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Meet Rajan Karunakaran of Project Belonging

Meet Rajan Karunakaran of Project Belonging

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Rajan Karunakaran (48 years) arrived in Switzerland in 1984. He talks of how, being a taxi driver to him is more of a culture than a job and the way leftist political ideologies have influenced his life. Rajan now lives in Baden with his 17 year old son of part Cuban origin.

Rajan is a natural storyteller telling his story with humour, laughter and courage. It is in Tamil with supers in English which I am sure could not do justice to the original.

“I don’t let anyone look down on me… I am now a Swiss Citizen and I believe that this country is lucky to have a citizen like me. I work hard and have brought up a child alone. I respect the laws of this country and exercise my right to vote”

“If my space is denied it is only I who can regain it. We came here as refugees. How far can we run?

Please watch  The Making of Project Belonging with Tanuja Thurairajah, who, with her husband P. Vijayashanthan is creator and content-curator of Project Belonging. This is a continuing oral history initiative documenting the lives of migrants in Zürich presently, which as the by line says gives a face and a voice to a statistic.


How did you meet Rajan and what was your first impression of him ? Vijayan met Rajan at a Tamil book launch in Zurich and was immediately taken up by his frank and strong personality.

Was he open, I mean did you find him receptive to the idea of being interviewed ? He was actually easy to work with and was keen on sharing his story with us. He found the whole project interesting and wanted to his story to be part of it

Did you interview Rajan in his home? Is the home being the interview location significant somehow ? The interviews including his are always at the persons’ homes, except for one . The importance of this is that it puts the person at ease and personalises the whole process. The images of course are shot in other locations that are personal to the interviewee.

The Good Citizen from PROJECT Belonging on Vimeo.

Were you able to maintain follow-up contact with him. Did he come to the screenings ? is he involved in the Tamil Discussion Groups in any way?

Yes we are very much in contact and he actually joined us for the screening. The discussion that followed was very intense. The theme of this particular discussion was ‘Culture & Integration’ (April 01, 2012) and the discussion between the Sri Lankan and Swiss participants was very candid and Rajan was a very engaging participant.

This was extremely interesting as it was more of a two-pronged engagement with the audience, one through the story/ photomontage and the other, directly by the owner of the story! Yes, Rajan is also involved in the Tamil discussion groups because he is very keen that the Diaspora must engage in a positive dialogue process.

iSrilankan will feature more Project Belonging oral histories including insightful interviews with Tanuja on each story-encounter.


Tanuja Thurairajah is an independent writer/diaspora activist whose deep interest in social and humanitarian activism remains the base of her creative and professional pursuits. She is working on projects related to the Sri Lankan Diaspora in Switzerland and her interests are writing political/ analytical essays, documentary films and photography. She is currently studying for a Masters in Peace & Conflict Transformation at the WPA/ University of Basel and has been living in Zurich with her family since 2007.

P. Vijayashanthan is a theatre activist with experience in traditional Sri Lankan Tamil dance forms such as ‘Koothu’ and specialses in non-spoken and experimental theatre. He is currently freelancing as an Actor/Artistic Director in Zurich and recently directed Girish Karnad’s ‘Naga-mandala’ in German. Vijayan’s interests include photography.

Look forward to meeting more storyowners on iSrilankan with insights from Tanuja on each interview.

Go to Project Belonging on Vimeo and Like the Project Belonging Facebook Page in community with the spirit of the initiative and support for their work.

Project Belonging Image Gallery


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