Posted in uni, UofT

The Aftermath of the Sri Lankan Civil War

May 18th, marks the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka but for Tamils world wide it holds a deeper meaning. Below is one of my papers I wrote for my medical anthropology courses at University of Toronto.

I hope this post informs you guys (my readers) of an issue that is near and dear to my heart.


Written by: Archana Baleswaran

Basic rights and freedoms are a few of the things we often take for granted while living in a first world country such as Canada. Many individuals and cultural groups still struggle to access what we call basic rights – whether it be education or equal opportunity. Tamils in Sri Lanka, to this day, still face inequalities. This paper will be detailing the effects the Sri Lankan Civil War has had on Tamils both in Sri Lanka and worldwide. I will be discussing 3 main themes: immigration, trauma (physical and psychological) and death. Though the civil war has ended, 10 years later, Tamils are still impacted by traces of discrimination, inequality and trauma.

Observation:

For Canadians, November 11th marks Remembrance Day. On the eleventh month, of the eleventh day, we recognize all the fallen soldiers and individuals who continue to serve during the conflict and maintain peace worldwide. Similarly, for Tamils on the 27th of November, we celebrate all the lives lost during the Sri Lankan Civil war – known as Maaveerar Naal for Tamils. This roughly translates to hero’s day. This day commemorates the lives of all the fallen soldiers. 

My parents were born in Point Pedro, a town in Northern Sri Lanka. My father was raised in both Mallavi and Viyapairimulai. Meanwhile, my mom was raised in Kangasemthurai and Kumbasutti Point Pedro. Notably, both my parents were raised single handily by their mothers due to the deaths of their husbands. However, their lives were deeply affected by the on-going civil war in the 1980s. Prior to the civil war, Tamils were routinely discriminated against and faced many inequalities – racist colleagues, poor treatment, no opportunities for promotions as well as disparities in education. The Civil war brought fear, hardship, and displacement. 

My father, at the age of twenty, fell in love and decided to flee Sri Lanka in hopes of a better life for his family. With the approval of his immediate family and mother in law, he prepared to seek refuge in Canada. He set out for Canada leaving behind his family, home and friends. By September of 1988, he had arrived in Toronto, Canada. He had to work extremely hard to not only provide to his family back home but to also sponsor his fiancée. This required him to work multiple jobs – fast-food chain, factory parts assembler, and security guard. By May of 1993, my mother had arrived in Canada – two months later, my parents were married. Soon after that, they had children which brought my siblings and I into this world. 

To this day, my father works endlessly to support us by working multiple jobs. He continues to sacrifice his time and sleep to provide for us. My father is one of the most selfless and hardworking individuals I know, my only hope is that I can provide for my parents in the future as they did for me. 

Though my parents had been settled down in Canada – the events back home were constantly on their mind as our extended family lived there. Thus, my father took matters into his own hands and sponsored his brother. The civil war progressively had gotten worse from 2005-2009 (last few years of the civil war). When my father asked his brother in law if they would like to come to Canada – he responded with “Tamil Eelam vaarum”. This translates to ‘we will get independence’. My uncle had hope that soon Tamils would gain independence. 

The civil war affected the lives of my extended family, but it had a deeper impact on my paternal aunt (father’s sister). In the spring of 2009, Tamils worldwide lost connection with family and friends back home in Sri Lanka. During this time, my aunt, uncle, cousins, grandma, and aunts’ mother in law were forced to evacuate their homes and had to make their way to internment camps. This required them to walk through water that was approximately above the waist level. My uncle realized that his mother and mother in law would not be able to do so he set out with them to a ship that would help them cross over. My uncle put them on the ship and was standing near a church when the army bombed it. He passed away on the spot. As for my grandma and my aunts’ mother in law – to this day we don’t know where they are. We assume that they have passed away due to their old age and lack of mobility. 

