The title of the book, “Funny Boy,” is somewhat ironic to the character of the protagonist. Selvadurai, through the title, skillfully propels us to divert our minds from the actual notion of the boy’s character. It slightly hides away the actual term which should have been associated to the boy. The word “Funny which refers to the protagonist, Arjie, is not only confined to him being humorous or comical, but has a much more diverse counterpart to it. It’s refers to him (Arjie) being “socially funny and hence, unacceptable.
Selvadurai seems like an omniscient writer as he describes Arjie exactly as his father describes him as he first encounters his “supposedly homosexual character. The story is set in the backdrop of the political tensions that escalated between the Sinhalese and Tamilians in Sri Lanka leading up to the 1983 riots. Arjie was a boy of around seven years of age. Unlike the other boys of his age, who used to play cricket and engage in other “masculine games and conversations, Arjie was more interested in playing “feminine games.
He was intrigued by the sight of his mother getting dressed in front of the mirror, wearing her accessories and putting on make-up. His grandmother’s closet, and every such, female related stuffs excited him. Whenever he used to go to his grandparents’ place with his parents and siblings, he used to play “Bride-Bride” along with his cousin sisters, playing the central character of the bride. For the children, the grandparents’ house was divided into two parts- the front garden and the field belonged to the boys, whereas, the back garden and kitchen porch was the area of which Arjie was a part of, it belonged to the girls.
This territorial demarcation did not just determine the separate gendered space of pleasure and recreation, but also marked a whole new world in which the children used to carry out their comportment entity. Albeit biologically a boy, nothing boyish happened to enthrall him. It can also be concluded that Arjie was authoritative. He loved to be the center of attraction. Though he wasn’t really a part of the boys’ group, he never even wanted to be a part of it. He enjoyed being a part of the girls’ troop.
This could be because he wasn’t given much attention in the group of boys because neither was he good at cricket, nor the boys appreciated him. While on the other hand, in the confinement of the girls’, he was given much more felicitation and significance. He used to play the central character; the bride, in their game. He used to relish the whole act of getting dressed and having his female cousins around him to pamper him and serve him. He used to love getting dressed up as a girl.
But his pleasure clearly did not come out as a pleasure to his family, especially his parents. Having previously come across a situation of homosexuality (his father avers that what if he turns out to be like the “funny” Rankotwera boy), his father seemed well aware of childhood sexual identity crises. He realized that this kind of sexual disorientation during Arjie’s childhood might have serious repercussions in the later stage of his life. Everyone was aware that Arjie was just not another boy and has more of feminine traits to him.
When his parents came to know about his indifferent behavior, they tried to suppress his desires and behaviors by forcing him to play with the boys and not girls. But this did not please Arjie. He did not want to be a part of the boys group. He felt as a social out-group among them. An esoteric reason behind his queer sexual character lies in the fact he was treated by his family. For instance, despite of him being a boy, he was the only one amongst his siblings who was allowed to watch his mother dress up. The act of his mother getting dressed and artistically being transformed, aroused a sense of pleasure in him.
He soon developed an inclination towards the entire activity of getting dressed and transmogrifying as someone more beautiful. We can also construe that, the notion of communal riots that were sliding in, also had an effect on him. Maybe, in order to escape the harsh reality of violence and the Tamil-Sinhala rigmarole, we find Arjie also escaping away from the reality of his own sexuality. This is a laudable work of Selvadurai as he makes us to understand not only the distinct sexual character of a child but also the underlying principles for such.