Blind faith

17 01 2017

Years ago I read a short story by Khushwant Singh titled “Mark of Vishnu”. It’s a story of a devout person Ganga Ram whose blind faith leads to his untimely death. He worships a deadly poisonous black cobra foolishly and practically invites its wrath and thus his instant death. The story might seem dramatic and far-fetched but to me, it’s akin to a parable. It carries a profound moral and conveys a powerful message against superstitions and the need to exercise rational thinking.

Somehow I feel like that Ganga Ram sometimes. Many times. Whenever I’m under-prepared. Whenever I don’t have a plan B. Whenever I rely completely on others’ expertise, kindness or good nature. Sure some of them are calculated risks but still. Ganga Ram’s fate serves as a strong reminder to guard myself from my own foolishness, not to have blind faith in anyone or anything. It might seem like common sense. One may even be appalled that it has to be stated aloud. But one shouldn’t forget – everything is common sense in hindsight.

I feel that the story’s all the more significant for me because faith has always been my default response. It’s effortless. It’s convenient. Unlike doubt and skepticism, which are harder. Nonetheless, Ganga Ram is never too far from my consciousness, ever since I was acquainted with him. I remind myself – No Blind Faith.

I would like to take a moment to appreciate the author, Khushwant Singh, for the no-nonsense genuinity of the story. I would say brilliant piece of lit.


Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

14 09 2014

“Troubled Daughters, Twisted wives” is a collection of psychological suspense stories from half a century earlier. The authors are all female and are supposed to be the trailblazers of domestic suspense. The editor Sarah Weinman claims that these praise-worthy authors, but unfortunately not widely acclaimed now, laid the  foundation for today’s crime fiction by women. These stories give the reader a fine taste of surreal literature. The stories are both subtle and chilly. Each one of the 14 stories is unique and deals with the pysche of the woman involved in a distinct way. My favorites among the collection include:

51SzgtNJIpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Heroine by Patracia Highsmith. It’s a worthy piece to start the bundle of riveting stories. What the innocent, well-intended nanny is capable of leaves the reader shocked!

A Nice Place to Stay by Nedra Tyre reminded me of “The Cop and the Anthem” by O.Henry, in which the protagonist Soapy fruitlessly attempts to get arrested by employing a variety of tactics so that he gets a place to stay for the ruthless night. The story ends with an irony.

In Nedra Tyre’s story all the protagonist ever wanted is a nice place to stay. When she is convicted of a crime she didn’t commit and sent to the prison, she finally seems  to have her wish fulfilled and feels content. However, it turns out to be short-lived as she is snatched away from her cocoon by a ambitious lawyer who proved her innocence to his personal glory.

Lousia, Please Come Home by Shirley Jackson is another jewel with a ironic end. A girl runs away from her home and tries her best to be a new person so as not to be found. But when she finally wants to go back to her home, she couldn’t anticipate what’s awaiting her.

In A Case of Maximum Need by Celia Fremlin,  a 87-year old , practically invalid, woman’s vehemently protests against having a telephone installed in her house. Despite her objections, when the welfare worker gets her a telephone, the reader is embarked on a journey to chilling revelation.

The People Across the Canyon by Dorothy Salisbury Davis is an uncanny story about a little girl and her crush on the new neighbors. It surely is an eerie story.

The collection makes a very interesting and worthy read.

Nijaniki Feminijaniki Madhya

25 04 2013

Nidadhavolu Malathi

This collection of 45 stories by Nidadhavolu Malathi was a random pick from the library. I never heard about either the book or the author before and hence started reading it with certain skepticism. Soon, I got absorbed into the varied themes the stories touched upon and realized that I like the collection. The author dealt with subtle emotions and portrayed the prevalent societal norms and values in the most non-dramatic manner. Some of them depicted NRI lives in USA. This is the first time I encountered that theme in Telugu literature and I found it refreshing.

Also, one important thing that struck me as I read through the stories was that the protagonists were not idealistic; they were normal with their own shortcomings and insecurities. They didn’t do great things and didn’t often solve their own problems. I felt that the author didn’t try to convey any message or tried to solve the characters’ issues, which makes these stories an artistic record of the author’s astute and fine observations of human behavior. Essentially this characteristic leaves a lot for the readers to think about and reflect on.

Barring a few stories, which didn’t appeal to me, the collection makes a decent read.

PS: Part of South Asian Women Writers Challenge

Manasuko Daaham

20 04 2013

Manasuko Daaham

This is a collection of stories by Kuppili Padma. I’ve read her before and so knew what to expect and I was not disappointed. Her stories always feature a strong, independent woman who lives and leads her life on her own terms not bowing down to the oppressing, discriminating, and hypocritical society. She  –  the protagonist – thinks clearly, is sure of herself, seeks love, and exhibits high individuality. And she embraces the consequences, displaying commendable courage. She holds respect for people with similar traits. Most of the stories in this collection deal about and question the ingrained beliefs and norms of the patriarchial society. The stories tug at your heart and it’s very difficult to pick up a favorite from the collection.

PS: Part of South Asian Women Writers Challenge

Release and Other Stories

3 05 2012

“Release and Other Stories” by Rakhshanda Jalil is a collection of ten stories featuring Indian Muslims. Each story  is sensible in its own way and lingers in one’s mind long after it’s read. Above all, I loved the look and feel of sleek hardbound and its crisp pages with beautiful font and generously spaced text. Loved the book cover too. I found it irresistibly giftable. 🙂

“A Mighty Heart” is about a woman who accepts the sons of her husband with his, so far secret, other wife. It is incredulous that that person maintain two wives simultaneously keeping the first wife in dark, calls both his wives with the same name, produces similar set of offspring in the same order with the two women and even names the two sets of children the same to avoid confusion and possible trouble. Lol!

