Ashok Ferrey’s The Good Little Ceylonese Girl is a collection of short stories about Sri Lankans living in the country and abroad. This slim 193 page volume has 17 stories, all of them really quite short, presenting readers with little vignettes and fragments of his characters’ lives.
The poignant Dust is the story of Father Cruz and his fight with his parishioners, who want their donations used to beautify the church, whereas all he wants is to use the money to help the needy.
The toungue-in-check Maleeshya is a short account of how the editor of a high-flying society magazine arm twists those desperate for a mention in her magazine to conform to her vision of a marriage and even death.
Pig shows some of the similarities between Indian and Sri Lankan culture. It is the story of two childhood sweethearts Lalitha and Ruwan who grew up together but were married off to different people. They continued to meet clandestinely over the years. But when the time came for them to be able to get back together, Ruwan backed out because he realized, after 19 years of cheating on his wife, that Lalitha and he had changed:
“19 years. For two days every year we have been actor and actress in this well-rehearsed play with this well-known ending; but our real selves have moved on, only a fraction each year maybe, but we’re actually quite far apart now, aren’t we…”
Each story is a masterpiece. Some end quite well. Some leave you wondering what happened next. All of them collectively paint a cohesive picture of a changing Sri Lanka and a diaspora of Sri Lankans living abroad who are still holding on to old values, not realizing how things have changed at home.
Heartily recommend if you like reading South East Asian writers or want a glimpse into a different culture.