Ilam Puli: Birth of a Black Tiger
An Inside Report by K.Mylvaganam from Tamil Eelam
31 March 2008
(Maveeran Ilam Puli's sister) told me last week that Ilam Puli once
came with her photo where her picture was decorated with Red Roses.
When she asked him for the reason he seems to have said “It is
because you are a Rose to me.” She couldn’t control her emotions and
was sobbing when she narrated this... During his visits Ilam Puli
seems to have asked his parents for a few things. One was that in
case of his death they should treat those who bring the message of
his death, lovingly and give them tea. The other was to decorate his
coffin with Red Roses, which I trust, symbolized his sister Kavi.
Another day Kavi told me that Ilam Puli use to call her as Kavi and
not Kaviarasi. When she asked him as why he calls her so, he seems
to have said “because you are a poem to me” and of course she broke
down after that too."
I had a rare opportunity to come to know closely of the details of a
Black Tiger Thurairathinam Kalairaj (Ilam Puli), who became a
Martyr, when the
Anuradhapura Air Base was attacked by the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Ilama Puli was born on 13 October 1981 in a
fishing village called Myliddy. His father was a prosperous
fisherman, who owned a big motor boat. Ten people were employed by
him and he led a very comfortable life having his own stone built
house, a motor cycle and all the other paraphernalia that go with
prosperity. He had three children with Ilam Puli sandwiched between
Ilam Puli was very much attached to both the sisters and
particularly to the younger one Kaviarasi. He had his education at
Nadeswara College in Myliddy until the tragedy struck their
the invasion of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) in 1995. This family
was among the several lakhs of people, who left the Jaffna peninsula
in an exodus. They left behind all their belongings except what they
could carry in their bare hands. Since the motorbike was in a
garage, they had to leave that also behind.
Unfortunately they had no bank accounts and all their savings
were only the jewels the ladies were wearing. They lost everything –
the boat, the engine, the motorbike and all what were left behind in
the house. Even the house was subsequently washed away by the
tsunami. A one time rich family was made as refugees within a matter
They reached Nagarkovil by foot and lived in a temporary shed; what
a contrast from a big stone built multi-roomed house. Ilam Puli and
his sisters continued their education at the Nagarkovil Govt. Tamil
Mixed School. Incidentally
this is the school that was bombed by the SL Air force in 1995.
His father being a good fisherman got hold of a few logs of wood and
made a Catamaran to continue fishing in the
Thalayadi. But their problems propped up again, when the SLA
shelling the Vadamaradchchi East, which constituted Nagarkovil
as well. All those from the nearby villages had to be moved out
further into Vanni.
They finally reached
Mallavi. Again another shed housed all the five inmates of the
family and with no fishing possibilities in the heartland of Mallavi
they were left at the mercy of the handouts given to them by the
International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs). But that was
hardly sufficient to feed five mouths. The father was earlier shot
and injured severely
by the IPKF
and one of his lungs and a kidney were affected.
Hence he could not do any hard manual labour. Hence it was Ilam
Puli’s mother who had to find work as a coolie in the neighbourhood.
Mallavi is not a very prosperous area either. There were days when
none of the members of the family had anything to eat. Yet they
managed somehow and Ilam Puli with his siblings joined the
Mallavi Maha Vidhyalayam .
He and his younger sisters did exceptionally well at school. He
attained such good results at the Advanced Level that admission to
the university was open for him. But his love for his family was
eating into him. He just could not leave them behind. Besides he
could not even dream of a University Education due to the high costs
I was told that he kept telling his friends that the cause for
their present plight was the Sri Lankan Government (GoSL). He felt
sorry for the rest of the refugees. Their misery was hurting him.
This antagonism made him decide to do what he thought was best and
that was to join the LTTE and fight the enemy who was ruining the
lives of several thousands of people. Without the knowledge of the
parents he joined the LTTE in 1999.
His exemplary service and meritorious qualities were straight away
spotted by the higher-ups in the LTTE. He was swiftly absorbed into
the medical division and taught medicine. Within four years he
qualified as a medical practitioner and everyone addressed him as
Doctor. He exemplified himself in his duties and exhibited his
devotion and dedication to that noble profession.
