Funny Boy

Sri Lanka’s second-largest ethnic group, dominant in the island’s northern and eastern portions, as well as their language (which is Dravidian and historically unrelated to Sinhala). The majority of Tamils actually live in the part of South India closest to Sri Lanka, but Tamils do not have their own state, which spurred the Tamil Tigers to fight a violent campaign to create such a state (which they wanted to call Eelam). Arjie and his family are Tamils, although not all of them speak Tamil and they recognize that they are under constant threat as an ethnic minority in divided Sri Lanka, especially since many Sinhalese associate all Tamils with the Tigers. The book is punctuated by both violence committed by the Tamil Tigers and violence committed by Sinhalese mobs and the government against Tamil citizens.

Tamil Quotes in Funny Boy

The Funny Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Tamil or refer to Tamil. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Funny Boy published in 1994.
1. Pigs Can’t Fly Quotes

From my sling-bag I would bring out my most prized possession, an old white sari, slightly yellow with age, its border torn and missing most of its sequins. The dressing of the bride would now begin, and then, by the transfiguration I saw taking place in Janaki’s cracked full-length mirror—by the sari being wrapped around my body, the veil being pinned to my head, the rouge put on my cheeks, lipstick on my lips, kohl around my eyes—I was able to leave the constraints of my self and ascend into another, more brilliant, more beautiful self, a self to whom this day was dedicated, and around whom the world, represented by my cousins putting flowers in my hair, draping the palu, seemed to revolve. It was a self magnified, like the goddesses of the Sinhalese and Tamil cinema, larger than life; and like them, like the Malini Fonsekas and the Geetha Kumarasinghes, I was an icon, a graceful, benevolent, perfect being upon whom the adoring eyes of the world rested.

Related Characters: Arjie (speaker), Janaki
Related Symbols: The Bride-Bride Sari
Page Number: 4-5
Explanation and Analysis:
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2. Radha Aunty Quotes

“Be careful. We Sinhalese are losing patience with you Tamils and your arrogance.”

Related Characters: Anil’s Father (speaker), Radha Aunty, Ammachi, Anil Jayasinghe
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Radha Aunty didn’t answer for a moment. “Until a few days ago I only thought of Rajan, but now I find myself thinking of Anil as well.”

Mala Aunty sighed. “It’ll never work.”

“But other Sinhalese and Tamil people get married.”

“I know,” Mala Aunty replied, “but they have their par­ents’ consent.

“If two people love each other, the rest is unimportant.”

“No, it isn’t. Ultimately, you have to live in the real world. And without your family you are nothing.”

Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
3. See No Evil, Hear No Evil Quotes

“You’re putting your life at risk for nothing,” Amma insisted.

“It’s not nothing,” Daryl Uncle said. “People are being tortured and killed even as we sit in all this opulence.”

Related Characters: Amma (speaker), Daryl Uncle (speaker), Arjie, Appa
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
4. Small Choices Quotes

“But we are a minority, and that’s a fact of life,” my father said placatingly. “As a Tamil you have to learn how to play the game. Play it right and you can do very well for yourself. The trick is not to make yourself conspicuous. Go around quietly, make your money, and don’t step on anyone’s toes.” […] “It’s good to have ideals, but now you're a man, son.”

Related Characters: Appa (speaker), Jegan Parameswaran
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
6. Riot Journal: An Epilogue Quotes

Chithra Aunty began to cry. Amma went to her and tried to comfort her. There was something ironic about that. Amma comforting Chithra Aunty. Yet I understood it. Chithra Aunty was free to cry. We couldn’t, for if we started we would never stop.

Related Characters: Arjie (speaker), Amma, Appa, Sena Uncle, Chithra Aunty
Related Symbols: Arjie’s Burned-Down House
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

He was trying to cheer me up, and as I listened to him talk, something occurred to me that I had never really been conscious of before—Shehan was Sinhalese and I was not. This awareness did not change my feelings for him, it was simply there, like a thin translucent screen through which I watched him.

