Chaos. Panic. Separation. Loss. Death. Words on a page. Or, life in a war zone. Hell on earth for 28-year-old Nagamuthu Susitharan. Hell for his 27-year-old wife, Logambikai. Hell for their 1-month-old baby son, Sajanthan. Hell for one Sri Lankan family and hell for displaced thousands fleeing with them under a March midnight sky bright with gunfire, shells and bombs. Agony rains from the sky. It falls on the town of Mullaitivu in northeastern Sri Lanka. It falls on citizens stampeding to escape the Tamil Tiger-held territory. It falls on Logambikai — shielding Sajanthan in her arms. It falls on Nagamuthu, shepherding his family, worrying about the wound in his wife’s leg — inflicted days after their son’s birth. It falls everywhere as new explosions rip the night in a fiery standoff between rebels and soldiers.
Suddenly, Nagamuthu stands alone. His wife and child are nowhere to be found. He heads for the army-controlled area, hoping against hope to find his family. He does not. He has seen his wife for the last time. She will die from post-pregnancy complications and the wound in her leg aboard a Red Cross ship bound for Trincomalee, Sajanthan still in her arms.
While her husband waits for her in Vavuniya in a camp for the internally displaced, Logambikai is befriended by a woman aboard ship who will mother the still-nursing Sajanthan as best she can. Upon reaching port, however, she and the boy are transferred to Vavuniya and — due to the woman’s lack of maternity — placed in a detention camp by police, while a case is filed with a local court.
Six long months pass for Nagamuthu. Finally, he learns of Logambikai’s death and his son’s whereabouts. Grief and joy collide in his heart. He mourns for his wife and counts the days until he will hold Sajanthan in his arms. But when that day finally comes, Nagamuthu sees Sajanthan only briefly and is not granted custody. Devastated, he appeals to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and is sent to Nonviolent Peaceforce. And so begins a protracted effort to bring father and son back together. It starts with Nagamuthu telling his story, during which he confides, “I feel as though I am about to lose my sanity. I no longer care about my own life; I am hopeless.”
Two more months pass. Finally, a new hearing that the HRC helps secure is held. The peacekeepers Nagamuthu credits with standing by him and giving him the strength to persevere accompany him to court. When father and son are finally reunited, Nagamuthu’s parting words to Nonviolent Peaceforce are, “Thank you.”
At present, Nagamuthu and Sajanthan are living at a camp for internally displaced persons named the
Ananthakumarasami Welfare Center in Cheddikulam in the Vavuniya District of Sri Lanka.