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We are here because of some stimuli

Monday, May 05, 2014
By Robin Shukla

There is a notion that some subjects cannot be talked about. Going much above and farther than that, there are souls who give free reign to their procreative spirits, and even write about the wanderings of mind and body. Tranquebar has brought out its compilations of sensational short stories: Electric Feathers, a book of erotic stories, and Close, Too Close, a book of queer erotica. The Magic Moonlight Flower and Other Enchanting Stories are innocent short stories by Satyajit Ray, while Transactions of Belongings by Jaya Padmanabhan is full of impactful stories that take us through an entire gamut of emotions.

Attempting to document the ultimate experience
One could embark upon the task of reading this compilation of erotic stories free of any middle-class guilt because it had come in for review.  It is edited by Ruchir Joshi, Kolkata-born writer, columnist and film maker, with some award-winning documentaries to his credit. His own short story, Arles, the last of the 13 in this book, is laid down in France, where the protagonist dwells on the meager torso of his Korean woman while recalling the larger mammary endowments of an ex called D. There is also some fetish about the red panties. A known name here is Jeet Thayil, Mumbai-based poet, musician and author, with his New York-based story of a newsman meeting a Srimati who does photo-shoots and gives him sex for twenty dollars. The common ground is their Mumbai past and familiarity with drugs.Paromita Vohra’s Tourists sees Paolomi gambol with a Bollywood superstar Sartaj Khan sequestered in some far away space with dense foliage, back in a 1977 time warp, where isolation permits unfettered nudity and sex. There is also chocolate mutually used to further and fulfill the erotic urges. Heavenly Ornaments by Sheba Karim is a superb story of life in a joint family in Karachi. The title of this piece is of a book that the protagonist Bina discovers in a drawer that is religious describing sexual trangressions.   There is plenty of intimacy in this book, as a logical progression of emotional nearness rather than the unplanned coupling in other pornographic recountings that fly off the bookshelves. One therefore learns without being voyeuristic about a a lot of erotica written by Indian and Asian writers who stay well off and above mere flesh-ridden smut.
Electric Feather

Introducing us to the alternate experience
Those of us who are conjugal within the regular heterosexual limits have sometimes wondered about what can a man find interesting about another man, or a woman about another of her own gender. Interest in queer literature sees men reading up on lesbian activity or women reading about male to male conduct, ignoring the emotional aspect that relationships, straight or otherwise, are seized with. Legal implications and taboo notwithstanding, homosexuality in the subcontinent is as ancient as ancient Indian civilisation and is documented in religious texts without being treated as an aberration. Unfortunately, today’s prejudices see Close, Too Close, The Tranquebar Book of Queer Erotica as edited by a Meenu and Shruti, even some writers have penned their stuff in anonymity, with  names like Msbehave, Chico, D’Lo, Niloufer, Doabi, Iravi, etc. But the compilation is a powerful statement of case for those who feel and love differently. One therefore went right across to a familiar name, that of noted writer Devdutt Pattanaik:  The Marriage of Somavat and Sumedha sees compassion between two childhood friends transform into passion. They had dressed as man and bride to get the gift of a cow from the queen. The God’s now mischievously contrive to turn their trick into truth. The cow witnesses them discover and consummate their newfound relationship. Perfume by D’Lo sees an American transgender queen, here on an exchange programme, making love to the woman he shares the room with. She is a school teacher and there is so much caring and romance in the equation that our so-called notions or prejudices just fall away. Fourteen stories, sensual but without any sleaze.
Close, Too Close

Snuggling in a world of fables and goodness
He was a legendary film-maker and that is how most of us know him, but the Bengalis know him to be a great and extremely sensitive writer and also an illustrator. The translation by Arunava Sinha are excellent and retain the essence of the master.There are four gems here, starting with Sujan Harbola, The Boy Who Spoke To Birds. A harbola is a person who can imitate the different calls of birds and other animals. Sujan, who is able to imitate the calls of birds and beasts, startles the king of Jabarnagar, who confronts him in the forest while on a tiger hunt, by asking him, “But what harm has the tiger done you for you to kill it?” When taken to the palace by an impressed ruler, Sujan comes face to face with a bird eating ogre that inhabits a cave. When the princess announces she will only marry the man who slays the monster, Sujan takes a spear from the king and goes to confront the ogre, the avesvore!      Gangaram's Lucky Stone, named seven-vein, shaped like a pigeon's egg with every possible colour of the rainbow, is an enchanted rock that protects him from all harm. The Ogre and the Princess sees Ratan, cursed by a sage for not massaging his feet transform into a furry creature with sharp teeth, red eyes and matted locks, getting saved by a princess named Lakshmi.   The Magic Moonlight Flower sees Kanai going in search of the rare plant, when the doctor tells him that only the juices from the leaves can save his ailing father's life. 
The Magic Moonlight Flower and other Enchanting Stories
by Satyajit Ray, translated by Arunava SinhaRupa Publications

Life held together only by emotional bonds
Jaya Padmanabhan is the managing editor of an India Currents, an Indian-American magazine. It looks like the many experiences in her life have left her with an uncanny sense of feeling and perspective, topped with a great deal of compassion. The stories are engrossing and moving.The Fly Swatter is Rafat who is handyman to Manu Prasad, Minister of Social Justice. He actually carries a fly swatter, from time to time using it to clear the way for his boss. They are two good looking men and Rafat has noticed Manu's meaningful glances. After kneeling before he is boss one night, he is turned away forever.The Blue Arc is about Shona in the redlight area of Kolkata who interacts with Rabindranath Tagore, the resident pimp, bodyguard and escort of brothel no.27. The stark corruption and wretchedness of the police have not escaped this US-based writer who writes about how they prey upon and brutalise the most beautiful but unfortunate girls in the brothels. Strapped for Time sees old Mr. Raman and the sexual tension between him and his housemaid, Rekha, whom he most expectantly waits for every morning. The glimpses of her lissome body and the fragrance of her work-driven body torment his 81-year-old existence. She is aware and demands a watch from him, a Titan with a gold strap! So there he is, waiting for her again in the morning, when fate takes its own turn. His Curls sees a mother suffer the torment of wondering whether her son is really a terrorist. Compelling narrative in each of the twelve stories.
Transactions of Belonging
by Jaya Padmanabhan Leadstart

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