From the collection of *VANAKKAM
*Tamils for Justice (T4J) of Yore*
compiled by Asoka Weerasinghe,
Once upon a time, long, long time ago, there lived in a small village
in a remote northern part of a little island in the Indian Ocean called
Sree Langa a group of people who one day got together to talk of how
they wanted to fight for their freedom and honour from the high caste
people of their Tamil community who happen to be their oppressors.
The year was 1908, the village was called Mirrorsuvil, and the people
were Tamils who had come to Sree Langa in boats from the south of the
massive landmass to the north of Sree Langa called Indthya. These people
were called Kalla-thonies by the rest of the Tamil community
who claimed they were indigenous to the island. These Tamils looked
down on the kalla-thonies.
The Tamils were of a caste-based Dravidian culture. The high-caste
were the Brahmins, and lowest caste were the Parayars and there were
other castes in between. Mostly, Mirrorsuvil happen to be the ghetto
for the Parayar caste.
However, in this village of Mirrorsuvil also lived a few families of
the Brahmin caste.
One of the members of this Brahmin caste was also the Poosari of the
only Hindu Kovil. People went to this temple to worship and ask for
favours from the Hindu deities who were painted on the four inner walls
beside the three statues of Vishnu, Ganesh and Paththini.
What irritated these Parayar caste people was that they had to take
off their shawls from their left shoulder and look down when ever they
passed a Brahmin Tamil on the street. They were not allowed to come
over the threshold of the Brahmin Tamil houses where they go to do some
menial work to earn a few paisa. If they had been working in the garden
under the hot noon-sun and were thirsty and asked for some water from
the Brahmin Tamils of the house, they brought the water in a brass chalice
and poured it into the cupped palms of the Parayar Tamils to drink and
not in a cup. And the worst irritation was that the Parayar caste Tamils
were not allowed to go inside the Hindu Kovil for worship. They had
to say their prayers standing outside the Kovil while the Brahmin Tamils
were allowed to go inside to worship. By then they realized that they
have been discriminated by their own Tamil people of Mirrorsuvil.
This is when the trouble started. Skanda Raja of the Parayar caste
took the lead.
He earned more paisa among the Parayars by cleaning the latrines of
all the Brahmin homes. So he was looked up as a potential leader of
this ghetto community. He wanted to fight for his and his familys
freedom as well as that of the other Parayars of Mirrorsuvil. They wanted
respect. They wanted honour.
They wanted to be accepted as normal human beings among their Tamil
caste oriented communities. So he called a meeting for a Sunday afternoon
after lunch. They met under the shade of a mango tree, and the gathering
was animated and loud.
A very dark, short, gargoylesh looking man, in a black robe and a starched
white collar was passing by. When he noticed this animated gathering,
he approached them and being nosy said, You all look agitated
on a Sunday afternoon, why, didnt your wives cook you all a decent
meal? I am Father Xavier Assisi Francis, a Gods man, a Catholic
priest from the church in the neighbouring village of Asokagama.
No sooner he heard the problem from Skanda Raja that they were from
a the Parayar caste and were not treated properly by the Brahmin families
of this community of Mirrorsuvil, Father Francis stood straight, looked
towards the sky for a moment, and then with one sweep of his right hand
he waved over the heads of the gathering from left to right and from
north to south said in a loud voice, Jeeeesus loves you, all of
you are the children of God and Jeeeeesus loves you. This reaction
from this gargoylesh looking holy-man in a black robe and a starche
white collar took the Parayar people by surprise.
I know that my own Tamil people could be cruel sometimes and
you dont have to take these insults anymore. I will suggest to
you the solution, he said. The Parayars shuffled their bodies
where they were squatting to listen to Father Francis intently.
If you go up north about five miles on this paved peninsula road
you will come to a junction where another road crosses this one. There
will be a sign with arrows pointing to the east to your right and west
to your left. The sign is written in English by our colonial masters.
The one pointing to the right will say, NIRVANAPURA. The one pointing
to the left will say BANDULAGAMA Turn right and travel about two miles
and you will come to NIRVANAPURA and a road sign will tell you that
you have arrived at NIRVANAPURA. There are about 200 houses made of
bricks, mortar and clay tiles. The people who live in this village are
called Singalayos. They are the original people of this island. They
are very nice people. They are humble, genteel, and kind people.
They are Buddha people. Tell them that you want to meet with the village
Once you meet him tell him all of your hurt because of being treated
badly by your own Brahmin people.
I can promise you that he will tell you, That is not nice treating
your own people like that. Dont travel any farther. Break your
journey here and live in this village with us. There are a few empty
houses down the road. I will show them to you. You all can live in them.
We are a farming community
Our crops are paddy and kurakkan. Become farmers and become part of
our happy Nirvanapura family. Tell him that Father Francis encouraged
you all to meet Chief Sudu-Appuhamy. I know him well.
The following day all 30 Parayar caste families took the few belongings
they had ever possessed in bullock carts and headed towards Nirvanapura.
What was amazing was what transpired after meeting with Chief Sudu-Appuhamy
was exactly what Father Francis told them would happen. The Singalayos
were genteel and kind people.
We too want to become Singalayos, Chief Sudu-Appuhamy. How can
we become Singalayos too, Skanda Raja asked.
The Chief chuckled a bit and said, That is extreme my friends,
you dont have to become Singalayos to be accepted into our village.
Be what you are, as in our hearts we are all human beings and we should
be able to love each other. Our families love all of you and I hope
that in return you all will love us too,
was his response.
The last straw that made the Parayar people to hate their own Tamil
people was when they went to the Buddha peoples temple and met the chief
monk in a yellow robe. When he came to know that they were Hindus, Come
with me, he said, and walked them to a little Kovil in a corner
of the temple garden where a Kapurala was blessing some people.
The Kapurala invited the Parayars into the temple and blessed everyone
of them and invited them to come over any time to worship. That was
it, and the Parayar people rejected their own Brahmin Tamils and embraced
the Singalayos as a group of wonderful and kind people.
So the meeting under the mango tree in that hot sunny Sunday afternoon
seeking *Justice for Tamils (T4J) *finally arrived when these Parayars
entered NIRVANAPURA and were embraced by the Singalyos headed by their
Chief Sudu-Appuhamy, who showed them they too were human beings, where
they can drink water out of cups, dont have to slip the shawls
off their left shoulders when passing a Singalayo on the street other
than greeting the person saying Ayu-bowan and the Singalayo
will return the greeting by saying Vanakkam, could go in
and out of the homes of the friendly Singalayos, and most importantly
they can worship their Hindu deities by entering the Kovil in the village
This was indeed a joyful ending for Parayar caste Tamils of Mirrorsuvil
where the Singalayos of Nirvanapura rescued their hurting souls by massaging
them with the Singalayo brand of love.