TAMIL TIGRESS Niromi de Soyza
TAMIL TIGRESS Niromi de Soyza
“My story as a child soldier in Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war”
Review by Ian Browne Shamrock News
I was stolen from the very first page with the seductive description of the tropical landscape, the fruit laden trees; the monsoon land’s exotic fauna, only to be rudely shocked by the grim reality the violence military conflict incurs. Niromi de Soya gave her body, her will, to the Tamil Tigers to bolster support against a Sinhalese Government and its military muscle − which was neglecting and compromising her people during the 80’s. Starting out within the Student Organisation of Liberation Tigers while a high school student, at just seventeen Niromi de Soyza enlisted as a soldier, was militarily trained, and then sent into the rural region to fight for her life. While her beautiful descriptions of the tropical wildlife and ecosystems she encounters while hiding out from the enemy, intrigue, the moments bullets and death enter the fray really delivers you to the fight, and into the thick of it with her.
This book is a winner, enlightening with its brutal truths, yet stunning in the depth of care for her close friends and family, Niromi makes you feel endlessly anxious as to the implications her brave actions deliver, dealt out to those she loves. Having visited Sri Lanka to write a story myself, I sat and read this wonderful account of a young lady’s strive for justice of the Tamil community of northern Sri Lanka while under trees looking out to sugarcane fields, and looking up into northern NSW’s rainforests. It took me back to near Yala in southern Sri Lanka, the moist heat and soothing sunsets blushing over tranquil rice fields: it set the scene. And while I was there on the Tear Drop Isle myself, nervously passing through army checkpoints and almost falling onto ten or so soldiers hidden in a sandy lane off the beach in Arugam Bay, and though in part my story did cover both sides of the conflict, I was never in any real danger while rattling around Ceylon’s old roads and mountain railways. I failed to muster the courage to travel as far north as the Tamil stronghold of Jaffna where Niromi’s story takes place. It was a ‘no-go-zone’ anyway, that would be taking things too far. But while visiting Sri Lanka with friends a few years earlier, my parents did have to flee from a beach when a naval patrol vessel came into view.
Pic sourced via news.com.au
The brutality that Niromi de Soyza encountered was nothing short of terrifying. She is lucky to have survived to pen the tale for us, and sadly, she must surely carry some rough trauma.
The characters in this book are brought to life through well-crafted dialogue, and along the way you worry for the welfare of Niromi and her brethren. Wandering the social political landscape where the enemy withing rears its ugly head; the dynamics of other militant factions also fighting for the same cause, but who saw the Tamil Tigers as the tyrants too, sees this story offering up many twists and turns.
….this teen was driven!
For a time, a young Niromi had to ignore the gnawing concern the atrocities her own movement had dealt their various enemies, thus allowing her to move in a direction that she felt was the right way to deal with what was inflicted upon her community. Holding one’s head high when the greater part of Jaffna region’s civilian population had turned against the Tigers, must have been far from easy, and while the Indian forces raped women, and killed the men of villages:
“and we had left the innocent to pay the price for resistance.”
Her family gave up much in the hope Niromi would once again return to their home as their clever and thoughtful teenage daughter, safe from this world’s harm. Now living in Sydney and flourishing due to her academic prowess and wonderful employment trajectory, I just hope the ignorance of our community to the depth of the depravity encountered by her people − at the hands of both the Sinhalese soldiers and Indian armed forces − and the nightmares that must surely antagonise her rest, fails to diminish the fact that she proudly fought for a righteous cause to free her folk from oppression. And that is a noble, selfless badge of honour to pin to one’s chest. She could have turned a blind-eye and let the men of her neighbourhood do all the heavy lifting. But like many young Tamil women, she didn’t.
Niromi’s courage is a credit to her, as is every page that captured my all during the Northern Rivers' covid lockdown of September 2021.