Keki Daruwalla's 'Going: Stories of Kinship' is tied together by familial bonds : The Tribune India - Upsmag - Magazine News

Keki Daruwalla’s ‘Going: Stories of Kinship’ is tied together by familial bonds : The Tribune India

GJV Prasad

THIS is a gem of a book from India’s leading Indian English writer. Poet and fiction writer, Keki Daruwalla is better known as a poet, but he published his first short story collection, ‘Sword and Abyss’, in 1976. He now has a growing reputation as a novelist and writer of short fiction and deservedly so. This volume will reinforce his place as an interesting and significant writer of short fiction.

The five stories in this volume are tied together in that they all deal with the family, with ties, with kinship. The first story is almost a novella — it has the potential to become a short novel, but Daruwalla skillfully weaves it to remain within the bounds of short fiction even if it is in three parts and is thus called ‘The Brahmaputra Trilogy’. Set in 1946, during the Indian freedom movement, the first section begins with the clandestine meeting of three members of an outfit which fights for freedom with violence as its means. An Anglo-Indian named Vikram, a gora, leads the attack (which the other two are reluctant participants in) on a tea estate. The section ends with the escape of Vikram, who jumps into the river from a ferry to escape the pursuing police. The second section goes into the past — to the life of Leonidas Campbell as the manager of the tea estate. We see the disintegration of his marriage, his loneliness, and his affair with an Indian woman, Anusuya, the wife of his munshi. In the third section, Leonidas Campbell comes back as partner in the holding company to inspect the tea estate and ends up discovering the result of his liaison. This is a beautifully told story, many layered, from one World War to another, including England and India in its sweep. As I said, there is a novel in here, and uncannily I felt as if I had read one.

The second story, ‘The Bird Island’, is about the loss of a son. It is 10 years since the quiet and reclusive Sukhdeo, Sudhakar and Hemlata’s son, had walked out of their home and lives. They are weighed down by his absence, the wife terrified that the last may have died. Sudhakar is participating, without much heart in it, in a shooting expedition with his old friend the Nawab. He has given up shooting, except with a camera. What is going to happen on this trip? Will he discover something about his son’s disappearance? Read the story.

The third story, ‘Daughter’, will tug even harder at your heartstrings. It is about a Parsi family which has moved to Delhi from Mumbai. Ardeshir is close to retirement and his wife Firoza is growing older, disillusioned, and worried about their daughter, Arnavaz. Arnavaz seems to be in a relationship with a Muslim, Anwar, who is known to the family. How will they deal with this situation? Is she any longer even with them even though they stay in the same house? What will happen when the father finally confronts her, however indirectly? Again, lovely, layered story.

‘The Long Night of the Bikshu’ is the next story in the volume. A lyrical story, it depicts the life and times of a man who leaves home, family, village and faith. He is essentially a wanderer, one who is trying to make sense of the ephemeral while yearning for the absolute. He leaves the family, but his family ties do n’t leave him. Even at the end, he expects his mother to escort him from this life, where he has ended renouncing everything except the audience of a scarecrow.

That story leads naturally to the last story of the volume, ‘Going’. It is again the story of family ties, how one can be closer to a grandmother than a mother. Is it intuition of her grandmother’s coming death that makes the first-person narrator take leave and visit her grandmother? What does her grandmother mean to her and she to her? What does it mean to be at someone’s death?

These stories will resonate with all readers. Daruwalla is a consummate storyteller and has the ability to bring characters to life in a few deft strokes. This is a book to save.

GJV Prasad

THIS is a gem of a book from India’s leading Indian English writer. Poet and fiction writer, Keki Daruwalla is better known as a poet, but he published his first short story collection, ‘Sword and Abyss’, in 1976. He now has a growing reputation as a novelist and writer of short fiction and deservedly so. This volume will reinforce his place as an interesting and significant writer of short fiction.

The five stories in this volume are tied together in that they all deal with the family, with ties, with kinship. The first story is almost a novella — it has the potential to become a short novel, but Daruwalla skillfully weaves it to remain within the bounds of short fiction even if it is in three parts and is thus called ‘The Brahmaputra Trilogy’. Set in 1946, during the Indian freedom movement, the first section begins with the clandestine meeting of three members of an outfit which fights for freedom with violence as its means. An Anglo-Indian named Vikram, a gora, leads the attack (which the other two are reluctant participants in) on a tea estate. The section ends with the escape of Vikram, who jumps into the river from a ferry to escape the pursuing police. The second section goes into the past — to the life of Leonidas Campbell as the manager of the tea estate. We see the disintegration of his marriage, his loneliness, and his affair with an Indian woman, Anusuya, the wife of his munshi. In the third section, Leonidas Campbell comes back as partner in the holding company to inspect the tea estate and ends up discovering the result of his liaison. This is a beautifully told story, many layered, from one World War to another, including England and India in its sweep. As I said, there is a novel in here, and uncannily I felt as if I had read one.

The second story, ‘The Bird Island’, is about the loss of a son. It is 10 years since the quiet and reclusive Sukhdeo, Sudhakar and Hemlata’s son, had walked out of their home and lives. They are weighed down by his absence, the wife terrified that the last may have died. Sudhakar is participating, without much heart in it, in a shooting expedition with his old friend the Nawab. He has given up shooting, except with a camera. What is going to happen on this trip? Will he discover something about his son’s disappearance? Read the story.

The third story, ‘Daughter’, will tug even harder at your heartstrings. It is about a Parsi family which has moved to Delhi from Mumbai. Ardeshir is close to retirement and his wife Firoza is growing older, disillusioned, and worried about their daughter, Arnavaz. Arnavaz seems to be in a relationship with a Muslim, Anwar, who is known to the family. How will they deal with this situation? Is she any longer even with them even though they stay in the same house? What will happen when the father finally confronts her, however indirectly? Again, lovely, layered story.

‘The Long Night of the Bikshu’ is the next story in the volume. A lyrical story, it depicts the life and times of a man who leaves home, family, village and faith. He is essentially a wanderer, one who is trying to make sense of the ephemeral while yearning for the absolute. He leaves the family, but his family ties do n’t leave him. Even at the end, he expects his mother to escort him from this life, where he has ended renouncing everything except the audience of a scarecrow.

That story leads naturally to the last story of the volume, ‘Going’. It is again the story of family ties, how one can be closer to a grandmother than a mother. Is it intuition of her grandmother’s coming death that makes the first-person narrator take leave and visit her grandmother? What does her grandmother mean to her and she to her? What does it mean to be at someone’s death?

These stories will resonate with all readers. Daruwalla is a consummate storyteller and has the ability to bring characters to life in a few deft strokes. This is a book to save.

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