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regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

Dark depths

Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal has mastered this succinct art of storytelling as is evident from Instruments of Torture, which reveals harrowing tales of torture defined by societal norms

Nandini Bhatia Published 17.05.24, 08:21 AM

Sourced by the Telegraph.

INSTRUMENTS OF TORTURE

By Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

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Harper Collins, Rs 399

For most readers, short stories are a way of relieving themselves from the commitment to novels and tomes while celebrating the joys of fiction at the same time. When executed successfully, their impact can be long-lasting. Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal has mastered this succinct art of storytelling as is evident from Instruments of Torture, which reveals harrowing tales of torture defined by societal norms. The methods of torture, as the stories tell us, may have changed — as the cruelty of medieval torture devices manifests into the bitterness of the modern world — but the need to punish and humiliate those who go astray remains.

The line keeps shifting between physical and psychological trauma. An ‘instrument’ of torture is introduced to the reader at the beginning of each story, setting the tone of the story, one’s expectations, and the fate that awaits its protagonist, leaving readers with a knowing feeling of doom and a gut-wrenching knot in the pit of their stomach. Children born with deformities; a teenaged boy on the verge of sexual awakening pulled back by religion; a student’s shame shared between his bullied body and his tormented mind; a village lad discovering the virtues and vices of chastity; families’ and society’s neglect of mental health issues; and stories of marriages that are self-sabotaged — all await the tragedy that is meant to befall them. The devices only personify and exaggerate the emotional humiliation its victims are supposed to bear.

Sanyal’s writing substitutes the depth of human emotions with the depth of language, leaving readers with an influx of emotions. Not openly grotesque but surely discomforting, the stories expose the harsh and harrowing realities of social norms deeply embedded in our collective conscience. A brave transition from medieval thought to the modern, Instruments of Torture is not for the faint-hearted.

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