29 Years


Monday, April 28, 2014
By Carol Andrade

This week, we look at one of the more accepted an dabbled with genres of writing – the short story. Most people believe they have a writer in them, and given the opportunity, are prepared to pen a thought or two in the form of a little piece that passes off as a short story. Some gems in writing have emerged this way. The Vanishing Act: Stories by Prawin Adhikari is a collection of extremely well-written stories by this Nepalese writer. Caravan is a unique compilation of short stories posted by writers on a website name litizen.com, and is proof that writing has progressed into whatever it is supposed to become.

A truth both brutal and beautiful
The Vanishing Act / Stories by Prawin Adhikari . The fascinating aspect of Indian writing in English today is the way it has turned inward on itself, looking not towards the West for its market, but addressing itself to the plurality of the country, manifested most  obviously, at the first level, in the sharp differences in its regional discourse. Now, stretch this to include the sub-continent with its largely common post-colonial linguistic heritage and one begins to understand that a lifetime can be spent exploring these different voices, born of the time and the place in which they originate. And we have not even begun to scratch the surface of what is actually in store for us.

In recent times, place seems to be the dominating idea of debut writing, whether it is from India or Bhutan, or, as in this case, Nepal. Voice, culture and perspective follow as a closely-combined second, and the effect is to feel one is on a ride through myriad cultures, listening to a people who may think as we do, but with almost a Haruki Murakami ever-so-slight tilt in perception that makes all the difference, making each experience excitingly new.  And so it is with Prawin Adhikari’s offering of nine stories,  placed in disparate settings that take you from Khaireni in central Nepal, to Kathmandu, and in one case, to California. In all the stories, the author’s voice moves like a sutradhar, providing the link, setting the pace, moving the action along in a curiously removed monotone that is even more effective as it narrates events funny and familiar, even as some of them descend  into tragedy and death.

In Mayapuri,  a small boy is drawn to a young woman, made intimately familiar and puzzled by her physicality. She bathes him, feeds him and looks after him while his own mother is out, scrounging for both of them. He young woman’s husband works in a construction company that is tunneling through a hill, and one day it comes down. As the little boy watches, the young woman disintegrates. “The shacks along the road had become other than domiciles: they were the instrument for an eerie kind of music, made up of equal parts of silences and screeches, of doors and window shutters flailed about on the hinges, the zip and tear of a blouse being torn, the throaty, hoarse sobs of a woman suffocating against the chest of another, voice lost after the first puncturing scream, stupefaction, hysteria.”

Life in modern Nepal of the same kind of uneven development, the culture steeped in corruption, the sturdy strength of its lower economic classes as the rest of the sub-continent, is hard, often brutal, usually ugly, especially among the people Adhikari writes about. But the moments of tenderness are lyrical, the harsh beauty of the landscape is written about poetically, the still life of the spirit very well delineated.

He holds the stories together successfully, his characters across continents engaged in the act of mere living with rare moments of lucidity and self-awareness,  the central thread of his story-telling.  Crafted carefully and lovingly, these are stories that one can return to in the future as well. The sooner Adhikari writes a full length novel, the better.
The Vanishing Act/Stories
By Prawin Adhikari.
Rupa publication
Rs 250.

Go ahead and join this carnival of writers
Carnival is a collection of 15 short stories posted on to this people-friendly site, litizen.com by various writers from around the country, and even abroad. This is an online platform that has encouraged hundreds of those who have had a story to tell but could nothing about it. The first time-writers have proved to be shockingly fascinating.

The brainchild of the Chaturvedi brothers, Rishab and Apurva, the modesty and earnestness behind this initiative becomes evident on the first pages which divulge nothing about the Chaturvedis, but rather give credit to ‘various authors’ with the mention ‘by Litizen.com.

’This is their second compilation, the earlier one being Labyrinth, which sells well even today. The first story, Rhode Island by Rishab himself, takes one back to the Van Damme film, Screaming Target, where the disgustingly rich sort out their frustrations by hunting people in some remote space, with an assortment of weapons, including crossbows. Rhode Islands has slaves who are set free only to be stalked and killed. People who are indulging in this grotesque sport are a Russian oil tycoon, who has ravaged a hostess aboard the ship that brought him here, and a bunch of Japanese businessmen who shoot and slaughter their black target. The sordid saga is managed by a Belarusian manager, Alexandre, who by his demeanor complements the wretchedness of the place.    

The Music Shop by Sharath Komarraju is about schizophrenia, and the merging of identities that brings to mind the kind of plot in a Nabokov novella. Aman Fernandes enters his music shop to see his look alike sitting by a phonograph. There is the Mukesh song, Maine tere liyehi saath rang ke sapne chune, playing in the background, as the situation unfolds, with the intruder claiming that he and Fernandes are mirror images. He also talks of Fernandes getting done to death with his throat being slit.

The end leaves you wondering about how far the illness can take you.Black Sails by Dushyant Shekhawat sees fate turning a full circle on Michael, a relentlessly bad man, who has brutally killed his sister-in-law and brother on being discovered while robbing their exquisitely crafted clocks. He is on a ship's deck near the Danish coast, all set to disembark to freedom and prosperity, when the law of nemesis asserts itself. 

Ayesha by Dr. Vivek Banerjee is about a pathologist in a mortuary and how she deals with Kamte, a lech of a technician who leers at her whenever he can. There is an admirer who keeps dropping notes into her mailbox, and Ayesha suspects it is Kamte. She locks him inside a freezer in the dead-house after a bunch of sleeping pills knocks him out. A well written suspenseful crime story.  Makes your realise that there is superb talent which has now been given a platform, a portal, to be more exact.
Carnival Short Stories

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