The book is a collection of short stories by Indira Parthasarathy, who is a renown Tamil writer and playwright. When I decided to pick up this particular edition, was not sure if I had read his previous works, though had a faint memory of having read, maybe years back. In the recent past, find myself being pulled into Tamil works, good ones, as if to appease the guilt, I seem to have harboured right from my teen years.
Opted for French in my final years in school, as foreign languages, seemed to lure you like no other. Tamil was so ‘local’, of course when compared to its more romantic and alluring counterpart! Well, so when most of my friends used to spend hours labouring through their Tamil literature and grammar, we the lucky few had a heyday, skimming and dilly-dallying with basics, a la l’ecole, le garcon, la fille, and and by the end of the course, found myself bursting with pride, that I could dash off a decent letter, all in French, even if it be to a Bookseller, to order quelques livres!
Well, back to the book in hand, was thoroughly impressed and even inspired by the writing. The style and content speaks of infinite command and mastery over the art of storytelling. Very powerful yet subtle. Silences brimming with intensity. Characters with morphed rage and lust, vice and greed. Characters with pain, borne of abject poverty and self damnation. They’re all there. Reverberating hollowness amidst the opulent class, stark bleakness that strangles the lower class, and the just about surviving, caught-in-the-middle class, are elicited, through sensitive and intricate character sketches. The author sustains the anticipation of the reader by presenting in each story, a surprise element, either in the form of content or the persona he portrays.
So many images rush through my mind, as I try to recollect or list a few of them. The father with his 10yr old daughter, on a hot sweltering Sunday noon awaits a bus, to take them home; what transpires then, seem to reinstate the absurdity, of trying to make a decent living, holding on to your mores. A soft spoken aspiring poet forced into a marriage of convenience, in a quirk of destiny transforms herself into a thumping success; her friend though tries in vain to search for traces of the lost someone. Are some things lost forever, overridden in pursuit of success? The flashy call-girl who turns up as the friendly neighbour, the conniving politician, making a fool of himself before a phirangi, the ever faithful manager, quitting because he finally realises what it is, to stand for what ones very being believes in. The list is endless, and the characters are endearing, each in their own way.
Another feature of Indira Parthasarathy's writing is that, the social issues, inconsistencies, delusions, codes, pressures, are brought out vividly, through the eyes of the protagonist, in accordance to his state of mind prevailing then, at that point of time. This helps the reader to totally identify himself with the situation, and the plethora of thoughts and emotions conveyed, making the reading process a very genuine experience, to be savoured and mulled over at leisure.
I would definitely recommend the book to all Tamil readers, and there seem to be translated versions available too. Seriously thinking of looking up his other award winning works, especially Kuruthi punal, the Sahitya Academy winner. Glad this quest for Tamil books, has turned out to be a rewarding and satisfying one, so far.