As a young man, coming of age just as his nation around him was descending into violence, Logathasan (Das) Tharmathurai was initially sheltered from the realities of the civil war by his age and his family’s wealth.

Sent to boarding school away from his family home in Jaffna district in Sri Lanka, he saw little of the rising ethnic tensions until the night of May 31, 1981, when Sinhalese mobs set fire to the public library and government offices in majority Tamil area.

In the years that followed this fateful night, Das was forced to watch as the lives of everyone around him crumbled.

His father’s business collapsed and government raids saw many young men in his family taken prisoners, while others joined the Tamil rebels.

Then, life itself came to a crashing halt when Das was assaulted by a group of Sinhalese soldiers.


So, at the age of 18, Das decided that he must leave the only home he’d ever known in search of a better, safer life for himself and his family.

The Sadness of Geography traces his incredible journey out of Sri Lanka, across Europe, and finally to Canada’s shores.

It is a topical human story of innocence lost, the persecution of an entire people, and the lengths to which we will go to protect those we love.

Described as “part history lesson, part warning”, and with migration and refugees so prevalent in today’s news, it is a timely human narrative mirroring those of people who are still fleeing violence to find safety across the world.

Toronto-based Tharmathurai is a writer and information systems professional.

He decided to write his memoir thirty-two years after leaving Sri Lanka. 

A must-read for every cynic who has looked askance at refugee boats and migrant caravans, and dismissed asylum-seekers as ‘illegals’ or ‘terrorists’.


Das Tharmathurai will be at the Word On The Street Festival on September 21 and 22. Details at

The Sadness of Geography is published by Dundurn Press and retails for $19.99

If you’d like to share the story of your arrival in Canada, please write to or call 416-695-4357.

Desi News