Meanwhile, in Toronto, my father was attending protests in order to gain attention from the government of Canada. Growing up my parents made sure that my siblings and I understood the history of the civil war, why they immigrated and how lucky we are to be living in Canada. In elementary school, my family and I attended many protests in order to gain attention towards the genocide of Tamils – from Downtown Toronto to Ottawa. 

May 18th marks the end of the Sri Lankan civil war but for Tamils, it means so much more. Tamils worldwide commemorate this day to all the lives lost during the final stages of the civil war – Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day. Notably, the Sri Lankan armed forces supposedly marked the end of the civil war with the killing of Velupillai Prabakaran – LTTE leader. However, there is no evidence that the militant leader was killed. In the final stages of the war, the United Nations reports at least 40,000 Tamils killed (Doucet, 2012). The war may be over but my extended family and Tamils residing in Sri Lanka are still affected by the aftermath. Post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of a loved one, disappearance, sexual violence, torture and rape is a few of the results of war. The experiences of a 26-year long war have detrimental effects on the psychological and emotional wellbeing of Tamils. 

Anthropological Analysis

My understanding of the Sri Lankan civil war can be related back to a few medical anthropology concepts. Firstly, Michel Foucault’s idea of biopower can be used to explain the effects of the civil war. Biopower refers to “the ways that populations or groups are managed, regulated and encouraged to adhere to norms” (Dahl, 2019, 19). Foucault originally used this term to explain the management of institutions such as health care. He believed that biopower is seen in the field of health care through the view of dominant medical ideas and practices (Dahl, 2019). Furthermore, this idea of biopower also relates to panopticon. Panopticon was a building designed to be a jail in which the centre held a tower for the guard. Prisoners were not able to see the guard but because the guard was stationed in the middle – prisoners were on their best behaviour (Dahl, 2019). In terms of the civil war, in Sri Lanka, the dominant perception was that the civil war due to the rebelling of Tamils. The Sri Lankan government and the majority population (Singhalese) believed that the war was due to the Tamils and their inability to follow the norm. This stance takes a culture of poverty stance – as individuals blame the victim and the oppressed for the issue. It fails to take into account the social and historical reasons for the war. 

Instead, a structural violence stance should be taken regarding the conflict in Sri Lanka. Structural violence refers to underlying political, economic, social, medical and legal reasons for issues. This perspective looks at how the issue is patterned and does not blame the individuals. Ugwu (2019) originally used this concept to explain how the malaria epidemic in Nigeria was not due to a cultural problem. Instead, it was the poor prevention efforts and inability to listen to the individuals’ concerns. Thus, looking at the history of interventions allows one to see what has worked in the past and what has not (Ugwu, 2019). In regard to the civil war, the structural violence point of view enables individuals to see how history and colonialism played a large role. Prior laws in Sri Lanka discriminated Tamils while favouring the Singhalese. For instance, they changed the official language from English to Singhalese. This prevented Tamils from seeking jobs in the public service industry as they would not be fluent (Britannica, 1988). Moreover, Tamils were routinely discriminated in public spheres – whether it be in the education or working sector. 

In addition, Brigg’s concept of agency can be applied to how Tamils worldwide reacted to the last stages of the civil war. Agency refers to one’s ability to act in meaningful ways – in lay man’s terms, it is simply a freedom or a choice (Briggs, 2004). Tamils across the world engaged in several resistance movements during the final legs of the war when armed forces engaged in mass killings. In hopes of media and government attention, Tamils participated in protests. For instance, Tamils in Toronto protested and blocked the Gardiner expressway in hopes of bringing awareness to the genocide. It is important to note that Tamils living outside of Sri Lanka had the privilege to voice their concerns – something that Tamils residing in Sri Lanka still do not have. Another concept of Briggs that is applicable to this case, is political economy. Political economy in this sense is how inequalities are patterned in society in a political and economic sense. An example is structural inequalities like lack of resources (Briggs, 2004). For Tamils, this is seen through systemic oppression in both education, employment and even daily lives. 

