Book Review by Indrashish Banerjee
Title: Going: Stories of Kinship
Author: Keki N Daruwalla
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
There are short stories where the ending is a collective culmination of all their subplots and themes, somewhat like a novel, but if you have read Somerset Mugham, you know what I mean. And there are stories which couldn’t care less. They move from one event to another, one subplot to another, make abstract observations and then suddenly come to an end. Maybe because every story must come to an end, but it’s the journey you must enjoy; it’s the journey that’s of greater importance. There are readers who like the former style – they appreciate its logical pattern of one thing leading to another. And there are readers who like the journey and believe disorderliness is a better reflection of life’s idiosyncrasies – and reflect on the sudden ending to connect it with what happened earlier. It is a delight to discover a writer. I knew Keki N. Daruwalla’s works – For Pepper and Christ – but had never read him. And now that I have read Going: Stories of Kinship, I will move back and try out his other works.
Among Keki N. Daruwalla’s acclaimed short story collections are Sword and Abyss (1979), The Minister for Permanent Unrest and Other Stories (1996) and Love Across the Salt Desert (2011). His first novel, For Pepper and Christ, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Fiction Prize in 2010. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2014. But Keki N. Daruwalla is better known for his poetry. His poetry volumes include Under Orion, The Keeper of the Dead (winner of the Sahitya Academy Award, 1984), Landscapes (winner of Commonwealth Poetry Award, 1987) and the Map Maker. Most recently he was honoured with the Poet Laureate award at the Tata Literature Live, Mumbai Litfest, 2017.
Thematically connected short stories are in fashion. But it’s difficult to identify any common thread running across the stories in Going. Each one is different.
Sometimes that sudden or understated ending can be a reference to a subplot within the story. Lionidas Campbell, in ‘The Bhahmaputra Triology’, many years after making love to an Indian woman discovers that he had sired a son from the relationship – and the story ends there. It can sometimes be reflective of the larger message the story wants to convey. After Ardeshir’s daughter, Arnavaz, elopes with a Muslim boy against her father’s wishes refusing to be dissuaded by her father’s attempt to invoke the history of persecution of Parsees by Muslims, Ardeshir is a heartbroken man. At the end, while wallowing in grief, sitting on armchair, Ardeshir suddenly feels the “frail silhouette of Arnavaz adrift on his memories” – and a yearning for his daughter grips him. The climax makes two messages very clear. The helplessness of a man seeing personal concerns of his daughter triumphing over a need for historical justice; filial love prevailing over community loyalty and concerns about history.
As much as all the stories, to an extent, explore the inner lives of characters, Bikshu is more so. The entire story is about Bikshu’s inner journey, its conflicts, evolution, emotional layers with occasional detours to Bikshu’s past, his family and mother. At the end of the book, I discovered the commonality. When you have read the stories and reflect on them as a collective, you feel they are about human relationships and how they evolve over time.
Indrasish Banerjee has been writing and publishing his works for quite some time. He has published in Indian dailies like Hindustan Times and Pioneer, and Café Dissensus, a literary magazine. Indrasish is also a book reviewer with Readsy Discovery. Indrasish stays and works in Bangalore, India.
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