*An oft-used misquote of American Commodore Stephen Decatur’s ““Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!”after victory over the Barbary pirates in 1816.
A version of this post first ran in July 2008, on my blog, The Blacklight Arrow, under the title, ‘Black Thoughts’, and was later reproduced on Groundviews as ‘My Name is Cedric, do You Remember Me?’; part of a Black July anthology. With my intention to move some of my online writing to this site, I thought I would retrace my journey on that first day of the July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom, from my school in Borella to my grand uncle’s home on Temple Road, Maradana, and on to my own home on St John’s Way, in Mutwal. So I walked and taxied across Colombo today, trying to find some of the places I had described thirteen years ago, and compare them to the images in my head from thirty-eight years ago. I took a few photos too.
July usually passes me by without too much notice, beyond the vague worry that there might be a Tiger attack on Colombo, and a few flashbacks to that weekend in 1983. But this time it’s been a bit different. I’ve found myself reliving that day a lot more this year. It isn’t the fact that this is the 25th anniversary of the carnage which most people see as the starting point of our war, though that has been the focus of a lot of attention. What did it was a phone call a couple of weeks ago.