Reviewed by Shwetha H S
Title: Indian Love Stories
Editor: Sudhir Kakar
Imprint: Roli Books
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Sudhir Kakar is a distinguished psychoanalyst and writer. Winner of numerous honours including the Goethe Medal, his books have been translated into several languages. I hadn’t heard of him before reading this book. So, all of that in the first sentence of this paragraph is from the back of this book I am reviewing.
I had read Indian Love Stories about seven years ago and had completely forgotten about it. Probably because this didn’t mean much back then. Now that I have grown older, I can understand what each story is actually talking about between the lines.
The Empty Chest written by Indira Goswami in Assamese/Asamiya and translated to English by Pradipta Borgohain: talks about clinging on to past love until realizing that the other person has moved on. Indira has used cruel metaphors to convey the meaning of her story.
The House Combustible written by Subodh Ghosh in Bengali/Bangla and translated to English by Dipen Mitra: talks about why it is better for everyone to not rake the dried layers of past relationships and move on, even if you cross paths again, by not saying out loud what is going on in your mind to avoid embarrassment and retain self-respect.
Stains written by Manjula Padmanabhan: is not only a suffocating love story but is also about feminism, culture contrast, superiority-inferiority complex, taboo, standing up for self, and patriarchy. I had never come across any piece of writing that addressed all these topics at one go. My favourite quote from the short story is “The bleeding woman is penalized for being in that ‘state’: the correct condition, of course, is to be pregnant or nursing.” To me, this quote not only talks about women facing untouchability during periods in certain cultures, but also about situation of rape victims.
A New Triangle written by Ratanlal Shant in Kashmiri and translated to English by Neerja Mattoo: is a short story about a toxic marital relationship between two individuals. Towards the end of the story, it feels like they didn’t want to get married, but wanted to just live together and hadn’t realized it sooner. There is a mention of Harmukh peak, which apparently, has been attempted by only one non-Indian so far and hasn’t returned from his expedition. I had been on a trek on which I could see Harmukh peak from far and seeing its mention in this story brought back the memories. It also gave an authenticity to the story, a nod to the nativity.
Chastity Belt written by Damodar Mauzo in Konkani and translated by Xavier Cota: is not a love story but is a crap-load of male chauvinism and patriarchy’s whims and fancies made to look like love. This story just made me want to spit on it.
The Game of Chess written by Kamala Das in Malayalam and translated to English by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan: is about the dilemma of mental infidelity and unrequited love. Each emotion-led action and each action-led emotion is beautifully described in this short story. So much so that reading it begins to give a feeling of you undergoing each of those emotions and actions. Isn’t that the purpose of good narration?
The Bed of Arrows written by Gopinath Mohanty in Oriya and translated to English by Sitakant Mahapatra: is a pain to read. The protagonist of the story is in pain and is on death bed and reading about her emotions and day-to-day ordeal inflicts pain on the readers.
Housewife written by Ismat Chughtai in Urdu and translated to English by Fatima Ahmad: is an erstwhile version of a rom-com; is a total laughter riot. However, it subtly yet heavily hints at patriarchy.
Weekend written by Nirmal Verma in Hindi and translated to English by Kuldip Singh: is either an aimless story or a bad translation. I neither liked it when I read it first nor now. Even if I try to make sense of this short story, at the maximum, I could say it is about insecurities. But, I still cannot make much sense of it.
The Weed written by Amrita Pritam in Punjabi and translated to English by Raj Gill: talks about the cock and bull stories people tell innocent girls about what love is and how it happens or what it looks like. It is also about experienced lives and their inexperienced sides.
Indian Love Stories is a book that offers something for everyone. But it all depends on you how you interpret the emotions evoked by each short story. Read at your own risk.