Today is mother’s remembrance day, for it was on 28 September 1987, that industrious person all her life and a cohesive force in our family passed away. During the disturbed period in Jaffna peninsula, mother was in poor health for a brief period and had to be hospitalized. At that time, all my siblings except a sister who lived in USA, were in the country. My sister from USA arrived in time to be by mother’s bedside. Later Mother had gone into a coma few days and passed away at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.
At that time by her bedside was my wife Kamala; there were no ambulance or undertakers available that day due to a well observed hartal for Thiyaki Thileepan. As shops and business establishments were closed, with much difficulties, Kamala hired a vehicle to bring mother’s remains home at Moolai that was 15km away.
With full hartal on and transport limited, many people were present at mother’s funeral, that included many friends and relatives from her birth place Uddupiddy. Due to hostilities in the vicinity of Moolai cemetery that was a declared no man land, mother had to be cremated at a make shift cemetery in the village, as it was norm those days. The religious rituals performed of the 31st day had to be done at a local ‘kerni’ by the roadside, as the seaside ‘madam’ used for the said religious rituals was inside the High Security Zone, as such it was too out of bounce for use by civilians.
Earlier, in her teens as mother was schooling, her mother passed away; discontinued her studies to keep house and care her four siblings and father, who was a full-time farmer, a true feudalist of his time. It gave her a good exposure to house keeping and gain experience before marriage in feudalist property management.
This gave mother a head start when she got married to father and helped to have a big family of her own, years later. Thus she managed all our family properties; as father was busy managing Victoria College, Chulipuram and later as Post Master, Chulipuram. She took on herself the full responsibility to sort out family properties.
Under her control these neglected properties started yielding regular income. This was told to me at her funeral by a close friend of my father in Moolai. It did not surprise me at all, for mother learned the finer points of taking care of family properties from her father.
On demise of my father in 1979, mother took full responsibility to manage the Moolai Murugan Temple, as my sister Ponmalar, next in line to inherit the management of the temple was overseas. Mother took good care of the temple and its properties and like father she never faulted.
My feudalist mother was fully knowledgeable about life more than us and as a true religious person; guided us to where we are today to be complete persons. There was lot of humanity in her and cared for the poor. She always shared the harvest from family paddy fields with the temple staff, the field workers as dobby, barber and so on each year.
Even the drummer who beats drums on your last journey calls over at harvest to collect his share from her. This was in addition to paying them daily wages for any work they may perform. She never turned away hungry strangers, who call at the door for a meal.
Though as children we know it is a thing of the past; yet mother’s funeral was well attended, demonstrated she was well accepted and respected by the people from all walks of life.
Mother would have been more than demoralised to see considerable damage caused to the large mansion house she and father built and I am thankful to God for calling Mother, when he did.
Firstly, following capture of the Jaffna city the Indian Peace Keeping Force, IPKF concentrated to free the rest of the peninsula. Our village Moolai in Vaddukoddai electorate was the last to be captured, when advancing to our village many shells fired by IPKF fell on our house, that was built new by our parents. We miraculously escaped without injuries as we took precautions taking cover under concrete built-in shelves in the kitchen as we were forewarned by radio of the advancing.
At that time with four family members and my less abled sister, there were the Moolai Post Master and his daughter. They lived in the city and a week earlier when hostilities increased during IPKF capture of city, for their safety moved to reside with us at Moolai. We all escaped unhurt, but the house was damaged and I had to take a Bank Loan to renovate it.
Later we did move out of our mansion as IDPs, three times in all and returned each time during the civil war period. First was in 1989, moved to Colombo for three months during IPKF time. Second was for two weeks to Jaffna City during July 1995 operation leap-forward. Third was when our Security Forces, captured Jaffna, while we were made IDPs for six months.
In 1996 Rivi-Rasa operation, the advancing security forces shelled our Mansion house. Many shells bust in the compound uprooting many productive trees as coconut, mango and Jack fruit trees, splinters hitting the roof and walls of the house. When we were children our parents planted these trees, taking pain to water and manure many years.
After six months of Rivi-Rasa operation civilians were told to return home. We returned and saw our house was broken into and ransacked. It took us a long time to put the house back in good order with yet another loan from the Bank!
Under this sinario, it was a divine blessing mother took her last breath when she did for life would have been too harsh, had she lived any longer in the conditions we faced during the cruel and bloody unwanted civil war in full swing in the North!