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Home > News > Public submission: The Definition of a Refugee by Oviya Ponkathirvara

Public submission: The Definition of a Refugee by Oviya Ponkathirvara

Oviya Ponkathirvarathan from Avila College, Melbourne

-Based off True Events

-~~“Thiru, come back here!” Roan laughed. He was way ahead of me, all the way on the other side ofthe road, far away from the Narenthran household. Just yesterday, we got beaten up by the old ladyfor picking her precious fluorescent flowers in her front lawn; and it seems that I was unintentionallyparading right in front of the house. Roan was a close friend of mine, and we had gotten ourselvesinto a lot of mischiefs together.~~

My younger sister, Rena, yelled at me to get inside the bunker, causing me to break from my deep thoughts. The rumbling sounds of aircraft were heard by every villager within the area. Every single one of them was following the same procedure as we are now. The moment we hear an aircraft floating above our heads, we manoeuvred our way inside the bunker until all is clear. During these times, I always find myself recalling my memories of those that were close to me, who happen to be the ones that found themselves caught in the tug of war between the Sinhalese and Tamil armies.

As my family prepared to get inside the bunker, I turned to make sure that my mum was close by. She tends to wander off somewhere every time she feels that her stomach churns, which is also assign that she predicts that something bad is about to happen. Ever since my Dad left on the plane for Canada to help us seek asylum, my mother’s stomach-churning period occurred regularly. With me being the oldest of five children, everyone seemed to look up to me like the northern star above mindless souls on a lost trail. They all were scared and needed comfort, which no amount of the most valuable jewel could replace.

The last thing that my father had ever uttered out of his mouth before leaving on his plane was: “I will see you all very soon,”. I admired him for his wistful and brave attitude of leaving this country so soon, as that moment was most likely the last that he would stand together with his family on the rich soil of Sri Lanka, the same soil in which he crawled, stumbled, and walked on for all his life up until this moment. If it were me, I would break into my series of flashbacks again, and make sure that I am reliving every moment of them before I depart. I remember the night before his departure, I was in my empty room throwing a rubber cricket ball up the ceiling whilst lying on my back to relieve my tension and stress. During that moment, my dad unnoticeably came in the room and caught the ball in mid-air, I sensed that a heart-felt father-to-son talk was on the verge of crawling out of his mouth. He had told me that we would all be joining him in the matter of time, and when we do, we will lead a life that we are fortunate enough to earn and deserve.

The number of things that I amongst a vast majority of other kids my age have been through is unable to express just in words; one would need to experience it to really understand it. I think back to a time when I was in school, I was learning about grammar in the Tamil language. I remember that all I could think about was digging a hole underground and never coming out unless it is time to leave school. I can’t help but scold myself for such thoughts and couldn’t prevent myself from realising that we are doing the exact same thing right now, but instead leaving in the hopes of freedom and justice.

The people smugglers were not amiable of any kind, the stories that I have heard about them and how our people endure their toxicity and the boat conditions are like listening to horror stories. The people smugglers do not care the slightest bit about the people on their boat, not even from the most vulnerable child to the frailest elders; they only acknowledge their financial gain out of it. The people on the boat get abused and have their lives threatened for minor wrongdoings by the smugglers. As they rock along with the unstable and precarious boat, they could only pray that they would reach freedom without any more scars than they had already received.

Having a mere eye-sight of the conditions that are being faced by the villagers in Sri Lanka are gut-wrenching. Every night, I slept consciously through the screamings and shootings of people directly outside my house. It was like living in a nightmare. The morning after, when I walked to school with my siblings, we pass the sun-rotting corpse of the rebels that have bravely sacrificed their lives on the blood-shedded streets of Vatta Katchi. The Sinhalese army commanded us not to move the dead bodies: “Let this be a constant reminder of the consequences that you would comet terms with when you defy your rightful authority,”.

As far as I could remember, Sri Lanka used to be a joyful country which I took pride in calling it my home. Every single memory of it had me in a happy and secure disposition, where I did not want to be anywhere else. It is truly appalling how situations can change with an ethnic minority population fighting for their need for power and rights, where even if the intentions were to succeed in justice for their own community, it is the deadly culling and the throwing of bombs that are needed to accomplish that. The country that I used to call my home is now a military camp, where all the citizens are its soldiers. Although I am on this plane with only a small proportion of people that I extremely love, who are all travelling to meet our saviour on the other and more peaceful side of the world, I will always remember the childhood markings that I have carved on the heart of my mother country. My dad had promised me before his departure that we would be led to a life that we all are fortunate enough to earn and deserve, and when we finally enter that new life after wrestling countless battles, we would ​be rewarded with the badge of strength, courage, and bravery.

This is a creative writing piece submitted as part of the Refugee Council of Australia’s public submissions project. Opinions in this story are not of the Refugee Council of Australia. To submit a creative content to us for submission, email submissions@refugeecouncil.org.au

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