What happens when you’re born in a land deeply entrenched in superstitions? And, what if, you’re born “ugly” and your own mother thinks that the “ugliness” is a sign that the demons have possessed your soul? How do you, then, adjust to the open brightness of the West when you leave your dark, mystical land and wade across the seas? Do the demons follow you ceaselessly?
This is the tale of Sonny Mahadewala who lives a dual life: between his adoptive England where he lives in eccentric union with a privileged American, and the mixed bliss of the Mahadewala Walauwa, the big house on the mountain belonging to his father’s family in Kandy – the ancient capital of Sri Lanka – where he has both good and awful memories.
Winding through The Ceaseless Chatter of Demons, Sonny’s path is replete with the question: Who is utterly good or utterly evil—and who, indeed, is the devil?
Here are 6 gems from Ashok Ferrey’s enchanting new book:
I was born ugly. That’s what my mother always said. I had thick curly black hair and flat features. But I had lustrous, velvety skin, even if it too was rather black for my mother’s refined Sanskritized tastes. My one great feature was my smile—it truly lit up the darkness I seemed to carry around with me—and it was surprisingly popular with the girls. Naturally, I smiled an awful lot. As expected, the only woman who was immune to this smile was my mother.
For the first time in my life, I found my looks not a hindrance. Even more enchanting, people actually believed what I uttered. They say there is an essential colour blindness between races: that the colour of your face camouflages your features from people not used to its hue, disguising what you really think, hiding who you really are. If so, I was the beneficiary of this dictum.
Luisa and I started seeing a lot of each other. I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment we became boyfriend and girlfriend; other people saw us together and gradually began to assume we were an item, till one day we began to assume it ourselves.
Contrary to popular belief, things were bad down in Hell. Numbers were dropping: people were just not interested in being wicked any more, though they were even less interested in being good. It was all to do with those mumbo jumbo Eastern philosophies which told you that to understand all was to forgive all. How could there be evil in the world if as soon as it popped up it was forgiven?
Oxford is built on a river and, as day ends, the cold comes creeping out of the water like some noxious effluent, dressed in rags, enveloping the town in the toxic embrace of its bony fingers. Once you have walked those streets at three in the morning and allowed the cold to enter your bones, you realize it is something that will never leave you. Years later, in the tropics, I could summon it at will from within my system in seconds by merely thinking of it.
There was no sex. Her Catholic scruples prevented her, she said, but I wasn’t so sure. She was heart-stoppingly, finger-quiveringly beautiful: a profile straight off an ancient Roman coin, corkscrew curls falling on either side of a perfect oval face. How on earth could she find me attractive? So I didn’t push the sex part.
Fascinated? Grab your copy of Ashok Ferrey’s beautiful book here!