Last night saw the farewell party of one of my closer Jaffna friends, marking her last Saturday in town. It was a beautiful evening with the rare attendance of practically all the internationals, only one being away on leave, and as I looked around the group, I realized that most of the old faces had left and been replaced, and that I too would be leaving my seat relatively soon. This has come to mind more than once since I announced I would not be renewing my contract, and I found myself already nostalgic for certain Jaffna-isms, wanting to take extra care in affixing particular details firmly in my memory.
This Sunday had made its way on that list, tying together all the bits and pieces that made it a practically perfect day. A gentle respite from the beating sun and the messy winds and sporadic, aggressive rains, it is the first day in my 10 months in Jaffna that I was able to turn my air-conditioner off all day, letting the whole world delightfully pass through my windows. For reasons that escape me, the streets were quieter today, the activity seemingly filtered to the necessary and purposeful. It was almost reminiscent of my first days here during the curfews and blockades, and I say ‘almost’ as the assuredness and humour of today’s activity made it much lighter. Even the inquisitiveness with which I was being observed on my weekly walk was a sweet change from the earlier anxious – and dare I say, suspicious – stares. A restraint that usually laced the town and its people appeared to have lifted today, and everything and everyone moved in perfectly choreographed laps, confidently looking ahead rather than over their shoulder, meekly.
That rhythm took over the rest of my day as I returned home to attempt a dish for the third time (this time assisted with better quality ingredients), listening to show tune soundtracks, and a comforting hum of activity from my neighbours’ equally quiet Sunday. Tuning into an internet classical music station, I rewarded my improved cooking results with a cup of coffee on the balcony with my new novel. Pausing between paragraphs to turn a page, I looked up at the swaying trees that were silently keeping me company, and the contrasting red-cement colours of the buildings, I could suddenly hear the lazy sounds from the crows, chipmunks and other permanent residents of these grounds, and realized at that moment that this was a perfect Sunday.
This little town that I have called ‘home’ for the better part of a year presented me with a glorious gift, and as I write this, I remain ever grateful.