Create your own identity
Q: Could you tell us about your book Jaffna Boy and what inspired you to write it?
A: Jaffna Boy is about my life as a boarder for 11 years while I attended school in Jaffna. This period was a unique experience.
Great friendships were forged among people from different walks of life with various personalities and temperaments. The book tells many stories including the fun times in college.
When I left school, I felt like a failure. However, those who know me and read Jaffna Boy are aware of what I’ve achieved since then. The book has a strong underlying message about believing in yourself and perseverance.
Q: How have you maintained a connection with Sri Lanka while living abroad?
A: I began my career in Sri Lanka and retired in the UK. I’ve travelled widely and when asked where I’m from, I say Sri Lanka. In fact, my response would be that I’m a Sri Lankan with an Australian passport living in the UK who worked for an American bank, drives a German car and wears clothes manufactured in Vietnam.
Following my retirement, I became a non-executive director of National Development Bank (NDB). I’ve also invested in several startups in Sri Lanka and London. Due to my position as an NDB board member, I travel to Sri Lanka at least eight times a year.
Q: What are the unique opportunities you’ve enjoyed by living in the UK that may not have been available to you in Sri Lanka?
A: More than opportunities, I’ve been exposed to different perspectives. A significant difference in the UK is the respect people extend to others.
For example, when you’re stopped by the police, they apologise to you for interrupting your journey and only then proceed to make inquiries. This is not the case in Sri Lanka.
Another example is that what seems minor to us matters to people here – even if it’s a cat trapped in a drain.
Sri Lankans are good at thrashing themselves; a good example of this is the criticism levelled when we lose a cricket match. People here fully support their country.
Q: How do you maintain a balance between embracing the British culture and preserving your own identity while living overseas?
A: When you move countries, you learn to adapt and grasp the different ways of thinking.
People in the UK are not bothered by your wealth, religion or social status. Sri Lankans are easy to connect and work with, which is widely acknowledged.
However, you must create your own identity when living in foreign lands.