Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Premise: 'Chennai Summer' by Natasha Gayari, reviewed by Michelle D'costa

Chennai Summer by Natasha Gayari
Reviewed by Michelle D’costa

The title signifies the loss of control we have over seasons. 'Chennai' makes it specific and memorable to the narrator. She knows it is not here to stay and will change soon, out of her control.

Natasha's story has two characters, a guy and a girl. It is narrated from the girl's point of view. What the writer conveys through this story about relationships, identity, conversation, acceptance, denial etc. is thought- provoking. In the simplest of language, she conveys so much. The story begins as a conversation she is having with her boyfriend. Inserted amidst the bits of dialogues on the phone, Natasha gives us background info on their relationship. What is it? Can you categorise their relation? Is it love? When is it casual? When is it serious?

Her boyfriend was with her in Bangalore and is now in Chennai. Before leaving, he confessed that he loves her, and it surprised her. The girl remembers her past relationships when she was 'crazy in love'. Here are a few lines from the story:

‘I have set off on such trips before, years ago, I don’t remember exactly how many. Booked a plane ticket that had cost me half of my salary from my first job to meet a guy across the country. They don’t take up much space in my memory now. My heart was in a frenzy throughout the flight. The date of that journey had become my default password to many of my login ids, until I changed all of them a couple of years later.’

Now, the girl is realistic and wary of a possibility with her present partner. She wonders if his parents would accept her, she imagines visiting Chennai, but we know that she's not as invested in the relationship as he is. By the end the reader knows that the girl doesn't see a future  with the guy as he's going to leave for the US.

She is in a low phase in her life, bored with her job and knows the relationship will end soon but can't end it. This feeling of helplessness, not able to change things or do anything about it leaves the reader feeling they can relate and empathise with the narrator. A wonderful story. Highly recommend.

Michelle D’costa is a writer and the editor and runs the literary journal Kaani. She was long listed in the DNA-OUT of PRINT short story contest in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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