Poetry is often born out of the harshest of circumstances. Periods or events of extreme adversity can lead writers to cogitate and reconsider their positions in respect of the mundane and elevate these to the status of the sublime. And so it is for S Nagaveeran or Ravi as he is better known. Ravi is a man of Tamil origin from Sri Lanka. The oppression of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka is well documented. It has been many years of brutality and violence. Ravi fled this brutality. He arrived in Australia with a view to escape this oppression.
But man’s inhumanity to man is not new. Part of that inhumanity is Australia’s policy of incarcerating people arriving by boat to this country. And so it was for Ravi. Starting from a period of time in Nauru, he has “progressed” to being transferred to Melbourne’s Immigration transit accommodation in Broadmeadows to now being out in the community. And through this period Ravi turned to the outlets of poetry and art to sustain himself. From this work was born the book “From Hell to Hell” published by Writing through Fences.
As Ravi puts it “In my personal experience as a victim of injustice and politics, I was forced to flee reality and the realisation that I needed to find the best way to deal with all the emotions that I was unable to cope with. I took up writing to expand my feelings creatively with poetry and drawings and I have excelled”.
I have now had the chance to read his work. It is raw and it is extremely dark. To read this gives us a new insight into the depth of human emotions that are playing out here. As Ravi has so eloquently put it “It is not life, it is dying slowly”.
Here are a few excerpts from his book. I am only going to give you a few short samples because you NEED to purchase his book. And I have almost completely randomly chosen these samples because every piece of work that he has done is exceptional.
I have no words within me
To draw that horrible place that I visited today.
I saw some beautiful souls with fake smiles.
I saw their invisible tears rolling from their eyes.
I read their hearts.”
Who knows my heart?
Who knows I ache with suffering?
Who knows my loneliness?
Who knows I am tired of being tired?
Who can comfort me?”
“I hate myself
Mentally I am drained – yes
Spiritually I feel dead.
Physically I am always giving
With a fake smile on my face.
My lips can’t explain the pain in my heart
I am a loser.
I hate my self
Each day a little bit more.
Yes I am so depressed, so useless!
I just want to go to sleep
And never wake-up”
And so the poems go. They are illustrated with little drawings done by Ravi and these drawings complement the darkness of his state of mind. If we walk away from this travesty of justice then we are applying the standards that our New Australian of the Year, Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, warned us about…that “the standard you walk past, is the standard you accept”
We cannot accept this standard. It is destroying human beings. Human beings like Ravi.
My words about the poetry of Ravi are above. Let me also share with you the words of Marilyn Beech, a friend of mine, who attended the Perth launch of “From Hell to Hell”. This was from a Facebook post that she did on February 5th:
“I went to the Perth launch of Ravi’s beautiful book of poetry tonight, and was moved by his poem’s qualities of deep humanity, grief, loneliness, despair and resurgent hope. It is so powerful to listen to someone who has emerged from the hell of internment on Nauru as a whole person, his humanity not only intact but enlarged, with such joy in his being- because freedom is finally his.
Those of us who have never known the denial of freedom, the denial of our own name, its replacement with a number, or the loneliness of being abandoned in the “human dumping ground” have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters who have survived this denial of their humanity. They teach us about what makes us human, when all the usual structures – even our names- are taken away; and they teach us what a gift freedom is, and that we cannot live fully human lives without it.”
And let me finish with the words of Ravi that remain ringing through my brain:
“When will I find it?
I am sad
I am lonely
I am unpredictable
I am unusable
I am broken
I am wasted
I am irrational
I am helpless
I am hopeless
I am speechless
I am covered by sadness
I am being with emptiness
I am in darkness that blanks my mind
Depression runs through my head – a slow death
I walk toward the graveyard
When will I find it?”
Let me assure Ravi, that there are many people, most of whom are on my Facebook page, that will continue the good fight to ensure that decent human beings like him are not subjected to this irrational sense of fear and xenophobia that is being engendered by our political elite.