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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories.Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories. by Khushwant Singh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An eclectic collection of short stories from various parts of India. Some of them very good and some not so great.

The ones that appealed to me were as follows:

In “Confessions of a Dustbin” by Karunanidhi the author describes the life from the perspective of a dustbin into which people keep discarding unwanted stuff and it being cleared by the municipality truck. The author shows his atheism and his scoff for religion by speaking about the sexual escapades that the dustbin learns about the Indian Gods from an old book about puranas that somebody has thrown into its belly.

“The Accident” by R. K. Laxman. In this story the author illustrates how a person running away from crime almost crashes into a tree because the papers that he had carelessly thrown in the back seat are stirred up by the air circulating through the car and covers his face preventing him from seeing where he is headed. He uses this trick later to get rid of the goon who has come after him for the spoils.

In “The Palace Orders” by Manohar Malgaonkar speaks about how two people exploit the similarity of a country bumpkin being similar to that of a royalty with a great influence in the country. They use the person to extort money from various people. In the end the country bumpkin tries to double cross them and tries to run away with the extorted money to satisfy his grandfather’s dream of flying from his hometown to Delhi by airplane.

In “A Slice of the Melon” by Manohar Malgaonkar describes how unscrupulous persons skim the money that pours into the political party’s coffers during the election time. A small time help who sees this happen sets up a front to try and skim some of this money and he almost succeeds.

“Temple Mouse” by Manohar Malgaonkar speaks about how hollow the people are. He describes how a person close to a “spiritual” guru milks his position to make money for himself while another person who is the right hand man of a famous actor does the same.

Both the stories of Sadat Hasan Manto, selected by Khuswant Singh have the element of sexuality in them and this is not surprising given the proclivity of Khushwant Singh for writing stories with at least a tinge sex in them. Did not enjoy either of them, not because of the sex content, but because of the lack of depth.

The author has three stories of his own all obviously reflecting his beliefs and topics close to his heart, that of Agnosticism, bottom pinching and Kama Sutra. The Bottom Pincher and The Agnostic are an OK read, the third is not at all good.

All in all OK read.

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Night Train at Deoli: And Other StoriesNight Train at Deoli: And Other Stories by Ruskin Bond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A classic Ruskin Bond. The stories are simple yet touch one’s heart and makes one yearn for the peaceful, serene hills.

In the story of the leopard the author describes how he builds a silent relationship with the leopard with each respecting the other’s presence without malice. And then come the hunters asking for if there is a leopard and they manage to snare and kill it. On their way back the meet the author and tell him with all pride that they have hunted down the leopard. The author ends the story with these lines “I walked home through the silent forest. It was very silent, almost as though the birds and animals knew their trust had been violated. I remembered the lines of a poem by D. H. Lawrence; and, as I climbed the steep and lonely path to my home, the words beat out their rhythm in mind: ‘There was a room in the world for a mountain lion and me’. Man no longer seems to think so. It is sad that man wants to have all land for himself.

In the story ‘Kitemaker’ the author describes an old kite maker, who is longer in demand, use his skills to entertain his grandson. Watching his grandson closely the Kitemaker is gladdened “to watch the small boy at play in winter sunshine, growing under his eyes like a young and well-nourished sapling putting forth new leaves each day.” The author opines there is a great affinity between trees and men. We grow at much the same pace, if we are not hurt or starved or cut down. In our youth we are resplendent creatures, and in our declining years we stoop a little, we remember, we, stretch our brittle limbs in the sun, and then, with a sigh, we shed our last leaves. The old man was like the banyan, his hands gnarled and twisted like the roots of the ancient tree. The young boy was like the mimosa planted at the end of the courtyard. In two years both he and the tree would acquire the strength and confidence of their early youth.

In the story “Death of a Familiar” the author relates about how the death of an acquaintance leads the protagonist to reminiscence about the relationship that he hand maintained with the one who was murdered earlier in the life. At one place he describes the victim thus “He was a product of the partition, of the frontier province, of Anglo-Indian public schools, of films Indian and American, of medieval India, knights in armour, hippies, drugs, sex-magazines and subtropical Terai. Had he lived in the times of Mughal, he might have governed a province with saturnine and spectacular success. Being born into the 20th century, he was but a juvenile delinquent.”
At the end of the story the author has this to state about interest humans take in a life lost to violence. “Though murder cases usually get reported in the papers, Sunil was a person of such little importance that his violent end was not considered newsworthy. It went unnoticed, and Maureen could not have known about it. The case has already been forgotten, for in the great human mass that is India, hundreds of people disappear every day and are never heard of again. Sunil will be quickly forgotten by all except those to whom he owed money.” A sad state of affairs and we call ourselves humans and talk about “humanity”. Humanity is an irony.

A must read for all Ruskin Bond fans and a good read for the others.

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Stories Short and SweetStories Short and Sweet by Ruskin Bond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To keep the review Short and Sweet, it suffices to say the stories are Short and Sweet. Some of them like the Tiger in the Tunnel, really leave an sweet impression on the reader. Overall a mellifluous flow of stories.
Read it to enjoy it.

