Stories with mass appeal

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  • Published 4.01.13

Book title: The Gurkha’s Daughter

Writer: Prajwal Parajuly

Publisher: Quercus

Page: 280

Price: Rs 499

Prajwal Parajuly’s The Gurkha’s Daughter is an expression of the nicer kind. The writing is crisp, the sentences flow and the stories feel real and believable. It is not pretentious. Too many times, writers with the most poetic of prose seem to forget what the objective of a short story or a novel is — like a footballer who weaves and dribbles past defenders, but fails to find that elusive goal. Parajuly, thankfully, does not do that. He achieves the goal with the precision of a passer and the finesse of a goal-scorer, leaving the reader satisfied.

With The Gurkha’s Daughter, he has managed to accomplish what many strive for but few manage to attain — write a book that caters to everyone, literary, with mass appeal, about another world, his world, for a global audience.

Much has been written about the author, whose two-book deal with Quercus ensured that his debut collection of short stories became one of the most anticipated books of the year. When so much hype surrounds an author, especially a first-time author, fear that it might not live up to expectations or disappoint the reader and critic in you percolates.

I read The Cleft and remarked how original it was. No Land is Her Land made me want to know more about Bhutan and Nepal, and the Nepalese speaking Bhutanese refugees. The feeling that you don’t belong defines much about what the many pockets of the region go through. A Father’s Journey resonated with poignancy. I loved The Immigrants for the innocence of the love story. Told in a polite setting, it is stripped of clichés that readers flip the pages for.

The book lives up to its high expectations. And disappointit did not. The stories fill you with very refreshing contentment. Parajuly paints colourful landscapes of a world that forever has remained in the background. A world that made sense in the stereotype. A world whose characters come out of their small roles and make the starring ones their own. He brings to life the dreams, the everyday, the aspirations, the failures, love, the differences that add and the ones that remove.

The eight stories, Nepalese in their subject matter and global in their appeal, illuminate this space and they do to Nepalese-speaking people all over the world what Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter Of Maladies did for the Bengali- speaking ones.

Fast-paced with exquisite attention to detail, The Gurkha’s Daughter speaks volumes of the elevated grasp of writing in the English language by authors from India. The description is vivid and the imagination is thorough. Longer than most short stories, Prajwal Parajuly should be commended for the effort and the manner in which he has handled each story.

There are instances in Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Missed Blessing where the stories could have taken those expected emotional turns and ended abruptly, for the sake of ending them happily. That is where this collection of short stories wins. The stories assume their own lives, the characters their own identities and the flow a beautifully crafted organic stream.