The last time I had seen Akila she had been firing her M16 rifle from behind a water tank during the ambush.Sengamalam, one of the boys, told me that more than 2,000 soldiers had been involved in the round-up of our 22-strong unit, and had dumped the bodies of those who died in the open air.Seeing no means of escape, we took shelter under a large lantana bush.At sunset, confident that the soldiers had moved on, we set out through fields, supporting the injured, eventually reaching a gathering of huts on a narrow lane.We slept in different places each night: in open fields or houses taken by force.Our sentry had spotted the enemy soldiers beyond a distant line of trees to the south, and Muralie, our unit's second in command, decided that we should flee north across an arterial road.His blood-soaked body kept slipping through their hands.
As a Tamil Tiger guerrilla, there was no honour in being caught alive.
Ajanthi had been my friend since primary school and we had joined the Tigers together. I crawled forward holding my AK-47 with both hands, desperate to reach Ajanthi and drag her to safety.
To my right, two comrades were trying to drag Muralie, who had also been hit, through the wet grass.
The morning chill was still in the air and the dew dripped from banana leaves as we ran though fields and approached the road. There was no cover other than a few palmyra and banana trees that dotted the landscape.
As we attempted to cross it, we were ambushed from both sides in a barrage of automatic gunfire, grenades and mortars. We crashed to the earth as the gunfire grew heavier, now coming from behind as well. Lying on my stomach, I shuffled forward, following another girl, Ajanthi.
I recognised the tall Akila, her hair in plaits, and ran towards her. ' 'We have to keep their dream of Tamil Eelam alive,' Akila said. I was born in 1969 in Kandy, a Sinhala-majority town in Sri Lanka's hill country, where I spent the first seven years of my childhood.