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Best Indian Short Stories - Volume-1Best Indian Short Stories – Volume-1 by Khushwant Singh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some of the stories are good while some, in my opinion, are rank bad. The authour seems to like the story teller Qurratulain Hyder very much. There four stories of this writer and for some reason I did not like any of them.

The best story in my opinion was the story A Tale of the hijras by Abdul Jabbar, where a hijra rejected by her parents comes back to her village on the occasion of the birth of a grand child to her mother. How she aspires to go back to live with her parents and how she turns back considering the reaction of the society.

The short story The Leopard by Ruskin Bond is another highlight. He describes how he used to pass through a forest where a leopard lived and how he could here is growling and how on occasions he had, had a glimpse of it. This tranquility is broken when shikaris come to the jungle as the leopard skin sells for 1000 rupees in Delhi. They lay a trap for it and soon hunt it down and triumphantly take it away. As he walks away from the rejoicing shikaris he feels that the whole forest has fallen silent, almost as though the birds and animals knew that their trust had been betrayed. He goes on to say in a very sarcastic way “And God gave Man dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”. A very sad story which repeats even today, only the scope has increased be it whales hunted by Japan, or seals hunted in Canada, or rhinos and elephants in Africa and India and Tigers in India. Man has no scruples and no heart.

Ramblings on the Beach by Kiran Bedi, yes the very same Kiran Bedi surprisingly made for delightful reading. He speaks about how the society corrupts the children. He says how he tried to bring up his daugther to be brave, not be afraid of the darkness and of the sea. But all this changes when they start going to school where the other children, thanks to the elders in their family, scare his daughter’s wits so much that she starts clinging to him telling him about a Buddi Mai who is out to catch the children. He observes how the schools uses fear to make the children behave, fear of ridicule, fear of punishment, fear of humiliation. He observes that the elders do not want children to behave, but only to conform. He observes that bit by bit the elders kill what makes each child distinct from others. He observes that the children are told “all good children go to heaven. And good children are children who think like other good children. The best children, of course, win races and comes first in class. Try to be like them. He also says that he feels sad for his daugther as he can do nothing much for her as he cannot isolate her from the society in which she has to live. He also observes how introverts suffer more in this society. He quotes a Zen poem
Children are Masters of Zen,
Curious about everything.
Adults are serious and boring,
What happened?

Flight 303 by Suresh Chopra is about how a man comes to riches, thanks to his ability to pick locks. It is a fine story with a good twist.

Others are just OK or rank bad.

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Potluck: A Literary Collection of the Critique GroupPotluck: A Literary Collection of the Critique Group by Various
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like a potluck dinner where many people bring in different food with different flavours, this book has different stories from different authors. Some of them are great, some mediocre and some one gets the feeling why was this published. Overall worth reading. Warning, some stories are really heart-rendering.

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Mrs. D’Souza stirred in her grave. He gut feeling told her something was not right. It was the first anniversary of her death and she had observed a steady stream of her relatives visiting her grave to pay their respects. Although her dead eyes could not perceive as well as they did when she was alive, her eternal soul perceived something amiss. And then suddenly when she got out of her stupor it hit her. The flowers brought by the mourners were the same. The same bunch of flowers were being brought in by every visitor.

Curiosity got better of her. She was also wondering as to how her good for nothing son Albert was doing in his life. She had been worried for him as he had not been good at his studies and was curious to see how he was doing. Slowly her astral body peeled itself off from the now rotted earthly body and made its way out of the grave. She was coming out for the first time after she had been buried the last year.
She was greeted by the sight of her niece Susan and her family brining in the same bunch of flowers. She saw them place the bunch of flowers on the grave and saw them kneeling an crossing themselves. She heard Susan bless her soul. Susan was always her favourite among the various nieces she had. After spending a respectable amount of time her family left.

As she waited for the next round of guests she found Albert rushing in to the cemetry. He had nothing in his hands. She wondered if Albert had come without any flowers to pay his respects. She was glad that at least he had come without whiling away his time with his good-for-nothing friends.

But what he did next took her by surprise. He picked up the flowers in the tomb and ran out. He gave these flowers to a little boy who waited outside the cemetery. Soon her brother Maxwell and his family came. The little boy ran to them and tried to sell them the bunch of flowers. Maxwell was stingy any day and bargained with everybody. After haggling with the boy Maxwell bought the bunh of flowers. As soon as Maxwell went inside Albert came on the scene and pocketed the money from the boy. He went to a corner and started counting out the money and from what she could make out it was not a small amount.

Mrs. D’Souza was happy that her son had worked out a way to survive in the world without her. She re-entered her grave to Rest in Peace.

Something Wicked: New Scottish Crime FictionSomething Wicked: New Scottish Crime Fiction by Susie Maguire
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is series of short stories written by different Scottish authours about crime. The only one that I liked in this series was the short story by Ian Rankin (possibly because he is the only one I have been reading). The book gets a 2 rating only because of this one story, otherwise it would have been a 1.

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