Write to Reconcile was inaugurated in December of 2012 by the internationally renowned Sri Lankan author, Shyam Selvadurai. The project was funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the American Centre. In 2013, 23 emerging writers in collaboration published the Write to Reconcile anthology. The anthology included fiction and poetry in English on the issues of conflict, peace, reconciliation, memory and trauma, as they related to Sri Lanka’s civil war and the postwar period.

I met Sonali Wanigabaduge in Commonwealth People’s Forum 2013. We were staying in the same hotel room and she gave me the Write to Reconcile anthology to read. I read two short fictions in the anthology, one written by Sonali, the other by a Tamil girl. The anthology had many wonderful stories and poetry written by writers representing many ethnic groups in Sri Lanka.

Digana

Participants of Write to Reconcile in 2014

I applied for Write to Reconcile project in 2014 and got selected. During the Write to Reconcile project I was a part of a group comprised writers of different age groups, religions and ethnicities. The group travelled to Kandy (Central province of Sri Lanka) on March 28, an ancient city of Sri Lanka where the majority is Sinhala Buddhists. We stayed in Victoria Golf Court, Digana. Shyam Selvadurai and Ameena Hussein conducted lessons on creative writing and we did some writing exercises.

The first 15 selected applicants got an autographed copy of the Shyam Selvadurai’s latest novel, Hungry Ghosts and luckily I am one of them. The workshop organizers were great, they provided us prizes to buy books and I brought two fictions from the Vijitha Yapa bookshop in Kandy City Centre. We had gold lessons too! In the Victoria Golf Court I had my first golf shot on a hole.

During the days in Kandy our group studied the culture of Sinhalese that is enriched by the combination of Buddhism and Hinduism. We visited ancient Buddhist temples and a traditional arts school where troops performed traditional Kandyan dancing items.

Our group got the chance to meet a union of mothers whose sons were missing soldiers in the battlefield, they have attempted to discuss with the LTTE to find their sons’ whereabouts. Also our group met a Catholic priest in Kandy who had formed a volunteering group to help people that have been falsely accused by the Police for various reasons.

20140401_115305

With a fellow writer on the way to Batticaloa

On 1st of April our group visited Batticaloa (Eastern province of Sri Lanka) where both Tamils and Muslims live. We stayed in Hotel East Lagoon in Batticaloa. Batticaloa is a war affected area, at the moment post war development activities are being conducted there. Our group randomly interviewed locals of Batticaloa and met few feminist activists. We visited a convent in Batticaloa. Many girls had been put under the care of the nuns by court orders for many reasons, some girls were parentless, and some had been tortured.

While staying in Batticaloa, our group visited the Dutch community in Dutch Bay, Kalpitiy. The number of people in Dutch community is fewer than before 2004 most of its members deceased when the Dutch Bay was washed away by Tsunami in 2004. The Dutch community warmly welcomed us and provided us traditional Dutch dinner, sang Dutch songs and danced. On the last day of the workshop a set of Muslim poets visited us in the Hotel East Lagoon and recited Arabic poems and sang Tamil songs.

Moreover we visited the Vedda community, the indigenous people in Sri Lanka and witnessed them performing their religious rituals. We then visited the Butterfly Peace Garden in St Mary’s street, Batticaloa that run in-depth programs of healing to thousands of children from Batticaloa and the surrounding area.

workshop

During the workshop in Hotel East Lagoon

Heart breaking stories were revealed during the study in Batticaloa which made me determine to give my input as much possible to build a peaceful future. Thanks to the Write to Reconcile project I was able to learn the different cultures within the country and feel the struggles they face.

The next phase of the Write to Reconcile project was the online forum. We were asked to write two pieces, I wrote two short fictions and uploaded them to the forum. I got comments to improve the two pieces from Shyam Selvadurai, Ameena Hussein and peer participants of the workshop. Finally I was asked to select one of these two pieces, to publish in the second Write to Reconcile anthology (the anthology will be published in 2015). Then Shyam Selvadurai and Michael Meyler helped me polish and fine tune the story before sending to the printer.

A fiction (which is based on conflicts of Tamils and Muslims in Batticaloa) written by me will be included in the anthology published by Write to Reconcile project in next year.