Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Growing up, 25 year old Ganga*, found in Deivendran* both a father and grandfather. Having lost both her parents when she was only 5 years of age, her maternal grandparents took on the responsibility of caring for Ganga and her four brothers, the youngest of whom was merely 2 years old at that time.
Tragedy and loss have been part of Ganga’s young life, as she also lost one of her older brothers, who succumbed to illness a few years back.
Therefore, when Deivendran died on 17 January, 2018, it was a heavy blow for Ganga, who now mourns the loss of the man who had cared for and loved his grandchildren for many long years. With tears in her eyes, and her voice trembling, Ganga fondly remembers her grandfather and the long hours and hard work he put in working in his shop, to provide for his little grandchildren and pay for their education.
Her other two older brothers have now married and moved away to their own homes. Now it is just Ganga, her youngest brother Naresh* and their grandmother Rameshwary* who live in the little hut, in a small village, in Sri Lanka’s Eastern coast.
“It is just the three of us now” says Ganga, a small sigh escaping her as she looks over at her grandmother and brother. In addition to the grief of losing her grandfather, Ganga and her family also had to face fierce opposition from their own neighbours and villagers, who came out in large numbers, to prevent the burial of Deivendran within their village, because he was a Christian. “Even now, they all talk amongst themselves that Christians should not be allowed to bury their dead in this village” says Ganga.
On 17 January, 2018, Deivendran who had been admitted to the hospital due to illness, succumbed to his illness and departed this world. His remains were brought to his humble home and on the next day, following a funeral service in the house, preparations were made to take Deivendran to his final resting place – a plot of land allocated for the burial of Christians in their village.
However, crowds soon gathered and surrounded the house, protesting that a Christian cannot be buried in their village. The mob soon turned violent as the family and other church members who had gathered for the funeral were beaten with rods and footwear. The family was given an ultimatum – if you want to bury your dead, you will have to forsake your faith.
“I refused to give up my faith. I stood firm” says Rameshwary, her voice full of tears as she recalls how she could not give her husband of many years a decent burial. Despite her small stature and soft voice, Rameshwary was a force to be reckoned with, refusing to give up her faith despite the violent opposition she was faced with.