathan

 

I was born in Jaffna, raised in Colombo, and reached adolescence in Sydney. In 2010 I returned to Jaffna after being away for 20 years. These are thoughts I put into words as I was waiting the hours and days to return to more familiar ground, i.e Colombo and Sydney.

 

 

My First Visit by Gary Paramanathan from iSrilankan on Vimeo.

The text of the poem is below :

 

My First Visit

 

Over fed, bloated like a ballon

I sit contemplating my reality

Oh with what audacity

I would even consider my fate

In the same chair my ancestors had faced

such gruesome, violent hate

 

I was the privileged one

for what my parents had done

They jumped that queue,

what few would do

to provide a better life for me

and my sibling.

 

Like that bloated balloon

I was full of air

a sense of emptiness

A word, a statement of hate could blow me up.

Today as I stared out into the bustle of mango trees

the needle to the balloon was that word

Identity

 

When a man in a faraway land

stares at you contemptuously

you agree to the differences,

you are not from there

but when a man in your own town

stares at you with such intensity

What do you do?

 

He knows I am different

With his black, luminous, hungry eyes

he burns a white hole in my mind

You can’t fool me, he says

you are an alien in your own world

 

He still stares at me with such intensity

He doesn’t speak,

a smirk is enough to push across the point

Why are you here?

Broken like an empty ballon

I stare back.

 

Those terrible words again.

Identity.

Are you not Tamil,

A Sri Lankan,

A northerner?

I am everything mother but here

I’m not sure.

I know I am no longer one with my land

 

I sometimes think migration

is the greatest trauma of the 20th century.

The so called third culture kids

we are not white, oh we are reminded of that

everyday

Nor are we black.

A native. A local.

 

We’ve choked our language

Smothered our traditions

Swallowed our customs.

and we are now individuals

we own things.

 

So what are we now

Those terrible words again

Identity.

 

Gary Paramanathan is Sri Lankan-born Australian currently residing in Sri Lanka. Gary is a filmmaker, a writer and an arts worker. His foray into arts comes after completing his university studies (Bachelor of Commerce at The University of Sydney), and finding nothing amusing about a nine to five job. Gary is the founder and director of Colourfest: Australia’s multicultural film festival. You can check out his work on Vimeo.

Comments

  1. Meena Serendib says:

    Love this story!

  2. You have hit the nail on the head. I love this poem and think should also need to be shared among other Sri Lankans who dream of greener pastures for their children. Would you give permission to translate this to Sinhala.
    Dhanushi

  3. Intense! The sense of non-belonging in belonging!

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