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Vishesh Unni Raghunathan

By Rumer and Jon Godden
Year 2016, pp. 218, Rs. 299.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

Rumer and Jon Godden were prolific writers, especially the former. The sisters spent their childhood and then a few years of their adult lives in India, even remaining in the country after Independence. Indian Dust Stories, a collection of short stories, a Ruskin Bond collection, features two poems and thirteen short stories. The two poems are by Rumer Godden, while three of the short stories are by Jon Godden and the rest by Rumer Godden. The poems talk about the harsh reality of life even if it is in the midst of what may seem as great beauty to the eye—the river in Bengal and the winter in Kashmir. In ‘Bengal River’ we come across pearl diving in the river Ganga (or one of its distributaries) with its vast expanse of land with its birds, crocodiles and propoises in the midst of fine white sand and deltas of cool mud—and as the boat leaves there is no giving from the world here. ‘Nothing is cheap but men,’ Rumer says in ‘Kashmiri Winter’ as she talks about the severe cold and rising prices. And when Rashid dies, he finally owns land without having to pay taxes, but his rags are worth more than he is. Rumer’s tremendous sensitivity to suffering and irony in life can be seen in her fiction, as well. As a reader you are drawn into the story which seems predictable at first, but as you read along you see those small things in people which the author wants you to see, and you note their foibles and dichotomies which make them real, as real as someone we might know. In ‘Possession’, a small farmer who becomes listless when his solider son dies in battle is tempted into debt by a large landowner only to be redeemed by his son’s pension and gratuity. Written in first person by an English woman, ‘Rahmin’ is the story of a chicken-wallah who keeps visiting her. She keeps placing orders with him through thick and thin till one day she finds Rahim who had fallen on hard times coming once too often. She decides to take a stand tells him to pester someone else. Rahim leaves her with a parting gift, and as she surveys her fine house, she is overcome with guilt and tries to find him again. The beauty of Rumer’s writing lies in her ...

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