Furthermore, Wailoo’s concept of discourse relates back to the civil war. Discourse refers to the ways in which someone communicates and talks about an issue. It is the accepted way of talking about an issue (Wailoo, et.al, 2006). During the last legs of the war when communication was lost internationally, Tamils in internment camps were allowed to write letters to their families. My aunt had told us that she had sent many letters to us – but we had never received them. The Sri Lankan armed forces had been monitoring the letters and only sent out the ones they deemed appropriate to be read by the recipient. She had mentioned that in letters, she talked about what life was like in the camp and her experiences. This shows how during the conflict with the loss of communication – the Sri Lankan armed forces wanted to control what was being said or communicated to those outside the country. 

Lastly, Kleinman’s concept of illness can be applied to the trauma that Tamils have faced due to the war. He refers to illness as the experience of “symptoms and sufferings” from an individual’s perspective (Kleinman,1988, 3). One’s understanding of their illness is influenced by their perceptions as well as their agents of socialization – whether it be friends or family. Kleinman’s use of this term refers to how the experience of illness is often a social one (Kleinman,1988). It involves communicating with others especially your loved ones to discuss how they are feeling. It also requires support from others – whether it be medical professionals, family or friends. For Tamils who have experienced the civil war firsthand, they are often left with post-traumatic stress disorder. This affects their lives in profound ways and often requires treatment from professionals in order to cope. Furthermore, Kleinman also refers to cultural salience which refers to the ways in which illnesses can have either a positive or negative meaning (Kleinman,1988). An example of cultural salience is stigma. It is important to note that mental health in the Tamil community is something that is not spoken about in the public realm and even a private one. Many Tamils suffer in silence because of the stigma of mental illness in the community. 

In conclusion, the Sri Lankan civil war deeply affected the lives of those living in Sri Lanka, – especially Tamils. The civil war came to a close back in May of 2009, but it continues to have profound effects on the lives of Tamils both in Sri Lanka and globally. The Sri Lankan civil war can be analyzed through a medical anthropology lens through my understanding of biopower, structural violence, agency, political economy, discourse, illness and cultural salience. Many individuals view Sri Lanka as a paradise island but fail to recognize the history of violence, war and discrimination. Though there is still a long way to go and quite a bit of healing needed for Tamils – slowly things are changing for the good in Sri Lanka.  

References:

Briggs, C. 2004. Theorizing Modernity Conspiratorially: Science, Scale, and the Political Economy of Public Discourse in Explanations of a Cholera Epidemic. American Ethnologist 31(2):164-187.

Britannica. (1998, July 20). Sinhala Only Bill. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/event/Sinhala-Only-Bill

Dahl, B. (2019). ANTC61: Metaphors, Bodies, Gender and Cancer, Week 3notes [Lecture]. Retrieved from https://q.utoronto.ca/courses/108305/modules

Doucet, L. (2012, November 13). UN ‘failed Sri Lanka civilians’, says internal probe. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-20308610.

Kleinman, A. 1988. Preface; and The Meanings of Symptoms and Disorders. In The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing & the Human Condition. USA: Basic Books, pp. xi-xvi; 3-30.

Ugwu, C. 2019. Framing Local Attitudes to a Modern Health Intervention in the Neoliberal Order: Culturalism and Malaria Control in Southeastern Nigeria. Journal of Asian and African Studies.1-18

Wailoo, K., Livingston, J., Guarnaccia, G. (Eds). 2006. A Death Retold: Jesica Santillan, the Bungled Transplant, and Paradoxes of Medical Citizenship. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. [Excerpt, pp 1-45]

Posted in Uncategorized

Awesome Blogger Award

So, I got nominated for an award – the last time I did one of these was in probably a few years ago. I would like to thank Jirah Merizz for nominating me :). I’m so happy you have been enjoying my blog. Be sure to check her out!


Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions you were asked.
  3. Nominate at least five bloggers and inform them of their nomination.
  4. Give them ten questions to answer.

Questions:

  1. If there’s no quarantine, what are you doing right now? I would probably still be at home with a nice cup of tea and a book or watching netflix.

