From Melakka to Mallakam

I don’t remember anyone looking like me at school when I was a child.

Brown. Not black? Definitely not white, like everyone on TV too.

Indian? Sri Lankan? Tamil. No, not camel.

I understood the language, I could speak it.

When I was 7 or 8, I had to write about Canada and I wrote about how it was nice to be Canadian because the government doesn’t kill you and gives you food and money if you don’t have any. The Canadian school system clearly didn’t give a good job in what they called “social studies.” They do nearly as poorly at teaching the second national language too. But we won’t get into that here. I had to do a history project once and I picked a book on India as there wasn’t anything on Tamil. I think it covered the Mauryan empire – something so removed, so foreign. I remember it feeling odd even.

At age 9, I found myself in Madras. It wasn’t called that anymore, but the name lingered and I liked it better. We couldn’t go to Jaffna because of the war. Because the government didn’t let society be, forget thrive there to begin with.

In Madras, I got hit the second day of school for not doing my Tamil homework. How could I? I went home that day, analyzed the chart and taught myself how to read. My favourite class was yoga. Yoga as a class in grade school? Only in the land it was from. I didn’t like having to learn all the names of their rivers in geography class then. Or now. The names are so removed. My English suffered – still does – while my math skills really picked up.

We’d go on road trips to see temples – I didn’t have much connection to them. But the landscapes, that sung silent stories, grew on me. I developed a deep appreciation that I wasn’t even aware of, it took the shape of this fascination for the ancient history. Unquenched, I’ve been seeing frantically putting together the pieces since my late teens.

In the summer after my first year of university, I took Buddhist psychology – which ended up being my favourite. I had been trying to make sense of religion for years already at that point. I was “Hindu” went to a “Catholic” school and neither resonated me. Buddhism, Jainism, even Sufism flickered at me from time to time. But whatever it was that interested me went beyond these very …man-made narratives.