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Baby 'Tsunami' turns 5 years old in Sri Lanka

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Little Tsunami sits on a rock by the sea, watching the boats sail by in the distance. Every now and then, she pushes back the hair the evening sea breeze playfully pulls across her eyes. A wave splashes close to the rock where she is sitting and she stands up in a flash and runs to her mother.
 
"She loves the beach and the sea. Every time her father goes to the market, she goes with him just to get on the rocks and look at the sea, but she is terrified of the waves," says Sarojini, Tsunami's mother.
 
"We have taken her many times to the beach to play, but unlike other children her age, she would keep away from the water and would not let a single wave wet her feet," she says. "I guess it is because I experienced the tsunami while I was pregnant with her and the fear I went through has affected her."

It's been five years since the Tsunami but Sarojini and her husband, Lucky, talk about December 26th 2004 as if it were yesterday. The police alerts urging the community to vacate; the hydraulic force that broke through walls and houses; the boats in the fishery thrown into the grounds close by - they recapture all they heard and saw with such vivid detail.
 
"We couldn't imagine what it was," says Sarojini. "It was such a massive disaster. I kept getting [labor] pains and my husband wanted to admit me to the hospital but I didn't want to be alone. I told him if we all must die, let's die together."

Sarojini, Lucky and their two daughters (then ages 11 and 6) fled the area and found safe refuge at a relative's home.
 
The nameless disaster was later identified as a 'tsunami' -- a name and an experience unimaginable and foreign to the island nation, as it took away more than 30,000 lives and dragged and swallowed anything it came in contact with from trees to trains to buildings.
 
Little Tsunami was born just a few days later while the death toll was still rising, and was given the full name of Sumathra Tsunami Tharanga by her father, which in Sinhalese means "the tsunami wave that came from Sumatra."
 
"I was very upset when I learnt that he had named our little daughter Tsunami," says Sarojini. "I didn't speak to him for days. No one was happy with the name. The neighbours, the immediate family, the relations all were very annoyed."
 
But Lucky has an explanation.
 
"People tend to forget things," he said. "There was a flood here fifty years ago that people never talk about now. I wanted people to remember what happened to us and I thought the best way for that to happen was to name my child Tsunami."

"I didn't give her that name in memory of the disaster, but to remember that big life changing experience we had," he says. "The tsunami challenged the dreams, the longings and selfishness of people. I saw how people with houses like palaces had to abandon them and from all their possessions, carry only a few clothes in a small shopping bag. We were made to reorganise our priorities."
 
Every year on the 26th of December when the tsunami is remembered, the little girl wonders why her name is mentioned so many times on TV and her father has explained to her how he gave her, her name.
 
"Appachchi (father) gave me this name because I came with the tsunami wave," she explains.
 
The little girl is known as Tsunami Baba (baby Tsunami) by her relatives and as Sumathra by her friends. She will turn five this year. The bundle of bubbliness completed preschooling last week at the World Vision's Pipena Kusum (blooming flowers) preschool and is getting ready to start formal schooling in January 2010.
 
Just like her sisters, Tsunami is sponsored and supported by a World Vision area development program.
 
The little girl carefully jumps from one rock to another running along the wall of rocks, that spells limit and boundary for the sea. In complete contrast to the disaster, Tsunami has brought much joy and hope to her family.

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