It was 2010, and I was to meet his family for the first time.
The moment I set foot into their house, I knew this was going to be a lasting friendship. Appa approached me with open arms, warmth emanating from his every pore. The twinkle in his eyes, his jolly laugh and animated story-telling, were unmistakably Appa. Despite everything he’d been through, losing his son, his land, his every belonging, the war was finally over and he was going back home to his beloved Myliddy after 20 long years. Myliddy, with its beautiful harbour and white beaches.
“You must come visit us when we go back home” said Appa, with a wide smile. “It is the most beautiful place on earth”, he boasted.
It was 2016 – 6 years on and I could barely recognize the old man that virtually hobbled out to greet me. Overwhelmed,tears streamed down his cheeks as he hugged me for what seemed like forever. Appa and Amma were now in their 5th house since 2009. Each one more dilapidated than the one before. No more the cheeky twinkle in his eyes. No more hearty laughter. Even beautiful and cheerful Amma was subdued. Home seemed but a hollow dream to them now. This tiny hovel seemed to be as good as it was going to get.
They met with us recently, and told us to be patient. To give them another 6 months to sort everything out, said Appa. “If they don’t give back your lands, did they at least say they would pay you a compensation?” The words were barely out of my mouth when he retorted almost angrily - “I don’t want their money! I just want to go back home.” “You must come visit us when we go back home,” said Appa, his eyes glazed, staring into the distance. “Of course I will Appa. Of course I will,” I managed to whisper. But, I don’t think he heard me.
I was almost relieved he didn’t.
(Appa passed away on the 10th of Sept. this year. Although he was finally able to return to his home a couple of years ago, he had to continue working hard as a fisherman to make ends meet and rebuild his home and life. He was never able to revert to the idyllic life he remembered…)