2. What are some of your favourite Netflix series? This list could go on and on – but a few are Grey’s Anatomy, Burden of Truth, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Gilmore Girls, One Day at a Time, Lucifer, The Flash and The Ranch.

3. How long have you been blogging already? I have been blogging since early 2017 – so 3 years 🙂

4. What are some of your favourite posts that you’ve written?

5. What inspires you to blog? My late cousin, Waldo, and the hopes of fighting the stigma against mental illness.

6. Would you still write if WordPress never existed? Yes, I would but it would probably be for myself. Before I started my blog, I wrote in my bullet journal.

7. Describe one goal you’d like to achieve before the year ends? I want to increase my GPA in university. My grades have suffered this past year due to my anxiety but I am determined to work hard to see the improvement!

8. Would you rather have a cat or a dog? Can’t decide between the two – I actually want both.

9. What is your favourite book? The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

10. If you had to change your name, what would it be? To be honest, I never thought about changing my name. So I don’t know.

I nominate:

Please check out the blogs I’ve listed – these are the ones I’ve been enjoying as of late. Dear nominees, it’s up to you if you’d like to participate in this award.

My Questions for you:

  • What is your favourite pastime?
  • What made you want to start writing on WordPress?
  • What are some of your favourites this month (product, technology, book, music etc)
  • If you could go back 10 years what would you tell your past self?
  • How are you feeling during these trying times with COVID-19?
  • Who is one person you look up to in your life?
  • Are you a coffee or tea drinker?
  • What do you see your self doing in the next 10 years – career wise and personally?
  • What is your favourite animal?
  • How do you deal with challenges or stress in your life?

I look forward to seeing your responses 🙂

-XOXO chana

Posted in Quarantine Files

what i’ve learned in quarantine

  • you don’t need to be productive all the time
  • take care of your mental health
  • spend time with your family – because you don’t know the next time you would have this much free time
  • organize and try to plan out your day
  • catch up with college or work emails
  • take some time out of your week to go outside – whether that be for a walk or even just a simple round of badminton
  • create – whether that be writing, painting, doodling, photography

What Have You Learned This Quarantine Season?

– XOXO chana

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Posted in Quarantine Files

things to do to keep occupied

  • watch Netflix
  • browse pinterest
  • watch productive youtuber’s
  • create – art, music, write
  • write in a journal
  • practice self care
  • gratitude log
  • try out a new recipe
  • find a new youtube channel
  • go out for a walk
  • take some pictures
  • spend time with family
  • facetime a friend
  • download a new game
  • play sudoko

what do you like to do during quarantine to keep occupied ?

-XOXO chana

Posted in behind the scenes - the series

behind the scenes: part 2

Introducing Eliya – content creator, playlist curator, mental health advocate, and creator of monthly workbooks. Be sure to check out her socials below 🙂


Tell me a little about yourself?

A: My name is Eliya also know as @lilaroosak. I am a middle eastern mental health advocate and playlist curator from Toronto! I love to learn and through that educate others. I’m a really big nerd! My ideal day would be me sitting in a park, reading a good book, and drinking tea. I feel the most alive in those moments. What gravitated me towards mental health advocacy was inspiration to create an online community and interact with others who needed an outlet. I knew how it felt to feel alone in your struggles and to use things as a distraction from getting to the actual issue…I want to create change in people’s lives through my words and experiences. By sharing my own experiences, coping skills, and any topic that comes to my mind I have been able to create that change I believed in with many people around the world, hear their stories, and offer them a listening ear. 

The more my platform grew, the more creatives I would connect with. That is what inspired me to becoming a playlist curator that is dedicated to the talents of Toronto/The GTA. Creating a community where we can show support to local creatives is definitely a passion of mine. I am always on the hunt for more underground artists in hopes of showcasing their talent! 

Growing up what did you aspire to be?

