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Recording a Modern Sensibility

Madhavi Apte

By Jayant Kaikini. Translated from Kannada by Vishvanath Hulikal
Indialog Publications, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 242, Rs. 295.00

By Neeru Nanda
Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2006, pp. 201, Rs. 195.00

By Ram Kumar. Translated from the Hindi by Alok Bhalla and Vidya Sivadas
Vadhera Art Gallery, Delhi, 2004, pp. 282, Rs. 300.00


Jayant Kaikini is a well known Kannada writer. He is a master of detail. Every little day-to-day experience in its detail forms an interesting part of his story and brings it alive. His stories mirror the life of a common man with his day-to-day concerns. ‘Tanmayi’s Vacation’ is a metaphor of freedom. It presents the contradiction in the attitudes of the middle-class with regard to women’s education, in particular. Tanmayi and Kushi kaki are the two examples of this contradictory attitude. While Tanmayi is humiliatingly forced to study, asked to think only of her career, both by her parents and by her grandparents and uncle, Kushi kaki who is already a graduate is scorned, jeered at because she is a graduate. She has no freedom from the kitchen to do things she would have enjoyed. It is such an irony that a young woman who flourished as a student has to forget all about her education after her marriage and get dumped into the kitchen.   Kaikini portrays the strange awkwardness of inferiority and harassment in a middle-class home in the south in its realistic detail, through attitudinal / emotional tensions giving the story its natural texture. ‘A Message for Sumitra’ is another story of a woman’s plight in middle-class society. Sumitra has had to spend all her life working for others, as a dependent, after separating from her husband because of the tortured life in his house. Traditionally, a woman is supposed to be sad to have lost her husband. But what would it mean to a woman who had found a little better life and freedom only in her dependence on others? Kushi Kaki is riding a bicycle, and Sumitra is making the bamboo shoots curry without being disturbed a bit are two instances that mark their sense of freedom.   ‘Dots and Lines’ and ‘Mithun No. 2’ are stories about youngsters from small towns who face the world with a big sense of bewildered awe and inferiority as compared to youngsters from urban, better social-economic backgrounds. ‘The Bedroom’, or ‘The Unclaimed Portrait’ show the variety of themes handled. Jayant Kaikini’s psychological insight into his characters makes his stories specially appealing. They are a sensitive observer’s social comment on the life of common middle-class people. All stories have a special theme within this interest. The translators Hulikal, Ramachandra and Padma Sharma, N.S. Kiran,M.S. Nataraja, ...

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