Friday, July 02, 2010
Reviewed by Jyoti Singh in The Sunday Tribune
The Moments of Life: Short Stories
By Aju Mukhopadhyay. Frog Books. Pages 143. Rs 195.
THERE are stories worth sharing at every step of our life is what one feels after reading The Moments of life. The art of deft narration is better known to the author Aju Mukhopadhyay. Apart from being a master storyteller, he is a writer of poems, essays, features and has to his credit 12 books written in Bengali and 14 books in English.
A person of international fame, he was awarded the Best Poet Certificate of Competence as a published writer by the Writers Bureau, Manchester, UK; Best Poet of the Year 2003 by the Poets International, Bangalore; Editor’s Choice Published Poet Award by the International Library of Poetry, USA and Excellence in World Poetry Award 2009 by the International Poets Academy.
The Moments of Life is an assemblage of 26 short stories set in Bengal and sometimes in the South. The stories take up a whole range of issues—social, political, familial and individual—drawn from the everyday life of the common man.
The opening story, The Moments of Life, after which the anthology is named, revolves around the Naxals. It is certainly an innuendo pointing at the fact that Naxalism is a reflection of the need for the developmental policies and initiatives to reach the grassroots, especially the backward tribal areas. Though it might seem a Herculean task—to work towards taking development to those who need the most, lest their simmering discontent should ignite unrest—it is the only way out. Through the narrator, the author highlights how the discontented, poorest, weaker and most vulnerable people join the movement to escape the adverse situations, dreaming of overthrowing the relentless system. It stresses on how ever-expanding, seamless corruption cripples the good intentions involved in implementing the policies for the betterment of people and also the need to play the role in community affairs with adherence to the tenets of good governance.
Man-woman relationship is a recurring theme—unraveling the changes in the social sphere and the effect on it of several subterranean forces—in most of his stories. The author shows how in man-woman healthy relationships foster the psychological development of people and how the unhealthy ones destroy or diminish happiness.
If A New Day Begins highlights how love transform the lives of Subodh and Sulochana who otherwise led unpleasant ones, The Wonderment of Life—through Anjali-Robert Pinto’s sound married life, who belong to different religion and background—emphasises how care, mutual understanding, trust, compassion and support lead to authenticity in a relationship and concretises it. The Phoney reflects the circumstances that lead women to prostitution while The Cuckold brings forth the sad plight of a helpless woman who is forced by her husband to grant sexual favours to a high-ranking police official so that his business could thrive.
The Pride of a Woman narrates the story of infidelity on part of the husband who cheated his wife into believing that he died fighting a battle, whereas he married in Pakistan and converted to Islam. The Unknown Love treats the theme of incest while The Law of Life addresses the sad plight of lepers.
All these stories—and the others that have not been mentioned in order to delimit this piece of writing—crafted in lucid prose come with morals, silently and smartly pointing and at the same time begging for answers to the ailments of society. The work is indeed a valuable contribution to the genre of short story.