We feature ten stories in Out of Print 17.
|Mira Brunner: Cosmogram 4|
Loss and grief wash the existence of the protagonists with an all-pervading, constancy in two of the stories. Manju Kak’s Andaman follows the visit of a woman in mourning for her son lost at Kargil to the Andaman Islands where encounters with beauty, grace, humanity, and the gentle ridiculousness of civil bureaucracy are confronted by the violence of nature. News of disaster infuses the protagonist’s mind with further layers of sorrow, and yet, is the reader sensing the beginning of some distancing, a teetering hint of a fragile equilibrium? In Blink, by Shruthi Rao a young girl, profoundly destabilised by the shocking loss of her sister, lives with a sense of certainty that her sister is within the vicinity. The clean, straightforward narrative reveals the child’s grounded middle-class world over which is juxtaposed the wild anxiety of a mind that is unable to relax for fear of missing her sister’s every manifestation.
Another story of a young girl dealing with loss, this one set in the floods of Kashmir, is Medha Gupta’s Alice of Abadhghar. The girl withdraws into Wonderland and focuses on the fate of Alice as her world, including her book, is washed away. The end leaves the reader fraught with anxiety for the multiple fates that could befall the girl as she is offered sanctuary by the maulvi at the dargah but prepares to set off to find Alice before she is beheaded by the Duchess.
A young man bids goodbye to his lover in Harman Mavi’s You Are Dead; his dialogue, his stream of memory, his eulogy reveals that his lover’s identity, his joy, indeed his life was shattered by the ruling that theirs was a forbidden love. It is a tribute, a necessary one in a landscape where as Colm Tóibín puts it in his review of Gregory Woods’ A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition: ‘Gay people … grow up alone; there is no history. There are no ballads about the wrongs of the past, the martyrs are all forgotten.’
Physical distance, translocation does not release five scrapping brothers from the trap of greed and discontent that has led them from money and estate in their native Bihar to running sandwich stalls on the streets of Mumbai. Altaf Tyrewala’s Vishnu Sandwich Stall is a story that captures the intimacy of the brothers’ mutual animosity, and the hopeless consequences, the sad sense of the inescapability that it leads to.
Marriage, entrapment, release: a young woman in an ideal marriage to the perfect man examines her place in the relationship and finds herself empty and unfulfilled. Is this examination, in Bhumika Anand’s Dosa, of the shallowness, the perforations that define her life the first step to distancing herself and recovering her identity? In Anannya Dasgupta’s Swimming Pool, on the other hand, a woman’s perception of her place in her marriage is at another stage entirely. Points of view of both husband and wife weave through the narrative as the gleaming back and enticing body of young swimmer draw the attention of the woman as she waits for her husband and son.
Sharp, staccato in its telling, Puzhudi’s Worklife takes the reader through the relentless treadmill of daily life, stressful, without respite. Hope of release, of realising ones dreams, while it rests with the individual, seems distant and inaccessible to those trapped in its cycle.
Vijay Medtia’s simply lain out Haram is a tale of everyday activity in which the frameworks of prescription and proscription are interpreted to find what works for daily life. The clashing of cultures and the expectations of different generations, are dealt with in an almost idealised sample of mutual respect, humour and humanity.
Dollhouse, first published in 1941 by G V Krishna Rao, and translated for this issue by GRK Murty examines a utopic model of societal equality and its fallacies through the banter between a mother and her young son. The child lays out his idea of a model world where justice and equality prevail, but exploits it to his personal benefit, thus shattering its very basis.
The artwork by Mira Brunner, Cosmogram 4, was commissioned specifically for the issue.