Mary grew up in a full household in Mulliyawalai, with six brothers and a sister. Mary lost four of her brothers in the war, all of whom had joined the LTTE. She recalls first beginning to understand the conflict in 2001, when one of her brothers who had joined the LTTE died.
In 2006, Mary herself decided to join. She was not dissuaded by the death of her brother, or the injuries the others returned with. “I was very fond of the LTTE sisters. I liked the way they talked and the way they carried themselves. I used to be so afraid of even firecrackers,” she said. “But I never knew that the conflict would play out like this… I joined them without expecting that the conflict would be like this,” Mary said. “When the war re-started [after the ceasefire], we were staying inside the bunkers. We did not know what was happening outside. I only understood it when I lost my limbs.”
Soon after joining the LTTE, Mary lost one of her hands and one of her legs in a landmine accident. It was the support she received from family that set Mary on the path to recovery. She recalls, “my sisters-in-law cared for me like they were my own sisters. They did not worry, nor were they very sad about the fact I lost my limbs. They were happy that I was alive.” Despite her family’s strength, Mary felt devastated about what had happened. However, she started studying at “Navam Arivu Koodam” and was comforted by the support from the community of LTTE cadres that were in similar situations.
Mary stayed at Navam Arivu Koodam until early 2009 when the war intensified and her family took her back home.
The war was entering its final stages and survival was hard, but Mary recalls her family’s effort to help others in the community.
“During the last phase of war, the LTTE was capturing underage children to join them. My brothers and sisters-in-law helped the children to escape them. They gave them shelter, food and clothes… we helped whoever came to us, asking for help. We helped them with whatever we could at that moment.”
Mary also remembers a lot of support from the community for people like her who had disabilities, with some even taking them to get medical attention.
Recounting the final days of the war Mary says, “On May 12th, 2009 my fifth brother, Ruben, died in a shelling attack”. “What happened to him is a loss from which I will never recover, because I saw it happen before my eyes. That brother was more like a sister to me. He was calm, neat and very responsible. As we were trying to save him, the doctor said: if he is for us, then he is, if not, then he is for God to take back. Everybody has similar stories. This happened to all Tamil people.”
Mary and her family escaped from Vadduvakal the day that her fifth brother was killed. “We buried him and then left right away. We did not take a lot of things with us. We took some clothes, our land deeds and some of the jewellery we had. We did not have a lot of money. But we still could not leave because they were bombing everywhere. So finally we bought a huge tyre tube, filled it with air, tied a lot of empty bottles and cans around the tyre and only on the 14th did we make our exit through Nandikadal.” When they reached Omanthai, Mary surrendered to the military for her former role in the LTTE and was kept in a detention camp for seven months.
Today Mary lives with her husband and two children. Mary met her husband after she came out of rehabilitation, and he asked for her hand in marriage. She describes the routine that they have, “At home, he has to cook, dress me up if I have to go out, get our son ready to go to preschool and all. Only now have I started to sweep the courtyard, and I look after the cattle if he is not home and help him in cooking.”
Mary is currently enrolled in computer classes and English classes. She shares that she may start working at a local manufacturing plant soon, “They [the potential employer] also said that they will modify the work to fit us [people with disabilities].”
Speaking about the state of affairs after the war Mary says, “I do not want anymore war – I want our people to live – that is what I am thinking.”