The Sinhalese Woman + Tamil Man Who Dialed ‘L’ For Love
How a random phone call connected a Sri Lankan couple from two different ethnic groups, and bridged cultural chasms.
“I never thought a missed call would change my destiny,” remembers 28-year-old Perumal Chandrakala. “The tradition of our estate is to be born, marry, raise children and die in the same estate, but I was lucky enough to change that tradition.” The daughter of an estate worker in Hatton Sami Malai, Chandrakala finished school and began plucking tealeaves in the Holton estates to provide a proper education for her brother. She also sewed clothes to earn money, but she always dreamed of something else.
I told him I was Tamil. He said it is all right, and language is not a problem for love.
“One day we missed a phone call at our home. I waited a few hours to see whether the call would come again and asked my mother and father whether they knew the number. No one in our house seemed to know the number, and after about two hours I decided to call it. I heard a male voice that said, ‘I called your number by mistake,’ and apologized.
“After about two days, a call came again from that number. No one else was at home at the time and when I asked for details, he said he was calling from Anurdhapura. I did not know where Anurdhapura was. Later I found it on a map in a book of my brother’s. The man spoke well in Sinhala. It was difficult to understand. I told him I was Tamil. He said it is all right, and language is not a problem for love. On that day I felt unusually happy and had a strange feeling.
“I first came to know Saman Aiyya in 2006. He is very honest. He told me everything about himself. He told me he developed a nerve disorder when he was about 15 years old. As a result, he said couldn’t get too fatigued. Perhaps he told me to find someone else. But my love did not change. By this time, due to war in the North and the East, the news reported conflicts between the Tamil and Sinhala. Therefore, I had no way of telling about this connection to our home. But whenever I could, we shared our sorrow and happiness over the phone. Both of us wanted to see each other, but we did not get that opportunity.
“I got a job at a garment shop in Nittambuwa, another job to help educate my brother. One day Saman Aiyya called and said his sister was going abroad and they would come to see me on the way. By that time, we had been courting over the phone for about five years, so I was very happy to see him. The picture I had in my mind completely fit Saman Aiyya.
“On that day I explained the whole story to my mother, father and brother. But it was not easy to get their consent. According to our Hindu beliefs, it is a great sin to forget a love and go in search of another love. When I explained this, they gave their consent. Our relatives were surprised. Some agreed, saying mix marriages are suitable today.”
Saman and Chandrakala married in 2011, amid the blessings of both parents. After the Hindu marriage ceremony according to Hindu culture in Hatton, the second wedding ceremony from Saman’s party took place in Thalawa, Mihirigama village according to Sinhala customs. They have two children. Since the wedding, the families from different ethnic groups have grown even closer.
“We went to Hatton for Sinhala New Year. My brother has a job. My mother and father come to Thalawa when they can. They love our children a lot and the children also love them. Saman’s sister helped us a lot financially: she gave us money to lay the foundation for a house in Moragoda.”
People in the village made a big effort to buy land for us. Thalawa Divisional Secretariat gave a half-acre plot of land. When we were waiting without money to build the house, people in the village raised Rs 200,000.00 from Samurdhi Department for us. “People mixed cement, brought stones and did all other things to build this house,” she said happily. “At the moment I am indebted to these Sinhala relatives who helped us without race or religious differences. Tomorrow I will go to temple on Vesak Full Moon Poya Day and invoke blessings on them.”