 A: As a child, I always wanted to be a lawyer for some reason! I believed everyone deserved a second chance at redemption (it stemmed off of personal things I had witnessed). The older I got the more I came to terms that I do not support the system and the corruption that is interwind within it. In a way, I still do believe people deserve a second chance at a better life via finding a new way of bettering themselves mentally/emotionally still!

What are you pursuing now?

 A: I am currently in school for a degree in social work! I am very passionate about wellness and I believe through that career I will be able to help create change in generational trauma and be a safe space for others. However on the side, I do have my instagram platform where I have already created a safe space for many people! It is important to me to create a community where we talk about different issues & learn better ways to cope + taking steps towards healing. Through my platform I have been able to get in touch with other creatives and I am in the works with collabing with some local creatives. I am excited to show everyone what I have in store for this year! 

What’s one tell you would tell yourself if you could go back 10 years.

 A: If I could go back 10 years I would tell 10 year old Eliya to not be afraid to be herself and to stop wanting to fit in so bad. It was hard growing up in an environment where there were more European features vs my ethnic features. I would always be afraid to show my culture or embrace my unique beauty. I wanted to be liked so badly which made me lose touch with who I really was as a child. I would simply tell myself the corny line “why try to fit in when you were born to stand out”. 

How do you cope in the face of adversity or challenges

A: I love this question! Coping looks different for each individual and I can definitely say I have found solid healthy coping mechanisms that work best for me! When life gets hectic or new difficult experiences arise I take a moment to check in with myself. If I always feel grounded and at peace, I will be able to move towards a solution rather than allowing myself to get foggy minded. I like to journal as it helps release any thoughts I have (that is why I created free monthly journals in hopes of teaching others the power it has). By journaling I am able to self reflect and understand steps to take to get through the challenge. I have spent months healing my inner child, understanding her and her needs. That has definitely been a turning point for me. By healing that inner child, I learned self compassion and silencing my inner critic (that mean voice in our head). I make the active decision to be kind to myself through any obstacle and by doing that I cope smoothly. 

Where do you see yourself in the future – career-wise and personally?

A:  I see myself being a motivational speaker and a published children’s book author!  My back up plan is a social worker but regardless I am extremely passionate about both. I envision myself being a successful woman who is filled with stories of her travels, knowledge, and kindness. In terms of my personal life, I imagine myself being a mom not sure how many kids exactly but being a wife, a homeowner, and a mother are things I do want in this lifetime. 

What are your attitudes towards social media?

A: I personally think social media is a whole different dimension HAHA! You meet different people that come from different walks of life which is a beautiful way to connect with others. However it can be draining and a spiral of comparing your life to others. I however don’t have that problem. I think it’s just about knowing your own personal boundaries and being aware that not everything is as it seems…by doing that you can have a safe, wonderful experience on it!

What are your attitudes toward mental health and the stigma towards it

A: I think mental health is just as important as anything else. It’s your whole mind which controls everything else…how you see yourself, others, the world! To judge someone for solely struggling to understand themselves and better themselves just shows that person’s true colours. To discredit someone, to name-call someone, to belittle people who have mental health issues is a power trip for some…those are the ones who are the most blind. There is nothing wrong with having mental health issues and it’s my goal to make people be seen, educate others on navigating through their health problems, and understanding they should not feel ashamed to be vulnerable about how they feel. There is more to a person than their depression, anxiety, eating disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and many more! Around 7 million people each year live with mental health issues and for someone to use their old fashioned beliefs as a way to discredit them…well that’s just a joke of its own. 

What makeup product would you recommend to someone looking to get into makeup?

A: If I had to pick one makeup product it would definitely be an eyeshadow palette! Makeup is something that takes practice & you should be having fun during that process. Eyeshadow is something that is easy but also takes time with blending, the different styles you can do, and overall it’s a form of expression. You can not go wrong with a good eyeshadow palette with colours you want to play around with! 

