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The Cost of Resistance

Illustration: Osheen Siva

The following poem, reproduced from Adi Magazine, has been written by an activist based in Jaffna, working with war-affected Tamil communities.

This piece draws from conversations with families of the disappeared who have for years been calling for answers on the fate of their loved ones. It seeks to shed light on the inner tumult of those often celebrated as icons of resistance. The author is grateful for the men and women who shared their stories and their courage, and trusted her with their vulnerabilities.


The mother holding her last piece of jewelry

wonders whether to sell it

for bus fare to the protests.

She’s torn by the choices:

raise her voice,

or sit idle.

She’d rather die than ask others for money


The little girl who cries at school each day

feels unloved at home

thinks her mother hates her

yearns for her affection

doesn’t understand how you can

love someone who’s no longer present


The husband who considers leaving

isn’t getting what he thinks he needs

the fire is out

the food isn’t good at home

is what we say when he strays.

He’s searching for shreds of joy

while his wife longs

for her daughter and brother to return


The young wife with a constant headache

wants to crack her own skull

and find a peaceful corner inside.

Though the days are long

working and raising her children alone

there’s no time for her needs

when there is time, her thoughts become too bleak


Another young wife, strong and beautiful,

is told to stop searching for her husband:

marry another man and move on.

She refuses, sassing the military and men with bad intentions,

ignoring those calling her a loud-mouthed slut.

In the daytime, she wears a mask

when night falls, she wants to peel off her skin


The father who doesn’t work

disgraced that he’s unable earn to for the family

and alive while his son is disappeared.

Guilt eats him from the inside

he’d give his life to bring back his son.

He spends too much money on the fortune teller,

for the last five years she has predicted

his son would return in three months


The old amma who feels alone in the world

the children’s whereabouts unknown

husband splitting time between work and protests

the loneliness grows too loud to manage

she adopts and feeds stray dogs

hoping someone is doing the same for her children


Mothers and wives and fathers and sisters

thinning, aging, dying, raging

their skin too tanned, their eyes too glum

getting sicker each day, counting the days

They ignore the rising death toll.

Resistance always looks good from the outside

but at what cost.


It keeps me awake at night.


Read more from Adi Magazine here.

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