I was told that he did several surgical operations under very
primitive circumstances and saved so many lives and limbs. Very
senior doctors and surgeons admired his skill in surgery. He was a
committed doctor and cared for the patients with love and devotion.
He saved so many people that he made several friends. One Cholan
(fictitious name), whose life was saved by Ilam Puli, became his
thickest chum. It is Cholan who now takes good care of the family
after the demise of Ilam Puli.
Heart of hearts Ilam Puli‘s intention was always to become a Black
Tiger. So he made his application to the
Mr.V.Pirapakaran but got no response. He made another attempt
after one year. He was called in by the Leader after a long wait of
another six months and the Leader told him that he could not take
him in simply because Ilam Puli was the only son in the family. It
touched my heart when I heard of this from Kaviarasi.
Mr.V.Pirapakaran who is characterised as a “ruthless leader” in
several quarters has such a soft and tender heart embedded in him.
But Ilam Puli returned with a broken heart. He got a day’s leave
from work and visited his parents. I heard that he was unusually
very moody on that day. They did not know why. Normally when he
comes home he used to sit beside his mother holding her hand and
putting it intermittently on to his eyes. He also does not fail to
put Kavi (as Kaviarasi is called by him) on the other side. And
before he leaves he always touched the feet of his parents (Patha
Namaskaram). He was so attached and devoted to the family.
His mother told me that Ilam Puli once wrote to them to get him a
small radio, which they did when they visited him next. But when
they met him after three months he did not have the radio with him.
His explanation was that he had given it away to another LTTE cadre
from Batticaloa as he had no parents or any relations. This is a
symbol for Richness in Poverty.
Ilam Puli never gave up until he attained his goal. He kept
applying until one day when he was finally taken as a Black Tiger.
He told no body about this, which is typical of the Black Tigers.
Neither his best friend nor any of the members of his family
including his mother, whom he loved so much, knew of this
Now looking back the motherly instinct tells her that it was several
months before the attack that her son must have become so. This is
because his usual visits that were once quite frequent gradually
became rare and rare. Even when he visited them he kept a distance
from his mother and his dear little sis Kavi. Apparently he was
cutting himself off from the family in the interest of both the
parties. Only he knew what was in store.
Kavi told me last week that Ilam Puli once came with her photo where
her picture was decorated with Red Roses. When she asked him for the
reason he seems to have said “It is because you are a Rose to me.”
She couldn’t control her emotions and was sobbing when she narrated
this. I wouldn’t disagree with his statement as she is as pretty as
It was more than six months since he visited his family last. It was
only when the “News” was brought to them by Karikalan that they came
to know the whole story. During his visits Ilam Puli seems to have
asked his parents for a few things. One was that in case of his
death they should treat those who bring the message of his death,
lovingly and give them tea. The other was to decorate his coffin
with Red Roses, which I trust, symbolized his sister Kavi. Another
day Kavi told me that Ilam Puli use to call her as Kavi and not
Kaviarasi. When she asked him as why he calls her so, he seems to
have said “because you are a poem to me” and of course she broke
down after that too.
But I give credit to his mother. I did not see her cry even on the
day of the funeral or on the 31st day ceremony. When I met her ten
days back to prepare this article I asked her the reason for it. She
said that she did cry a lot when the “News” was broken to her but
within a matter of hours she pulled herself together, because she
remembered what Ilam Puli had told her once. It was that none of
them should cry over his demise.
Kaviarasi despite the very trying circumstances she was in, yet she
got a B and two Cs in the Advance Level exam. But poverty, the
atrocities by the army and the fact that she is a sister to a Black
Tiger prevented her from joining the University in Jaffna. What a
Both at the funeral and on the 31st day there were present several
from the LTTE cadre who had been treated by Ilam Puli. They were
full of praise for the care and dedication he devoted in treating
the injured. Their words filled with emotions spoke of the great
respect they have for him.
Even though Ilam Puli was a qualified doctor yet the photo of the hut where his
parents live, will portray the poverty of the parents. Their faces are
intentionally not shown for obvious reasons. It is in this small hut that his
parents live with their daughters. The elder daughter is married and has a child
as well. In spite of his being a doctor he was not paid any remuneration, which
is the practice with the LTTE, whose cadres are unpaid volunteers sacrificing
their lives for the betterment of our community.