WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
If you haven't finished reading The Boat People and have stumbled onto this page by accident, it is not too late to navigate away. This page is meant for people who have already finished the book and want to know more about the ending so read on at your peril. Here is a photo of the Kali Kovil in Trincomalee. Spoilers after the photo.
Overwhelmingly readers want to know what happens next. How dare I leave you all hanging, dangling by your fingernails off the edge of the cliff?
Mahindan goes into the admissibility hearing ready to face the future head on. But Canada's refugee system is capricious. So much depends on individual adjudicators' good and bad moods, their ignorance and understanding. Maybe Grace is feeling generous. Maybe she's in a foul mood. Maybe her mind changes when she goes home and it's time to actually write up the decision. Maybe Grace asks Mahindan tough questions and he answers them well. Maybe he stumbles and she gets suspicious. Maybe - as one reader told me - Grace calls in sick and goes to the plaque unveiling with Kumi and the girls. I was so thrilled when I heard this ending. This wonderful reader had seen a possibility I had not imagined. But then what? I asked the reader. Who adjudicates the hearing? There are a whole bunch of adjudicators we have never even met and to me, in this scenario, Mahindan's fate is even more of a question mark. Let's say the adjudicator is Mitchell. Well we know he's a stickler for the law. If he learns about what Mahindan has done, it is game over. But maybe he will dismiss Amy Singh's arguments for lack of evidence and Mahindan will pass the hearing.
Mahindan's entire life has been a series of unlucky and lucky dice rolls. Stories are partnerships, co-created by writers and readers. I left the dice on the table for you to make the next roll. Put yourself in the adjudicator's uncomfortable shoes. You know what Mahindan's done and his motivations. Does he deserve to stay or be deported? You also know the forces and people working for and against him. You've met Grace and Fred Blair and Gigovaz and Priya. So also ask yourself: what do you think will happen to Mahindan and Sellian? Is it different from the judgement you would have made?
The other, more pragmatic, reason for the cliff hanger is that the admissibility hearing is not the end of the story. Even if Mahindan passes, he (just like Prasad and Hema and Savitri) must still go in front of the refugee board and have their final status determined. That could take months. And if Mahindan fails his admissibility hearing, that wouldn't be the end of the story either. I think you have seen enough of him to know that he is tenacious. Gigovaz and Priya would fight too, take the case up to the Supreme Court if they had to (that has happened in real life, by the way). No matter what happens at the hearing that Mahindan walks into at the end of the book, his fate could be held in limbo for years. So I could have ended the novel on a very negative note and had Grace (or someone else) order a deportation against poor Mahindan. Or I could have ended on an uplifting note and had Grace (or someone else) free him from prison and let him pass this hearing. But you see...either way it wouldn't be the end of the story.