The Struggle Continues A Story of Resilience from Mullaitivu


The story of one woman’s resilience in the face of repetitive tragedy during the war

The Catamaran recently spoke with Mrs. Pathmanathan Dhanarani, a 65-year-old living with her husband and two daughters in the Aninjiyankulam area in Mullaitivu. Still suffering the impacts of Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war, she is currently in pursuit of a livelihood, engaging in the production of organic toothpowder. Her story of resilience in the face of tragedy is She shared her experiences with us.

THE CATAMARAN: Did you undergo any training to make toothpowder?

Dhanarani: (Laughing) Not at all ….. If poverty engulfs you, you will try to do something for your survival. My son too must have come to this profession due to such a situation. When there is not a cent in hand, the survival becomes a challenge for anyone; the brain will search for a way to survive. This paddy-husk is easily available in this area. My second son started making tooth-powder about 15 years ago. We carry on with it even today.

THE CATAMARAN: Tell us about your family

I have eight children. The six eldest are male and youngest are female. My eldest son was born in 1974 and the last daughter in 1996. Only my two daughters are still alive.

THE CATAMARAN: What happened to your sons?

Our fifth son was born in 1984. He was born disabled and couldn’t walk. We had to carry him around for everything including his calls of nature. My sixth son was born in 1992. By the time he was five, he had a fever and died due to lack of medical facilities. After his death, my fifth son was so sad about the loss of his brother that he too died within the next four months. So we lost two sons in same year, one after the other. My eldest son got married and went away. His wife died of shell attack during the war. Only his 5 year old child survived. My second son was in detention center from 2009-2014. After his release in 2014, he went overseas. I do not know whether he is alive or not. My third son went to Qatar recently. The other son lives separately after his marriage. We are all scattered due to the war, and we are still fighting for our survival. A family with eight children but we still have to toil for our meal. The war is over now! But the struggle for life still continues.

This article was originally published on the

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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