Such a long Lankan journey

From finding Tamil guerilla camps in 1984 to checking up on lost friends last week in Colombo

This new, occasional series should, in fairness, be a thank-you note to Shoojit Sircar, one of our new breed of young and thinking filmmakers. His latest Madras Café marks a new beginning in Hindi cinema. Unlike Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, it does not claim to be a biopic. And, unlike Milkha, it stays much closer to the real story which, again entirely unlike Milkha Singh's, is one of the saddest in our history: the LTTE-led terror, war with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in north and eastern Sri Lanka, and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Of course, there is much fictionalisation, some for the convenience of storytelling and some for political caution. But there is enough for somebody who saw these events up close to go back to the story, and then tie up some ends with current research to retell it. That is why, as I said in the beginning, this is not a review of Shoojit's brilliant film, but a thank-you note. Because he has given me that nudge to start putting together a reporter's memoir of sorts. Publishers have often approached me to write one, and I have routinely fobbed them off with a permanent, lazy journalist's excuse: editors write books between jobs. That hasn't come to pass, nor is it likely to anytime soon. So, inspired by Madras Café, I am trying an unconventional approach to that memoir in the form of this series, where I will try and revisit, say, some 20 of the biggest stories of our times that I was eyewitness to. And don't get alarmed. I won't be inflicting this on you in a neverending serial, but only occasionally. Only when one of these stories somehow pops back in the news. Further, while the selfish reason, of course, is to get a headstart on my memoirs, these stories will also, I hope, put what happened in today's context. Like in this case, Lanka's still open wounds and its struggle with healing.

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