Related Characters: Arjie (speaker), Shehan Soyza, Sena Uncle, Chithra Aunty
Related Symbols: Arjie’s Burned-Down House
Page Number: 296-297
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Tamil Term Timeline in Funny Boy

The timeline below shows where the term Tamil appears in Funny Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
2. Radha Aunty
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...but explains that the body was Ammachi’s father’s, and that he was killed for being Tamil in the 1950s, two decades before. Appa is reluctant to explain the war, but simply... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...his wife calls him away, he warns that “we Sinhalese are losing patience with you Tamils and your arrogance.” Anil apologizes; Radha and Arjie make to leave, but before they leave,... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...and should not cross her family. She also notes that the ethnic tensions between the Tamils and Sinhalese are worsening, as the Tamil Tigers are becoming more violent. This might make... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...you are making the right decision.” In fact, Doris regrets her own marriage to a Tamil man—her Burgher family never forgave her and left Sri Lanka in secret, never to be... (full context)
4. Small Choices
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
Instead, Amma is the one who asks Jegan about the Gandhiyam movement—which resettles Tamils uprooted by the riots—and then flatly asks if they are “connected with the Tigers.” Appa... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...down and explains that “that’s the way we do things here.” Jegan decides “it’s a Tamil-Sinhala thing, isn’t it?” and calls the policy “ridiculous,” but Appa explains that the region is... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...tortured—and of whom Arjie reminds him. This friend migrated to Canada, while Jegan joined the Tamil Tigers—which Arjie is astonished to hear, but promises not to recount. Jegan has since quit,... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...track. Later, through the newspaper, Arjie learns that the man with the tracksuit is a Tamil government minister. On the next day, Jegan starts going to a different park. (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...two men he talked to at the racetrack were Tigers “planning to assassinate a prominent Tamil politician.” He makes Arjie recount “exactly what [he] saw” that day. After, Amma declares that... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...ASSASSINATION PLOT DISCOVERED.” It is Jegan, and the article says he “resides with a well-known Tamil hotelier.” Amma and Appa field phone calls all morning, and at lunch he explains that... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...to Amma, who thinks he “should have taken Jegan’s side.” But Appa explains that “as Tamils we must tread carefully,” which is the only “realistic” thing to do. Amma laments that... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...in the riots of 1981, the Banduratne Mudalali orchestrated “all the killings and burnings” of Tamils in the area. (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...afterward, see a crowd forming at Jegan’s patio. In Sinhalese, the words “Death to all Tamil pariahs” are written on his window. Appa refuses to translate for a guest who asks... (full context)
5. The Best School of All
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...with a threatening boy named Salgado, who says Arjie is not welcome because he is Tamil (even though he does not speak Tamil and has always been in Sinhalese medium classes).... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...returns with rumpled clothing. After another week, Arjie watches Salgado and his posse drag Cheliah—a Tamil student—into a bathroom stall, presumably to beat him up. In the hallway, Arjie meets Soyza,... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...Tie was an orphan, raised by the school’s previous principal. Mr. Sunderalingam insists that, as Tamils, they must both support Black Tie in his power struggle with Lokubandara. In fact, Arjie... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...Thinking about Black Tie’s cruelty toward Shehan and himself, and then Salgado’s cruelty toward the Tamil boys (which Lokubandara sanctioned), Arjie feels like he has no good option. When he gets... (full context)
6. Riot Journal: An Epilogue
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...the morning and Appa informed the family that “there was trouble in Colombo. All the Tamil houses near the Kanaththa Cemetery had been burnt.” The family is dumbstruck and Amma wonders... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...Sena Uncle and Chithra Aunty visited the site of the riots and confirmed that the Tamils’ houses really were burned down, and the violence is spreading. The adults finish their conversation... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...In fact, “the mobs [got] electoral lists” from the government and used them to find Tamil families—which means Arjie’s family has to leave their house, or they will remain at risk. (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...awful has happened.” Someone anonymously called Sena Uncle and said they knew he was sheltering Tamils, and that that night they would all be killed and his house burned. Amma and... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...in the curfew—for the purpose of buying groceries—was useless, because so many grocery stores were Tamil-owned and thus burned down. Many people visit Arjie, but “only bring dismal and depressing news.”... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...been moved out. The president gave an address which “expressed no sympathy for what we Tamils have suffered, nor […] condemn[ed] the actions of the thugs.” In the garden, Appa tells... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...PM on the same day, Arjie writes that the rioters have returned, yelling that the Tamil Tigers are now in Colombo—a story that the radio denies. Ammachi and Appachi left for... (full context)