“The Failure” is about a man, in the opinion of the narrator, who has failure written on his face. He turns his majestic house in the middle of nowhere  into a luxury hotel and keeps it in tip-top condition for two years until his first guests arrive.  In “The Perfect Couple”, the husband gets all distressed and shaky upon the sudden and possibly terminal illness of his beloved wife. When an equally distressed colleague of her visits her in the hospital room, the husband receives the jolt of his life when he witnesses the love between his wife and her colleague, as is evident by the way they look at each other holding hands.

“The Strange Man” is about a wealthy man who wanders the streets of a popular hill station in a strange manner, clasping a tape recorder to his breast and cooing to it, oblivious of his surroundings. The story ends with the narrator’s reflection upon learning who the man actually is : “Compulsions that drive people, compulsions that make them do the oddest of things.”

In “The Stalker”, a middle-aged, plain-looking woman is stalked by an unknown person, whom she confronts in the end only to find the face of a teenage boy under the mysterious baseball cap. She couldn’t let out her anger and frustration seeing the innocent expression of pure love etched on his face. She could only wonder –” Who can ever fathom the depths of another heart?”

When Zulfi meets Dia after about 25 years, he discovers that the demure young girl of 19 got transformed into “A Real Woman” of mid-forties and he feels intimidated by her. “The Incident of the Frozen Snake” is a gossip story about a rising star who turns mad after seeing a frozen snake trying to get up from the birthday cake,  which was sent to her as a revenge from the Fading Star, whose long-time beau had been smitten by the rising star. Is it funny or tragic?? Not sure!

“Release”, the title story is about lost love, similar to Devdas. Hasan, who couldn’t stand up against his mother, loses Arza, his childhood love and puts his past behind him until he visits Arza on her death bed fifty years later.

Loved this quote from Release:

“A flower, no matter how sturdy the branch it grows on or how deep the roots of the tree that bears it, can have only one of the two fates: it can either bear fruit, or fall off the branch. No flower can expect to linger forever. So it is with young love; it must find union or wither away.”

A couple of verses from famous Urdu poets appeared in this story, which simply captivated me:

Your thought kept coming and going

Like my breath, all night long

——- Makhdum Mohiuddin

Come, let us weave our dreams of tomorrow

Or else, this night from these hard times

Shall sting us, and for the rest of our lives

We shall never gain be able to weave another beautiful dream

——-Sahir Ludhainvi

“The Break Up” is about a woman who finally finds the courage to break up her marriage. In “A Holiday Gone Awry” three girls get raped by a few men in the hills in front of the brother of one of the girls. As ghastly a tale as it turns out to be, the narrator wonders about what could have been the impact on the 12 year old boy who had to witness such a gruesome event.

Interestingly, all the stories are told in third person, who is often a person inside the story narrating a story. 🙂

Acchhaa hai dil ke saath rahe paasbaan-e aql

Lekin kabhi kabhi isey tanhah bhii chhor de


Short Cuts

28 05 2011

This collection of short stories (9 stories and a poem) by Raymond Carver is a delightful read. It offers glimpses into the ordinary lives of American families. What makes these stories endearing is the utter simplicity of them and their characters. It is easy to relate with them.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable around the stories which leave unanswered questions, either as to the motives of the characters or as to the rationality behind the happenings or the like. So many of the critically acclaimed stories come into this category that I was first afraid that I was going to read another such bunch in Short Cuts but I was wrong. These stories cannot be farther from such stories which evoke strange feelings and often leave me utterly confused.

I always prefer those stories which have a proper beginning and more importantly, a proper, clear, and satisfying end. While I can’t say that the stories in Short Cuts meet this expectation of mine completely, they do not seem unreal or distant or make me feel  bewildered. The stories in this collection are different in that they portray the true picture of emotions people feel. In life, we don’t always act or feel rationally and we cannot always explain our urges or motives or actions. It is this struggle with our own selves and with those around us that these stories tried to depict.

Only one story in this book, titled “Collectors” made so little sense to me that I’m not even able to describe what it’s about. 😐 I may want to read it again sometime later with a fresh mind, in the hope to be able to better appreciate it.

It may be interesting to note that these stories are made into a film titled “Short Cuts” by Robert Altman; like a string of stories with exposes different facets of something. In fact, it is Robert who brought these stories, which were part of different collections earlier, together in this book.  The movie “Short Cuts” vaguely reminds me of “Das Kahaniyah” of Bollywood (a string of 10 separate stories).

Rashomon and Other Stories

25 05 2011

This is a collection of six stories written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa and translated by Takashi Kojima. These stories were written in the beginning of the twentieth century. The author is considered to have a significant place in the modern Japanese literature.

The six stories are each strikingly different and fabulous. “Rashomon”  was the largest gate in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. With the decline of the West Kyoto, the gate fell into bad repair, and became a hideout for thieves and a place for abandoning unclaimed corpses. The story is about how a samurai who just lost his job prefers to thieve to starvation against his initial reservations.

“In the Grove” is the story of the killing of a samurai through the conflicting testimony of witnesses, including the spirit of the murdered man. “Yam-Gruel” is a story about a lowly official, who has forever been humiliated by everyone, whose only desire in life is to have his fill of special dish – Yam-Gruel; how this desire has made him go very far; and what happened when he actually had his wish fulfilled.

“The Martyr” is about a boy who follows Jesus in practice and sacrifices his life in the process.  “Kesa and Morito” is a complex, seemingly conflicting lines of thought of two secret lovers. Finally, “The Dragon” is a fable about a priest who invents a lie with the malicious intent to make fools of everyone as a sort of revenge.

This short book is truly a rewarding read.