Translation of part I of the article that was written for Malathy acca’s Remembrance Day in 1993 and published in the ‘Suthanthira Paravaikal’ newspaper. The first female fighter in the history of the liberation struggle to become a martyr, 2nd Lieutenant Malathy.
Early 1985, whilst I was sitting on a boulder opposite our training camp, located in the mountains, reading “Voice of War-1”. In front of me, a short distance away, there was a river stream. Suddenly, along with the sound of the river, there was sound of laughter and conversation. I headed towards the direction of these sounds. Ahead of me, about fifteen to twenty women, wearing colourful shirts, were walking towards my direction.
The woman in the front, wearing a polka-dot blue shirt, with two braids, walked swiftly towards me, taking large strides. When she reached me, she examined me carefully. Then they all walked into the barrack. I thought to myself, “they came to train just like myself, where will this attitude go during training.”
Two days later, I was standing in my room. The blue-shirt girl came and asked me, “akka, do you have a vilakumara?” I immediately laughed rambunctiously and replied, “no, no I only have a vilakumaru”
After I enquired where she was from, her name and village. She said her name was Sahayaseeli, but her nick name was sahayam. Then I advised her not to tell anyone her real name moving forwards.
There was a lot of difference in her Tamil and my Tamil. This was why she asked if I had a vilakumara instead of a vilakumaru. From then on, whenever I met her, I would laugh and make fun of her pronounciation of “vilakumaru” and “penai”
We were the first ever female fighters to train as female tigers . We came from all over, from different villages, districts and spoke Tamil with varying pronunciations. A tamil proverb says, “the bond you brew in the cradle, lasts to the grave.” (Old habits die hard). However for us, this proverb is altered. Our habits only lasted until we joined the movement. Once we started training, our beliefs, practices, ideologies and differences all changed.
Since I was making fun of her tamil, one day she complained to our leader. Our leader then talked to both of us to investigate, and consequently asked me to “thoppu adikka” (to do squats with your hands on your ears) in front of her whilst Malathy counted. Once he left, I continued squatting as she counted. Halfway through, she stopped counting and said, “After this, you don’t have to continue. I will finish the squatting”. I responded, “no, I will complete the punishment that was given to me.” She grasped me and pleaded for me to stop, but I angrily scolded her and finished my punishment.
For two days after that, I was hobbling around, and she looked at me all those while through teary eyes.
Then one Sunday morning, while I was lining up to get breakfast, she stood behind me in the line. Once I got my food, I walked to the spot under the tree that was designated for us and she came and sat next to me. She spoke to me amply. She explained she felt really bad for getting me punished. I understood her sensitive heart and replied, “It’s not a problem. The punishment is so we grow stronger together amicably.”
Does it hurt Mani? I won’t hit anymore.
In the vast open paddy fields of Aatkaativeli in Mannar, there was a girl named Sahayaseeli Peduru, she was talented in her studies and an energetic sportsperson. In our training camps
she was growing as strong, vibrant and quick-witted fighter named Malathy.
Malathy and I were good friends in the training camp. You can say there was no day that went by without us fighting. But within the next minute, we would compromise. If I said something that she doesn’t like, she will immediately hit me first. After that she will talk about it. A few minutes later, she would stroke the spot where she hit me and ask “does it hurt Mani? I won’t hit after this.” Whenever she talks affectionately to someone, she uses the word, “mani.”
Over time I also adopted her dialect. Even now, her word, “mani” comes into my vernacular.
In the camps, Malathy finished all her training with ease. There was no training she has said was difficult, nor that she cannot complete it. We would carry our food items from 10 to 15 kms away from our training camp. If anyone is carrying the heavier items, Malathy will swap her load with them and carry the heavier load. She would be the first to reach the camp. Then she will ask, “Come Mani, let’s go back to the collection point.” If I say, “We just came back to the camp. Do we have to go again?”
She would reply, “Poor them! We don’t know who cannot carry their load, and has to stop and take a break. Come on, let’s go and help them” and take me back.
What Wrongdoers Do
Malathy had a mix of ferociousness and kindheartedness within her. She was always willingly giving away everything she had to those who were less fortunate, and she never stood back from helping those in need.
Once training was over, we came to Mannar. When we reached Mannar, she pulled her collar up, and exclaimed, “How does it feel?
You have set foot in my district first in Tamil Eelam as female cadres”.
Afterwards we learned how to ride motorcycles. We fell here and there as we learned how to ride. She learnt first “get on the back. I will drive” she will say. If she knows we are going to crash, she would jump off and run. We are the ones who fall and get hurt. She then laughs at us as we’re lying on the floor. “Wait, I am going to get you” I would say and run after her with a stick, and she would affectionately call out, “mani, mani” and cheekily calm me down.
One day, both of us were sent outside of the camp to go get some coconuts by the camp leader. She was the one who rode the motorcycle. “Our female cadres are standing cutout (espionage parlance) in Manthai, let’s go their first and then take the coconuts” she said. I said, “no. If we are late, the camp leader will give us punishments. Let’s not.”
She replied, “no, let’s go. I can handle everything.” So I agreed, we went to Manthai, then picked up the coconuts and headed back. Since it was late, she drove recklessly. We crashed into a tree and fell. We were both hurt. I cut my lip open, and she had wounds on her knee and elbow. She wiped the blood off my lips and said, “mani, don’t tell anyone at the base that we fell off the motorcycle.”
I asked, “why?”
She replied, “everyone will make fun of me.”
I remarked, “so what do we say about how we got hurt?”
She said, “say that you were lanced by a stick and I will hide my injuries and not show anyone.”
She then rolled down her shirt sleeves and covered her injuries. Once we reached back, we stuck to our stories and said exactly that. We didn’t tell a soul about our motorcycle accident.
One day, she hit me for something. Both of us started chasing each other, and the camp leader had to stop and warn us, and then gave us both punishments. “For me to deal with you both, it’s going to take a whole day!” He exclaimed. “Go away,” he then shooed us away. In my anger over Malathy hitting me, I told the camp leader about the motorcycle incident, and her asking me to lie about what had happened.
Malathy riled up, “You snitched! Come over here and I am going to give it to you good.” She always does what she puts her mind to. So in fear of her, I trailed behind the camp leader. That night, while I was sleeping, she exclaimed “backstabber!” and hit me. As I was in deep sleep, I couldn’t hit back.
One day, our camp leader was tying black strings around new cyanide capsules for us. Malathy and I were sat next to him. “We will tie the strings as well. Give it to us.” We asked.
The leader said, “When both of you show up together, no good comes of it. Only wrong things happen, so you can both sit there”.
Translated by: Lost Naadodi