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Cheese-making, E-mail and All the Rest

Angelie Multani

By Farrukh Dhondy
India Research Press, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 236, price not stated.


Lectures on poetry, commentaries on textbooks on cheese-making, emails about the inside deals in publishing houses, marketing strategies and businessmen gigolos--these are some of the varied subjects encountered in Farrukh Dhondy's Adultery and Stories. Adultery, is actually a novella about an poet Sufi and his views, poetry and life, main characteristic of this collection is established right from the start—Dhondy's rapid and sometimes confusing shift of perspective from one character's point of view to the other. Whether the perspective is that of Sufi's, or his wife Joannas, there remains no doubt as to whose story is being told. Sufi remains the central protagonist, we are constantly coerced into seeing things from his position. Trying to live his life remaining true to his own ideological stand, Sufi is alienated not only from his immediate context, but also from his relationships. Abandoning his wife for a sexual/romantic adventure with a young American student, Sufi is soon enough abandoned by his paramour when she meets bigger and more successful literary celebrities. As Dhondy embarks on the first of his literary 'turn-arounds, Joanna, Sufi's long-suffering wife receives the long overdue and unexpected pay-off for Sufi’s poetry and goes to India to look for her ancestor's grave. It is here that the story takes on an interesting trajectory. The class divide in India, that we as urban readers take for granted, is presented in a remarkable way. Defamiliarization, almost in the Eliot mould takes over as we confront the upper echelons of the Indian Administrative Service and the ways  of the Bureaucracy and the Government through the eyes of Joanna. One of the most interesting aspects of Adultery as in the 'Other Stories' is the irony with which Dhondy reveals various aspects of life/culture that we face in our daily lives, yet seem to not acknowledge. The IAS officer who offers quotations from Wordsworth, Sufi poetry, or Eliot at the drop of a hat, talks with immense sensitivity about the need for preservation of the environment and history has no compunctions about exploiting his status to enjoy free hospitality at five-star holiday resorts or accepting bribes from builders to erase the very history he is sworn to protect This irony pervades all the stories—the delightful 'Say Cheese' where a small town Maths Tutor discovers a new mission in his life—of making cheeses he has never ever tasted in his ...

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