Poet and fiction writer Romesh Gunesekera was born in Sri Lanka in 1954. He spent his early childhood in Colombo, in an educated English-speaking middle class world, in the hangover of British colonial values and attitudes. As a child, he was taught Sinhala and English and became fluent in both languages. At 12 or 13 years old, Gunesekera’s parents moved to the Philippines were his father established the Asian development bank. Here, Gunesekera completed his schooling and became an avid reader, unusually for his peer group,he was fond of popular English and American adventure novels. At fifteen years old, he began writing poetry to amuse himself and his friends. He wrote in the style of the 1940s and 50s ‘Beat Generation’.
At seventeen, Gunesekera was sent to England to do his A levels. He went on to read English and Philosophy at Liverpool University and won the Rathborne Prize in Philosophy in 1976.
As a teenager, Gunesekera knew he wanted to write and thought he might become a journalist,although he secretly wanted to write a book. In the mid-nineties, in an interview with Salil Tripathi in Asia Inc. Magazine, Gunesekera said, ‘When adults around me had a good time, they often read poetry, laughed, talked about music. They didn’t talk about town planning. I thought this is the high point; there must be something good about books. So, I assumed we’d all want to write. Only later, I found that the world doesn’t give a damn about it.’