Dollops Of Rio In Jaffna
Twenty years after the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) left and two years after the war, Jaffna, the spiritual and intellectual capital of Sri Lankan Tamils, still wears a battle-scarred look, despite government and army efforts to rebuild it. The historic Jaffna library tells the story of the ravages the city has faced. Built in 1954, renovated in 1959 and containing ancient Tamil literature, including Dr Ananda Coomaraswamy’s legendary collection of palmyrah folk medicines, it was burnt down in 1981. Only recently reopened—minus the treasured artifacts—it was ransacked again last year. Librarian Thana Balasingham, who was brought in from Trincomalee in 1989, is the guardian. The library’s dome bears an eerie resemblance to the Babri Masjid dome. Inside, I met college girls playing with their mobiles and iPods—unanimously heralding the peace dividend under the watchful eye of the Sri Lankan army following the end of the war.