Hello dear readers!
Hope you are well and sanitized! The following are the twelve pieces selected for this May June 2020 issue of The Bombay Review. Here is what Shreya Bose, has to say about them.
The Alligator of Aligarh – Aditya Gautam
Kalua finds a friend in the grey alligator he finds at his workplace, the sewers. A heartbreaking exploration of hunger, crippling poverty and human suffering. Gautam deftly runs through a gamut of emotions as he portrays a world in which compassion has to be conditional. His protagonist tries to exercise basic humanity by taking care of a helpless, injured animal. But the burden of his caste and his povery forces his hand into brutality.
My Best Friend’s Wedding – Alina Gufran
Alina flies down to attend her best friend’s wedding, and it becomes a backdrop for introspection, anxiety and finally, epiphany. Battered emotionally by the sparkle of wedding festivities, she stumbles through multiple moments of exhaustion – a scenario familiar to the more decided introverts among us. However, all is not lost. Alina finds a semblance of resolution towards the end of her tale, “I begin to understand why it’s hard to let go of old friendships even when they distinctly seem to have run their course, why I would take the time and energy and money out to wear a saree and a smile each time my best friends expected me to, if it meant making them happy.”
Dolls – Subhravanu Das
A disturbing piece of absurdism in which a doll making competition becomes the site of conflict, resentment, madness and eventually murder. Doll maker Gamak seems to be overtaken by a silent madness accompanied by visions, while organiser Murki overlooks the dangers she is delving into. She favours the glory that the competition’s success will brings, and her myopic approach results in catastrophe.
Jogi’s Behemoth – Anagha Unni
A withering man from a forest-dwelling tribe lives in a dying world in which “development” has crushed the lives of his land and his people. Jogi reflects on a once fertile, happy world that has been devastated as he sits in the reservation that his tribe has been crowded into. In this heartbreaking description of a dying Earth, Unni is able to offer her protagonist a few moments of freedom but never lets the reader forget how bad things are.
Arguments and Doubts – Nivedita Barve
Barve explores friendship through the lens of everyday argument and eerie magic. Two old men Bhau and Appa discuss the mundane occurrences of everyday life – tiny spoons, a stolen scooter, the right way to make tea. They are overshadowed by the grief of Appu’s wife’s passing and haunted by the apparent supernatural qualities of medicine packs belonging to the deceased. This story doesn’t attempt to make a larger point. Rather, it gives the reader a break by just giving them a puzzle drenched in the light of the comforting camaraderie of two cribbing men.
Pandit Hindutva Or: How I Learned to Start Lynching and Love the Beef(n0t!) Cow – Ayan De
Speculative fiction meets dystopian musings, as Ayan De explores a violent world that shares plenty with our current existence, Lynching, right-wing convictions, and the indoctrination of a young boy provide fodder for visualizing a scary new world. De plays havoc with linear time, challenging the reader to follow a chaotic timeline that perfectly characterizes a cruel, messy society. When cloning technology meets fanatical politics, a magnificent story is born. So are terrifying possibilities.
Hungry Season – Shah Tazrian Ashrafi
The story always returns to hunger, and how it can drive a man to madness. 15-year-old Nahin kills his fisherman father’s otters to satiate his hunger, and his father suffers the brunt of having to buy a new one each month. This cycle of bloodshed and loss comes to a head as Nahin is caught in the act, and suffers a horrific punishment not of his father’s doing. As always, the story depicts that the horrors wrought by human deprivation far outweigh anything made up in the supernatural imagination.
Aral – Tushar Jain
A brilliant, precocious girl, deemed accursed by her father, grows up to become a celebrated writer and creates a life with everything to live for. Jain gives us plenty to be optimistic about with his heroine until she is struck by a debilitating illness that renders her paralyzed. A rags-to-riches-to-death story crafted with subtlety and perfect pace, Jain’s handiwork leaves us all with a lump in our throats that will not disappear for days.
Befriending the Scum of the Earth – Joshua Britton
Britton’s story is a conundrum come to life. A legally convicted pedophile moves next door to the protagonist, and the latter finds himself drawn into a somewhat reluctant friendship with him. As the friend of a child molester, he understandably finds himself being shunned by the rest of the world, and yet does not quite manage to abandon his new-found friend. The reason is for the reader to decipher.
Sahai Sahib goes for a ‘Delhi’ party – Avantika Mehta
Jagmohan Sahai, a man born in poverty and clawing his way to riches must deal with a business partner born into ancestral wealth. When Sahai is invited to a party at his partner’s mansion, he suffers painful anxiety at the thought of being considered “provincial” by Delhi’s high society. The part becomes a minefield for Jagmohan and his wife and culminates with a hilarious disaster. In the process of becoming nouveau-riche, Jagmohan’s desperation is perfectly penned – desperation to make money, fit in, and, of course, show women their place.
Cats, Murakami and a mystery encounter – Sunil Sharma
Sunil Sharma tries to create a Murakami-laced moment by outlining a late afternoon conversation between strangers. The protagonist, a filmmaker find a subject of instant interest in a coconut-seller who seems unnaturally knowledgable about Haruki Murakami. He tells an inspiring story of triumphing over evil and disappears completely (with his coconut stall) the next day. Sharma catcher his reader off-guard, drawing them in, warming their hearts and leaving them with a bewildered look on their faces.
Procrastination – Alok A. Khorana
Exhaustion drives a surgical resident to what many would consider criminal behavior. In a bid to avoid reprimand and unsavory consequences, Amir convinces a homeless patient to cover for his negligence, leave a wound uncleaned for a week, and tries to make his patient disappear. This story promises to raise eyebrows and leaves the reader with some confusion about who to blame.