Galle Literary Festival, January 2012, Sri Lanka

Galle, scholars link Galle to the Old testament city of Tharsish to which king Solomon sent his merchant ships to ‘procure gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks’ and where Jonah fled from the Lord. However Galle, as it is seen today is declared the world heritage site by UNESCO, the Galle Fort being one of the must visit sites.

I was exclusively flown in for outreach programme for children. The programme was mainly in English and partly in Tamil. A walk within the fort reveals a myriad of old streets and houses, many with their original names and facades, letting us into the past. The most exciting activity at Galle was the story telling for children whose families live in and around the Galle Fort. Though their property is worth millions they still dwell in poverty. They are economically backward and refuse to give up their homes. The interaction was fun because a few kids knew Tamil and many knew only Sinhalese. The sessions were both in Tamil and English. The kids enjoyed this session. There were about 500 children.
My next stop was Jaffna. I felt the clock had gone backwards. The place looked worn and old. Seeing soldiers every hundred feet was a new experience. I went there to address school children. There were more than 800 of them. The children knew Tamil but the school insisted the session was in English so I decided to do a bilingual workshop. It worked very well with the kids. They could understand better. We then did a teacher’s workshop to incorporate story telling into the curriculum. Interesting observation was they were predominantly men. Male teachers were more in number.
I got a little emotional though, could be their lifestyle or the ambiance… be it the kids or the teachers I was moved deeply. The Tamils of Jaffna were thrilled and excited to have me simply because I spoke their language and that I was from Tamil Nadu. I could sense the thirst for learning amongst the teachers as they don’t have enough resource people to impart knowledge. I loved the experience and am to return to Jaffna soon!






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