Review of Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories; Rochelle Potkar; Ebook 2013; pp 43
– Shana Susan Ninan
With seven short stories and two snippets spread over 43 pages, Rochelle Potkar’s ebook. Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories is a potpourri of love, loss and loneliness. The themes of love and sex running through all the narratives. The seemingly unimportant patterns of our lives are brought out in a very nuanced manner. Sometimes begging the reader to reread a paragraph just to delve into the seriousness it portrays. Stories of love, betrayal, sex with strangers, extra-marital sex, lives of devdasis and call girls, all find rampant mention in the book.
Rochelle has used visual imagery well to emphasise some of the lines. It lends a soft poetic background for the readers’ mind.
Sometimes he felt she was seeking aloud as she went on and on, mantra-like, her monotonous voice disengaging from her body, becoming a creature of its own, slithering sonorously to the sea.
And here’s one that captures a gender’s collected feeling, in the silent suffering one girl faces every day of her teenage life:
For only once a man moved inside her did she recognize who he truly was, retrieving a name from the repertoire of nicknames she kept for the shapes of bodies above her. There were so many of them even if they were just five of the biggest patrons of the temple. Each day caught them in a different mood with the feel and pace of their intimacies within her.
It was fate, they said, to be destined to God and devoured by men because she was the prettiest of devadasis.
Probably because she’s based in Mumbai, the sea plays a prominent role in most of the stories. Either as a place of calm, or a smoother of torments, or a safe-place for a recluse. There’s also a strong sense of companionship her characters share –sometimes for friendship, sometimes for just carnal pleasure. But then, the characters are all very ‘real’, as real as real can be explained. The passionate lover, the artist sugar daddy, the frustrated wife whose husband is double- and triple-timing her, the forlorn husband who catches his wife cheating oh him… are all sections of people you would come across on any given day, in your city.