Sarvam Kailasapathy’s house in Colombo was burnt in July 1983, which had been their home for 30 years. It was almost fully burned along with all the furniture, except for a couple of rooms and some of the walls. The fish from the smashed fish tank were dead on the ground when she came to see the home. Her house was looted several times afterwards. Despite the loss, displacement and relocation, she came back to what she calls my home in Wellawatte, and rebuilt a portion of it. The old parapet wall reminds her of the past with its layers of paints used over the years. She has shared her memories of “Black July” with me.
“I lost some valuables at home particularly the family photo albums and documents which were not easy to replace. But, my friends who worked for a British organisation helped to safeguard one thousand odd books belonging to my late husband. As I look back after 30 years of loss and despair, I am at peace that we managed to save those treasured volumes of valuable books.
Her father came and helped her to remove a Burma teak door at the entrance of the house. It is now the main door to the newly built house. A reminder from the past.
Yet another survivor of her house is a tall Jak tree in the backyard. “We used to bring Jak fruit from Jaffna whenever we came by train. From those seeds a tree grew. This tree managed to survive the fire even though all the other fruit trees died” spontaneously shares Sarvam.
A brass “Kudam” and a “Kuththu Vilakku” stay on the stairs. These are passed down the generations.
Some old roof tiles too have survived the destruction. She has carefully used them for the rebuilt house.
She also recalls with gratitude some Sinhalese friends who brought her food and helped her when she and her daughters were displaced. I will never forget these friends. The Sinhalese owner of a Bakery near the Wellawatte market, inspite of the curfew after the riots, continued to bake bread with hardly any workers to help, and bring it to the refugees in the temple. He distributed them free. He said he is grateful to the Tamils who have continuously supported his bakery. In this way he showed his compassion. These acts of kindness were very helpful to bear the pain.
Painful memories of “Black July” remains in Sarvam Kailasapathy’s heart and mind, and she said this should never happen again.