By Mano Ratwatte –
A loosely translated Sinhala original from a Veteran.
“Mother, I hope you will get the letter I sent you with my Wesak card.
Around me, my brothers marooned; I still hear the screams. and the explosions but I cannot help. Soon they too will end up like me; afloat on the gentle waves of the lagoon at Elephant pass.
The sounds of the gentle waves lapping against the shore were once music to our ears; in the scorching dry heat, the simplest of breezes was our solace.
Escaped from the heat; enjoyed a swim with our comrades. Today the waters will cool my body before the Crows pick it clean. The Crows attack in unceasing waves feeding with relish like the enemy who blew themselves up amongst us.
I had parippu, maalu and paan when the world shattered in loud noises of Mortars and 50 calibres. They hit us before the sun came up. We hoped against hope that the enemy will not strike with such cunning; he cut off our water and poisoned the well. We had no choice.
We had no water mother, but I had no time to complain to you nor my Sergeant whose shouts still reverberate. Commander fell before me; and he did not complain. He gave his last canteen to us before he breathed his last.
Why should I complain mother? No water for over two beautiful cloudless star filled nights; we gazed at them and laughed.
We fight for our brothers besides us and nothing more. Those were laughs of nerves but we kept thinking of coming home soon on furlough Mother.
We did not give up mother; we did not; we fought to the last bullet and last grenade but were overrun and the last drop of water; they did not stop they did not stop.
I hope you get the money order mother; that is all I could do.
Hope it helps you buy the Pohora for next season. I am sorry I will not be able to help you harvest bean fields this Wesak.
Don’t waste your tears on me mother; it was my choice to be a soldier.
I am sorry mother I am sorry. At least the crows will have a daaney today.
Afloat on the lagoon, I am sorry mother, I am.
I had no time before today to share my thoughts with you mother.
Now I lie in the lagoon; the crows picking my flesh in the scorching burning sun mother afloat on the lagoon with my brother afloat on the lagoon.
I am sorry mother”
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of 1918, the Armistice was signed silencing the guns of the “war to end all wars”. The number of casualties in World War I, was around 40 million. There were 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The total number of deaths includes 9.7 million military personnel and about 10 million civilians. Two decades later, the old protagonists started another war.
In both cases one must make a note, that the ethnicity of the people engaging in this sort of savage war of conquests were White and predominantly Christian and in the other lovely war also included Eastern Japanese predominantly Shinto and Buddhist people who too committed unspeakable savagery. Thus destroying the argument Islam or some other religion is the one causing global mayhem. During World War II, sacrifices of people from Colonial nations were collateral in support of the nations that ruled over them. The Indians, the Ceylonese, the Algerians and other French Africans(whose sacrifices were denied for decades by the white Christian French) didn’t count or were ignored in post war accolades.
That war of conquests, Lebensraum, conquests, and counter conquests resulted in over 60 million dead; about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion at that time). The estimates aren’t even accurate; the number is closer to 80 million.
Claims of Aryan German superiority, Fascism and Japanese imperialism (who conveniently try to rewrite their history books to cover up and hide their savagery in the Eastern theatre of war) were defeated at the end at tremendous cost by a coalition of Capitalist imperialist nations and a Communist nation: which in turn butchered millions of their own in their fanatical Stalinist-Communist search for an utopian society. From Mao’s China, to the peasant communists in Cambodia millions more were killed, executed or tortured to establish the superiority of Communist dictatorships of the proletariat; for it to collapse into a heap of also-been in 1989. But millions slaughtered in the name of the Communist god were ignored by the people who profess a love for this ideological Deity. So religion isn’t always to blame.
Since then, Man has, created and deployed better technology to wipe the human race out if needed. Once again we stand with growing rhetoric and war mongering and fears of a nuclear war. What prevented s a nuclear holocaust after the 2 Bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is the fear of mutually assured self-destruction. Suddenly in 2017, that assurance has been replaced by fear and uncertainty. Who between two crazy narcissistic persons threatening war and nuclear holocaust will be the first to press the button? Will a narcissistic man who used bone spurs an excuse to avoid serving, start a war? Or will a murderous paranoid tyrant who inherited his family seat in a dictatorship begin first?
In Sri Lanka, the guns of a protracted civil war, lasting for nearly 30 years ended when the guns finally felt silent on May 18, 2009. There was no armistice. A stubborn and tenacious enemy also of brave men and women refused to surrender even when the writing was on the wall after Kilinochchi fell on January 8, 2009.
There was no dramatic surrender as on September 2, 1945, when the the land of the rising sun was humiliated into surrendering on the decks of the mighty battleship USS Missouri. That war ended only and only because “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th and “Fat man” on August 9, 1945.
In honor of Armistice day, these thoughts are shared originally written in Sinhalese translated within my limited Singlish capacity. It is by a Sri Lankan Veteran who saw comrades die in that war. May the guns forever be silent in Sri Lanka and may that be the last war to curse Sri Lanka.