Books, Lit Fests, News, Movies, Art, Fashion and TV of course... "I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book." - GROUCHO MARX

My Photo

I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Monday, May 01, 2006


The Match by Romesh Gunesekera. Publisher Bloomsbury. Pages 320. Price Singapore $28.50. 2006.

My reading over the past couple of weeks has been over-shadowed by an obsession with Shantaram. Yes, the wrist breaking magnum opus that takes you to India and beyond. In fact, I have been so fearing a life post Shantaram, that now that I am down to the last 100 pages, I am reading a page a day. Will explain all of that in another post.

But the go slow read also means that I have freed myself to delve into some other books that have been sitting on my book shelf for days, weeks, months. One of them happens to be Chetan Bhagat's 'One Night At A Call Centre' which is missing all the writing hiccups that slowed the pace of 'Five Point Someone'. Read it in a day, must admit it was fun and breezy. Given its conversational style, the movie in the works comes as absolutely no surprise.

Another book that came way was simply spectacular.

We all know there are books and there are more books. Some original, some plagiarised, some fun, some clearly not to be touched - even with that proverbial barge pole.

But when you get something that gives you a mix of Manila, London and Sri Lanka with a heady dose of cricket thrown in, you've got the cricket buff in me hooked for sure. And if it comes from none other than the award-winning author, who in the past has given us works like 'Monkfish Moon', 'Reef', 'Heaven's Edge' and 'The Sandglass' to contend with, its more than enough reason to stay up all night.

Well, if you haven't already guessed it, I'm speaking of Romesh Gunesekera. His brilliant first novel dealt with lost innocence in the final years before the war. Since then, he has dealt with love, longing and loss, but the treatment you get in 'The Match' is simply stirring.

With two key cricket matches bookending this work, the symbolism is unparalleled. One takes place at a time of great upheaval in Manila, another at the Oval in London.

The story is told largely through Sunny. We meet him as a teenager growing up with his father, a Sri Lankan journalist turned Public Relations professional who moved to Manila to be part of the 'free press'. Something that had been promised in the Philippines before all the rapidly unfolding political events made it all fall apart.

Sunny's mother committed suicide (something he would discover much later) and growing up with a rather distant father, he is hungry to find out all about love. The first whiff of love surfaces and disappears in the form of a crush he has on the stunning Tina. It all unfolds at a cricket match, organised with a couple of expatriates living in Manila.

You feel the heady rush as the wickets are pulled out, the gloves donned, the wickets and wind screens smashed - not necessarily in that order. From there things move on to London, where Sunny pretty much ambles along with his life, drops out of engineering, discovers photography and love in the form of Clara.

It is with her that he gets his share of the joys of fatherhood. Gunesekera's prose truly sings when he talks about the deeper issues of being away in a home far away from home.

A process of self-discovery marks Sunny's voyage to to Sri Lanka. It is through that journey that the chaos that is rapidly unfolding in Sri Lanka is subtly captured, shaking and stirring you to the very core.

Like it's happening in real life, you have the Norwegian peace keepers at work on the ground and the Sri Lankan cricket team taking the game to "full decibel level" at the Oval where they clash with India.

It is here that you witness the "possibility of a renewal", of an unsettled past coming to grips with the present to take on what could perhaps be an even more gripping future.

Like all of his past work, Gunesekera's 'The Match' is all of this and a whole lot more, which is why, in my view, it is more than just essential reading for our times.