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Long Distance Call by Indran Amirthanayagam - dedicated to poet Shanmugampillai Jayapalan

Monday 16 December 2013 - 11:36am

Long Distance Call

In a hospital bed, interrogation done,
Jayapalan waits for word of when and
how he will be sent off to his Norwegian
home in Europe’s North. He came back
to the country to visit his mother’s
grave at Mankulam, where a stupa
stands now for newly-arrived Buddhists
from the South. Gautama was Hindu
and Christ Jewish, but I am allowing
distractions into the poem. The man
wanted to pay respects at his mother’s
tomb and was prevented. 79 years old
he lives in Oslo, much farther North
than Mankulam. After interrogation
he tells me that we must keep faith—
what else do we have--and we will meet.

-Indran Amirthanayagam, November 23, 2013 dedicated to poet Shanmugampillai Jayapalan

Shanmugampillai Jayapalan, better known as Vis Jayapalan, is a renowned Tamil writer and poet, whose oeuvre is included in the set texts of many universities and colleges in Tamil Nadu. In 1995, he was awarded a prize for the best immigrant writer by the Norwegian Writers Association. His works have been translated in to English, Norwegian and Sinhala.

In 1998, he fled Sri Lanka, claiming asylum in Norway, where he has resided ever since. On 9 November 2013, Jayapalan returned to Sri Lanka for the first time since 2006, his return was welcomed by his peers and met with press interviews in Jaffna. On 22 November, Jayapalan was arrested as he attempted to visit his mother’s grave in Vattakkadu, Wanni.

Initially held in Vavunia, he was transferred to Colombo on 23 November, where it is believed that he was held in a prison usually reserved for those who have been charged with immigration offences. Although Jayapalan was not brought before a court, it is thought that he was held on vaguely worded allegations of “violating visa regulations” and “disrupting the ethnic harmony of the country.”

On 26 November, Jayapalan was deported; put on a plane to Turkey, he returned to Oslo the following day.