Meeting Romesh Gunesekara

It’s been about two weeks since I put up anything into my blog. And I beg the usual excuse – work, work, work! It was launches, launches, launches (and some hotel lunches) every other day of the past two weeks: gadget, devices, products like TV sets, PDAs, computers. And deadlines to complete the writeups.

Luckily on the Friday last there was a reprieve. That was the evening I got to meet Romesh Gunesekera at a reception at the residence of Director of British Council Malaysia, Gerry Liston. I decided to drive there, to the usual part of the city where most foreign diplomats reside, at U Thant road. When I got to the traffic lights near Ampang Park I thought – Jaysus! – jams front, left, right, center. The traffic lights were going green at times but vehicles didn’t move, and a traffic warden was directing the traffic. Right across me I could see vehicles not able to move at all, and that was the direction I had to head towards. Eventually it was more than half an hour of crawling till my car managed to creep past the America Embassy and turn left and get free of the stalled lot behind. It was easy to find the place as I had been there before, a couple of months back, for a similar reception for Edward Carey, another British writer. It was quite a relief to see I was actually not that late, probably only about 10 to 20 minutes so. The other guests were arriving at the same time as me, as well: Dina’s car appeared a minute or so after me. A short elevator journey then, and all of us trooped into the Direction’s place: Dina, Sharon, Mercy, and some new faces.

Inside the front door, we all firstly wrote our names and stuff on the guest book, before going in further. I saw Eric Forbes’s name was already on the page; I never met him in real life before, having only read his book blog and seen his picture in it. All of us got off to chatting with each other, catching up on news, getting to know new acquaintances, also in writing and books. This time, unlike the last reception, there were fewer, or no, guests from the arts and entertainment world. I took in a couple of male guests who looked (and dressed) like lecturers: not too formal, no coats, one in batik shirt. I myself went in black jeans and A&F checkered shirt. The women in company had on mostly casual attire, as well.

I recognised Romesh from a picture with only his face in view, and I didn’t expect to meet a tall lanky gentlemen. He still had the same kind of hair and styling though, as in the picture: longish, with white curls. He had on a pair of glasses.

Carrying back our food from the sumptuous buffet of local cuisine – not too spicy – in the kitchen, we got comfy on chairs and the sofa. Conversation flowed between me, Sharon, her friends Saras and Mercy, and Eric Forbes, the first time meeting him. For me, conversations about writing and books, and meeting new people who also write, is one of those nice things about an evening out. I chatted with Kee Thuan Chye, the editor for the English (grammar-related) column of Star, about his story in the British Council-sponsored anthology, New Writing. (This looks like I’m dull, a nerd, who only writes and reads. But the other side of the story about me is just that : another side of the story, better revealed another time.)

Afterwards, nicely sated with food, and cradling our drinks(soft, lemonade and red, white wine), we sat and listened to a short reading from Romesh, from a few pages of his second novel, Reef. He enquired as to our taste or preference: sad or happy. He was a very good reader, like an actor reading the part of the main protagonist talking about his food preparations. After this, on closing he asked the floor if there were any questions. No one put up a hand, so I did, and asked what his next book was. He was jocular and made to read from another book. Then, serious, he gave us a run-down on the basic premise of his new book, to be out by March 6 next year. It would have a Sri Lankan character, as with all his other books, in London, and there would be some scenes with cricket, the game. Later before we retire for the night, well past 10:30, Romesh signed copies of his books.

I wish I brought my own copies of Romesh’s books for him to autograph. As it is, I left them at home, and I should have also brought my digital camera. Dina had one in her bag, but it ran out of juice, so there won’t be any pictures of the reception anywhere in cyberspace. So all I had to settle for remembering this quiet (compared to pubs and clubs, of course) but nevertheless very interesting and eventful evening is this blog posting - and Romesh's autograph.

NB: Read Sharon's interview with Romesh Gunesekera, in her blog or in the Sunday Star of 27 November!


  1. bibliobibuli says

    can't wait to hear the rest of your story ... you're a real dark horse!!

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