Monday, 30th October 2017

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Paperback Pickings

Walk on the wild side

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 25.12.09
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Walk on the wild side

Fear Factor: Terror Incognito (Picador, Rs 295) edited by Meenakshi Bharat and Sharon Rundle brings together stories from two different lands to explore the theme of terrorism. This anthology of short stories also serves another latent purpose. It is a collaborative effort to understand whether the artist responds to these violent times any differently than the layman. The answer, the editors argue, is in the affirmative. An artist — whether an author, a painter or poet, located in India or abroad — often attempts to examine the complex factors that have led men and women to inflict terrible retributions on society. Fear Factor includes contributions by Salman Rushdie (“For Kashmir, for Paradise” taken from Shalimar the Clown), Kiran Nagarkar (“In search of Essar” from God’s Little Soldier) as well as a kitschy story by Gulzar in which a Muslim man, hounded by the fear of death in riot-torn Mumbai, ends up killing a fellow Muslim on a local train.

Luck (Penguin, Rs 199) by Dhruba Hazarika is an absorbing book that chronicles encounters between Man and Wild. The moments of contact described by Hazarika are both grisly and poignant. In “The Hunt”, a night adventure in the forest goes horribly wrong as one of the hunters ends up shooting a beautiful, pregnant doe. But then again, in “Luck”, a lonely unemployed man, a bachelor, experiences the pain and pleasure of falling in love with wild pigeons. Hazarika’s empathy for the natural world and its inhabitants manages to touch a chord. The descriptions of the forests and of the quaint but forgotten towns of Assam seldom appear to be contrived.

Nothing can be as Crazy (Rupa, Rs 95) by Ajay Mohan Jain supposedly draws “inspiration from what one sees, feels and experiences in life”. Despite the author’s disclaimer that the readers should not “draw resemblance of the characters in this book with any person”, one is tempted to believe that the novel is semi-autobiographical. Like Jain, Suresh, the protagonist, is a bank employee and much of the story revolves around Suresh’s trials and tribulations in settings as diverse as Hyderabad, Calcutta and Uttar Pradesh.

Unfortunately, the tedious pace and the clichéd plot might prevent readers from finding out whether the naïve, but conservative, Suresh triumphs against the odds in the end.