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-XOXO chana

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Posted in life, Poems

racing thoughts

all these sleepless nights

are catching up to me

meanwhile

you walk away

scout free?

how is it

that you

moved on so fast –

you took any

chance

you got

to race off

with a piece

of my heart.

my hopes and dreams

were all crushed

by you

-XOXO chana

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Posted in life, reviews

february faves

hello , again 🙂 Today’s post is all about my favourites ranging from lifestyle products, technology and books. So grab a cup of tea and read

Technology / Apps

  • Candy Crush Saga

I am fully addicted to this game – perfect for when I am stressed or anxious. Currently I am on level 1496 – so add me and send me lives !

  • Google Photos

It automatically syncs and backs up photos on your phone to your gmail account- allowing you to access all your photos at anytime. And helps you save space on your phone

  • The Pattern

A new social networking app that helps you better understand yourself and connect with others on a deeper level. Simply enter your birthday and time you were born to learn more about your self and those around you.

  • Libby and Overdrive

Service provided by the Public Library system in Ontario (TPL,MPL) which allows you to access ebooks through the library. Perfect for reading on the go

  • Google Tasks

Perfect for planning digitally and making todo lists on the go

YouTuber

Recently, my brother started a new venture and creates youtube videos. I love seeing my brother be passionate about something and his love for editing. Be sure to check him out ! Support the Bales family!

Podcasts

Hosted by a fellow Tamil women – discussing a wide array of topics from Tamil Eelam to Veganism

Hosted by a Tamil guy, who discusses the ins and outs of being a creator in Toronto and speaks about being human.

Scents

From Indigo / Chapters – such a sweet and subtle smell thats not too over powering.

Music

  • Lover by Taylor Swift
  • You by Ali Gatie
what having you guys been loving and enjoying ? 

-XOXO chana

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Posted in Poems

future

i still hope 

that you 

will walk 

through the door 

because boi 

i cant 

lose another soul

you are the 

missing piece 

i’ve been searching for

so darling please 

dont let my anxieties 

push you away 

your the only one  

i want 

– my only chance 

of a 

bright future 

is you

 -XOXO chana

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Posted in behind the scenes - the series, life

behind the scenes – the series pt.1 : joanna

introducing Joanna – a gal that entered by life this past year. she is truly an inspiration and a positive light in my life. heres to joanna 🙂

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Tell me a little about yourself?

      A: I’m a 25 year old trying to find herself while also trying to survive. I am a feminist. I am a political science graduate and a social service worker graduate. Currently working in finance hoping to find my place and something I love. I love advocating for women, especially those who are marginalized as well as women of colour and women’s rights. I have a food blog and a photography blog. I love food and love finding a story in pictures. I also love makeup and skincare !!

Growing up what did you aspire to be?

      A: growing up I didn’t know what I wanted to be till I got to highschool and I wanted to be a human rights lawyer or work in the UN !

What are you pursuing now? 

      A: currently working in the finance sector of a bank in the investment side of it.

What’s would you tell yourself if you could go back 10 years?

    A: Love yourself. Never let anyone’s opinions of you get to you. Do what YOU want without fear or judgment. Be happy. Smile more. Never let a man dictate your worth. Take your time – theres no need to rush and SAVE YOUR MONEY.

How do you cope in the face of adversity or challenges 

A: Honestly this is something I need to work on – I tend to isolate myself and go quiet. However I started to get less mad and do breathing exercises. I allow myself to feel and process my feelings but I always tell myself I’ll be okay and everything will fall into place. Prayer and meditation !!! Praying helps me get through some difficult times.

Where do you see yourself in the future – career-wise and personally?

A:  Hopefully in a couple years meet the love of my life , have kids settle down , house , financially stable and have an established food blog !! Career wise I hope to be in my field and working with people who are marginalized but in politics hopefully.

What are your attitudes towards social media? 

A: Social media is great – through interacting online it connects us and allow us to bring attention to something and raise our voices. But it’s a powerful tool that some people don’t use right , like clout chasers and it can be used in bad ways to control people too.


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i hope you enjoy this new series on my blog where you get to know people who have impacted by life for the better.

-XOXO chana

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