The bridge of “Kaddaipparichchan”: some memories | Gnanavi
I can vividly remember traveling with my mother along a nearby river from Vallikeni to Muthoor in the mid-1970s. When I returned to the scene with my mother’s story of the accident and drowning of a cow, I saw preparations for the construction of a bridge. Until then, I had never seen such a large construction site. When the bridge was finished and public transport could already cross it, its size made me stare every time. As always, the trips to Moothur with my mother are the most enjoyable moments, looking down from the bridge and seeing the water draining through the pipes, but it also makes me dizzy sometimes. Despite my mother’s warning, there is not a day when I did not walk on the railing of the bridge. The fear of heights, however, always gripped me. Our house is in Vallikeni, a 5 km drive if you go around the junction at the edge of the beach. At the bridge, one side road leads to Thillainagar, the other road leads to Paayuruthurai. This road is a shortcut, from here it is only 300m to our home. From home we can hear it when someone crosses the bridge, even the carriages in the evening can be heard.
In the early 1980s, we had the opportunity to predict when military, police, and criminal vehicles would cross the bridge. These sounds were used as a warning and the freedom fighters, the LTTE, could then take shelter in time. The bridge was more or less the border in our area. This was also the border of the Tamil homeland from Moothur.
After learning to ride a bicycle, I was allowed to go to Muthoor on my own. The freedom I had got from my mother will make every moment of crossing the bridge even more enjoyable. Usually, I had to stand on the bridge for a long time and take a break, then I would ride down. There was another reason for this. At that time I was very weak, I couldn’t cycle up the bridge. First I had to dismount and push. I had enjoyed the time on the bridge every time. From the north side of the bridge, one could see the Puliyamaram from our garden. Even today, one can see this tree there. When one was returning from Muthoor, one could already give the messages to the tree from the bridge.
When the armed genocidal war came to a head in the mid-1980s, the place filled up with resistance fighters. They had a polo shirt, kibs-saram on, and a visible or not directly visible weapon on the multi-cylinder motorbikes. We were very scared by this. We also wanted to do something and be active in the war. The war clouds were particularly thick on those days. You could always hear gunfire. Jeeps driving on the bridge and the sound of guns could always be heard.
Our uncle (my mother’s brother) from Thillainakaram came to see us one afternoon. He said that there are many people next to the bridge and he feels that something is going to happen. Ganesh has also been busy for a few days, he said. We were just waiting for a temple festival. From the beginning, we felt that the bridge was protecting us and that it was strong and resilient. In April 1985 one noon at about 13:30 there was a loud noise, everything shook. Everyone was shocked. When a big rock fell on our front yard we saw that a jeep, the government sank into the bridge. The bridge was only partially damaged. Until the last day of the war in 2006, the bridge stands as a witness to the genocidal war. No matter how much war, how much destruction there was, the resistance groups stuck together. They were driven by the hope of getting their homeland back, which eventually died out.
At some point, we also walked around with “baggy shirts” and saram. Although no more trade could take place across the bridge due to the enclosure of the city, we had not suffered from it. These were still the “better” times of the genocidal war. The wars of the north, the internal squabbles of the resisters did not reach us across the bridge. Most of them remained allied until the end.
When the fighting escalated, the government took control of the bridge. The government expropriated our front yard and built a smaller camp there. No one came to comfort the mourners and there was no one left. It was not sure if one would come back alive if one went to fetch food in “Moothur”. You were scared to death of the soldiers if you wanted to cross the bridge. The once strong bridge is now badly damaged and symbolically resembles the broken freedom fighters. One just hopes that it will not collapse before one crosses it.
At the end of 1988, we were about to graduate from high school. The only thing that was always there then was the sound of gunshots and the falling of shells. The bridge that connected us to the trade and improved our lives has now become a place of murder and death. Every day there was a funeral and the crying could always be heard. Another period of mourning followed. After my best friend Jeyachandiran fell victim to the war, we decided to use the bridge to flee the village. 12 of us went towards Thirimalai to flee to the school there. The bridge was a silent place then. The bridge did not stop us from escaping. The bridge was never in the same condition as before. Crossing the bridge and leaving the old memory behind hurt especially. The bridge would feel the same. After the long escape and the fulfilling new life, we almost forgot the old life. The bridge was on the spot, experienced the same, and still stands there old and broken full of hurt and pain.