Saturday, 13 August 2011

Tamil Tigress by Niromi de Soyza

The big I understand it

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is a small island in the Indian Ocean off the cost of India which has been inhabitated by the Sinhalese and Tamils since 2BCE.  It became a British Colony 1802-1948 and  became well known for its exports of tea, coffee, cinnamon and  rubber. The major religions include Hindu, Muslim, Buddhism and Christianity.

In 1948 Sri Lanka gained its independence and the Sinhalese quickly took control to redress the imbalance caused by the British who had favoured the Tamil's work ethic and educational ambitions. Sinhalese were given employment and university placement which angered the Tamils who said it should be based on merit. Ethnic clashes became common in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's and culminated in the bloody genocide and human rights abuses, watched by the world in 2009, when at the hands of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, the Sinhalese and Indian Governments the Tigers were annihilated.

The quest for justice and freedom is not new to the human condition. In Sri Lanka it was the children and young adults who took up guns and put their bodies on the line for Tamil Eelam - the quest for an independent Tamil State. For children to think they could challenge the unitary government of Sri Lanka and India (which is the seventh largest country and tenth largest economy in the world) was both heroic and foolish and  in retrospect very under-informed??

Niromi was one such child, who at 17, joined the first female unit of Tamil Tigers. She took up a gun to achieve altruistic goals only to find herself questioning the methods, lawlessness and the human sacrifice expected of the Tigers' leadership and their individual agendas - the tit for tat reprisals, the in-fighting, torture and murder. 

From 1983-2009 civil war and unrest against the government was waged in a sophisticated, well funded, well resourced and brutal war by the LTTE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam taking on the Sri Lankan Armed forces of 230,000 active soldiers.

 "April 1987 saw some of the worst violence in the country. Scores of Tamils were murdered by Sri Lankan armed forces...and in revenge the Tigers massacred Sinhalese civilians..." p64

Niromi's Story of Survival

She was an educated, privileged, middle class student who by 1987 had become both wiser and even more disallusioned having seen her comrades fall around her in the line of duty, clutching their wounds and calling their mothers' names as they died.

Child soldiers quickly lost their innocence and frequently turned on each other in true Lord of the Flies fashion.

While her younger sister pinned posters of pop stars to her bedroom wall, Niromi  found herself starving, shoeless, menstruating, covered in lice and dermatitis, running through the jungle with her unit dodging soldier's bullets. All the while clutching AK-47 and M16's, T56 and ATKMs, RPG's and G3's supplied by a global network (many of whom denounced the terrorist group) and paid for by overseas Tamils.

Niromi questioned why she survived and the haunting faces of her friends - now a lifetime away - did not. As I read  her  shocking memoirs I believe she survived for two reasons. The first reason is due to her ability to overcome her learned cultural submissiveness and her combatant loyalty to question the right and wrongs within her ranks. The second reason is that it was her destiny to tell their stories - and so she was allowed to resign in 1987. Others were not so lucky.

Today Niromi is a survivor, a lawyer and a mother living in Australia. Each night she can safely tuck her children in to bed knowing that in this democratic land, minorities are self determining, with equal rights and responsibilities, protected by parliamentary laws.

"We devoured our first real meal in four days, then stretched out on the dirt and went to sleep." p261 

Tamil Samosas. Makes 16

3 large potatoes boiled, drained and mashed
1 cup cooked green peas
1 diced red onion
1 tspn Garam Masala
I tspn ground coriander
1 tspn ground chilli powder or fresh chillies to taste
1 tspn each garlic and ginger
500gm minced meat (lamb, beef or chicken) Optional.


Fry the onion until soft, add spices, garlic and ginger and continue to fry until fragrant. Add mince and brown. Combine peas and potato. The mix should be dry so that it doesn't make the pastry soggy. Season.

Traditional Pastry
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon oil


Combine ingredients. Roll in to a dough and form in to rounds (like pasties) to be filled 
with mixture and deep fried.


Use Spring roll pastry sheets, fill and roll into triangles and deep fry until golden. 
Or do as I did and use 4 sheets of puff pastry cut in to quarters and baked 160 degrees
 for 20 minutes until golden. I know, I know  - not traditional 
but very convenient and just as tasty.

Tamils from Jafna in the north of Sri Lanka, who fought for Eelam (homeland) 
are not to be confused with Indian Tamils or Tamil Moors.
"Stop all this fighting, children! We can't cope any longer!" wept an old woman. A large group joined the chorus. "Please give up this futile war," they pleaded. Over the next few days, the Indian soldiers ravaged the village, setting fire to many properties, raping many women and killing many men. p202    

Red Lentil Curry

2 cups of red lentils washed and drained
4 cups thin coconut milk
1 large onion chopped
2 tablespoons ground/pounded dried fish (I used Ikan bilis)
1 tspn tumeric
2 tspn ground cummin
1 tspn cinnamon
Chillies to taste (I used 1 tspn cayenne pepper) and garnished with chillies.
2 tablesponns tomato paste
50g butter or ghee


In one pot boil the THIN coconut milk with the lentils until soft.
In another pot/pan fry the onions, dried fish, chillies and spices in butter until fragrant and onions are soft. Combine the mix with the softened lentils. Add tomato paste and 1 cup of THICK coconut cream and simmer until it resembles the consistency of porridge. Serve with rice or naan.

©2011 My Novel Idea by Ann Etcell-Ly/All Rights Reserved

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