Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category


Culture Curry of the East

Review of Raconteurs From The Hills; Talilula , Vishu Rita Krocha, Agnes Tepa, Emisen Jamir, Imti Longchar, Lhutu Keyho; Pen Thrill Publishing 2014; Rs 199; pp 122

– Aditi Vinayakan

It happens almost instantly. One moment you might be in your room, the next you get a whiff of what Nagamese culture is all about, both good and the bad through the six authors that made Raconteurs from the hills.

Out of the 13 thirteen stories, my personal favorite would be ‘A Porcine tale’ by Talilula, a satire that most definitely manages to keep you reading further. After reading ‘Diary of two dog meat fanatics’ your face might either have a smile or leave you frowning for the sheer quirkiness of it.

I’ve never been to Nagaland, but reading this work has made me want to travel solo all the way to the Far East to discover the truth behind these stories. After all, creation of fiction does require some amount of factual data that leads to its very birth that makes us want to live right in it.

The cover of the book has a certain calmness to it that reminds me of mountains and the peace that comes with being amongst it. It’s one of those books that you might just enjoy cuddling up with on a lazy Sunday. Bring in some rain and a cup of hot coffee, and you’re all set to be taken to a place that you would never want to come back from.

One of the best things about the book is the fact that it not only is suitable for pleasure reading but it actually makes you think about your society and the society that you’ve come to know and realise through the words of another.

All in all Raconteurs From The Hills is definitely a good read and worth every penny.


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Rating: 9.1/10 (7 votes cast)

What Goes Around… Definitely Comes Around

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.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (5 votes cast)

A Little Bit of This and That

Review of Rose Gardens and Minefields – A Literary Bhelpuri; Vivek Pereira; Virgin Leaf Books 2010; Rs 95; pp 64

– Shana Susan Ninan

Yep, Vivek Pereira has whipped up a literary bhelpuri with his poems, short stories and essays. The author introduces his book to us with the lines, “The world we live in is full of beautiful rose gardens and dangerous minefields… In this book, rose gardens represent anything that is good, beautiful, pleasant, loveable and inspirational. Minefields, on the other hand, represent everything that is evil, ugly, destructive, demoralising and fearful.

And so his book shares with you thoughts and lines on life, love, dreams, wars, plight of women, terrorism and other problems. The first poem is about the economist Adam Smith trying to enter heaven. The poem on husbands is something we can all relate to! Vivek has also written a poem that can be sung in rap – quite interesting, actually.

His short stories are a pleasure to read – one has an undercover angel sent on a mission to Hell by God. The mission is to continue portraying Hell as the oft-pictured burning purgatory. But the angel finds it isn’t so, and decides to stick on there, without returning to Heaven. We can see an out of the ordinary take on corruption in the Heavensgate Scandal short story. In his work, the author believes that the fate of the Indian woman is in her hands itself, as she moves out from the kitchen to pursue independent careers.

Other topics covered are secularism, Maoist rebellions across India, terrorism, communalism and sports in the country. Vivek’s words are lucid and one reading is enough to get the gist of what he’s saying. In fact, he deals with topics that are commonplace and well-understood. The cover is a clutter-free one with soothing colours and fonts – something I love.

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Rating: 9.4/10 (32 votes cast)

The Unique Approach of Basavaraj Naikar

Review of Rayanna The Patriot And Other Novellas; Basavaraj Naikar; GNOSIS (An imprint of Authorspress); pp 300

– Murli Melwani

Basavaraj Naikar occupies a unique place in the history of the Indian Short Story in English. Naikar draws his inspiration from the great store house of Indian legends and myths, folk tales and the oral tradition of storytelling.

Naikar creates a society similar to the one found in the traditional tales. It is a community with high ideals where man is essentially good. Evil is present in this society, and its designs do upset the normal order. But evil exists, first, to highlight the good and, second, as a force to be defeated in the end. Miracles occur and are not regarded as something out of the ordinary. It is a state where the worlds of the devas and human beings intersect. Call it “magical realism” if you like – before the term became fashionable.

Like the traditional tales, one incident follows another in a Naikar story. Events are often telescoped so that the pace remains brisk.

In the matter of theme, Naikar seeks his inspiration from the classical treatise, the Natya Shastra. According to the Natya Shastra each creative endeavor should exemplify a particular rasa or pleasure principle but which must find resolution in shanta.

This approach informs Naikar’s stories irrespective of whether they are set in the past, as most of his are, as well as the few set in contemporary times.

Naikar’s unique approach was acknowledged when his collection of short stories, The Thief of Nagarahalli and Other Stories, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize in 2000.

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Rating: 6.6/10 (5 votes cast)

Sensitive and multi-layered

Review of Spotting Veron and other Stories; Ankush Saikia; Rupa 2011; pp 192

Murli Melwani

Spotting Veron, the title story in Ankush Saikia’s collection, Spotting Veron and other Stories, really begins with its last sentence. To put it differently, the narrative curve of the story is like the symbol of a snake curling round to eat its tail. What the last sentence does is to light up the various dimensions of the story.

The story can be summarized in one sentence: it records the 40-plus hour journey of the narrator from Shillong to Delhi by taxi and train. What cannot be summarized: the thoughts of the narrator about the passengers who board and disembark at various cities; the narrator’s reaction to what happens during the long journey. The three flashbacks of his stay in Shillong, as well as references to his feelings of unease and unexplainable irritation, help to fill in the background and personality of the narrator.

This story was entered – and shortlisted – as a travel piece in the Outlook/Picador-India non-fiction competition in 2005. Yet it reads wonderfully well as a short story. The reason: the element of suggestion gives depth to the story. The author rightly depends on the reader’s sensitivity to fill in the blanks.

Suggestion in fact is what characterizes each story in the collection and gives it its power to move.

This is strikingly evident in a story like Two Ending. In just two and a half pages, Saikia recreates the atmosphere of fear and lawlessness that characterized the movement, in the late sixties and seventies, in the Khasi Hills, particularly in Shillong, demanding the ouster of dkhars (non-tribals) and the creation of a separate state.

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Rating: 6.8/10 (6 votes cast)

A New Voice Adds to the Richness and Variety of the Assamese Short Story

Review of  Next Door; Jahnavi Barua; Penguin India; Rs 250

Murli Melwani

The mekhla sador made of muga is an apt metaphor for the Assamese short story. Just as muga enriches its sheen after every wash, each subsequent generation of writers, right from the 19th century, refined and expanded the Assamese short story. This, in spite of an irony. The irony is that the theme chosen by all the Assamese short story writers is just one: the social milieu and how it affects the individual.

Lakshminath Bezbarua, who may be called the father of the Assamese short story, wrote about the social situation of the time with gentle satire. His approach may suggest that types, not characters, peopled his stories; the contrary was the case. The short stories of his contemporary, Sarat Chandra Goswami, shifted the emphasis from society to individuals.

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Rating: 6.0/10 (5 votes cast)

“A short story is a collaboration between a writer and a reader.”

– Shana Susan Ninan

Murli Melwani is the perceptive author of Themes In The Indian Short Story In English: An Historical And A Critical Survey. Below is an email interview of his. You’ll note that his insightful remarks and comments in the book are quite repeated here in the interview. Keen and crisp observations bear a mark in his answers.

SSN: Besides Indian short stories in English being under-projected, what were your reasons to do a critical survey of the same?

MM: The reasons are both literary and personal. First, the literary. Look at all the cultures and sub-cultures we have in this huge country. You need flexible literary forms to convey the essence of these patterns of life. After poetry, the short story is the most flexible of literary forms.

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Rating: 5.0/10 (6 votes cast)