Novels Intermediate

Carapace by Romesh Gunesekera

One of the most difficult decisions for a person to make is a choice, which defines future life. This story is about a young girl. She lives with her mother in Sri-Lanka. The girl has a close friend. They meet each other regularly. This is a very simple and cheerful guy, who likes to joke. He catches the prawns and cooks them on the beach. The young girl definitely likes him. The problem is that the boy does not give her any clarity about their relationship. There is also another man interested in her. A wealthy Australian wants to marry the girl and take her to Sydney, where he has a house. The mother wants her to marry the Australian, as she wants a better future for her daughter. The girl decides to talk to her bosom friend. She wants to know his true feelings about her.

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Carapace by Romesh Gunesekera

Some questions are difficult to ask. So you ask a different question, or you drop a little hint, and then a bigger hint. But sometimes people just don’t want to hear. They have a carapace around them, like the hard shell of a sea-turtle, and they are deaf to your words.

The girl in this story has two men in her life, and a question she must ask…

Anura Perera is coming over tonight. Amma – my mother – says I ought to take him seriously. I told Vijay about it.

‘So?’ Vijay said.

Carapace by Romesh Gunesekera

‘He’s coming to see me because he’s interested in me and he has serious marriage intentions. He lives in Australia!’ Vijay smiled and said nothing. That’s the way with Vijay. ‘Do you know who Anura Perera is?’ I asked him.

He shook his head. ‘No.’ Then he laughed. ‘So he’s looking for a Sri Lankan wife?’

‘Yes!’ I said. ‘Anura Perera earns dollars, has a Sydney house, and a ticket to Australia.’

‘So what are you saying?’ Vijay laughed. ‘You are going to marry this fool with a foreign job? Is that what you’ve come to tell me?’

That wasn’t what I had come to tell him at all. I first met Vijay at the new disco. It was a birthday party and there were about twenty people in our group. I didn’t know many of them. My friend Lakshmi took me along to it. It was her friend’s birthday, and we had all been looking forward to going to this new place. Everyone was talking about it. It was crowded that night. The dance floor was fantastic – with lights coming on underneath and other lights moving fast around the room. Vijay was not in our group. He came up to me and said, ‘How about a dance?’ It was difficult to hear him, but when the lights shone on him, I could see in his face that he really wanted to dance with me. We danced all night. He bought me drinks and smoked lots of cigarettes. In the end he asked whether we could meet again.

Only the next day I discovered he is the cook at the Beach Hut. He is older than me; tall and long and always smiling. He has such lovely thick untidy hair, and is so thin. He never eats! He says he likes to see his food eaten by other people. To watch his customers, his friends, grow fat and happy. He says there is nothing he likes better than to cook his prawns in front of the ocean. His face is big and square, and he always seems ready to burst into a laugh. And when he does, the whole sea seems to break into smiling waves. The beach is so lovely with him….

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