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During the height of the civil war in northeastern Srilanka , I was returning to Colombo from the frontlines, bone tired, numb and sick of the war. I was travelling by road and it was a long journey, made longer by the war. Although I had been to Sri Lanka dozens of times by then I had never stopped at Anuradhapura, that holy site of Sri Lanka's Buddhist majority. This time, tired as I was, I decided to stop there enroute. Maybe I thought I needed a respite, a spiritual pause, a change from the sound and smell of carnage. I went to the famous temple that defines the town looking for I don't know what.

It was sundown, the skies were dark orange, the temple and its worshippers glimmered in pools of light and dark. Golden glows from the lamps of worshippers and the small puffs of smoke they emitted made the whole scene shift and shiver in a surreal fashion. And then I noticed that many of the worshippers were widows.

And the war I had come to escape presented itself to me more starkly than any image of blood and bone that I had ever shot.


Shyam Tekwani