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Sanjana Srikumar

By Agni Tripathi
Year 2015, pp. 124, Rs. 170.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

There are few things as mysterious as the idea of Fate. In his collection of short stories, The Line Reader, Agni Tripathi appears to pay tribute to this idea. The stories are steeped in irony and present characters from different walks of life and their unique relationship with fate— we have those who try to predict it, those who could have prevented it, and those who couldn’t. They bring us a series of ‘what if ’s and ‘if only’s. The stories bring forth the idea of unpredictability by introducing unexpected endings. Where this device works, the effect is often chilling. I particularly enjoyed ‘Killing’, a conversation between police officers investigating a serial killer. However, the flaw with this device is that one comes to expect the ‘twist endings’ and they grow tiresome as one gets through the collection. An example of this is ‘The Meeting’, a tale of one person’s reaction to a phone call informing him of the death of a relative. The title story, too, falls within this mould—the fraudster line reader who couldn’t understand his own fate. In fact, a lot of the endings appear to be written only for the shock value. Another theme that runs through the collection is introduced by another fraudster pretending to predict the future. The astrologer in ‘My Friend Jyoti’ observes that the key to predicting the future is in reading people. Compared to the ‘twist endings’ that grow increasingly tiresome as the collection progresses, this theme introduces some of the most heartwarming stories in the book. These stories seem to introduce the idea that a lot of our course of actions is shaped by our (mis)reading of people. In talking of the custom of never asking someone for their ticket out of respect in ‘My Gentleman’ shows us leaps of faith based on our perception of people. Similarly, ‘The Other Couple’ depicts a young couple admiring an older couple who still seemed like they were in love and realizing that nothing is as it seems. Unfortunately, despite the best intentions, most stories lose out in simply trying too hard. Tripathi’s writing style lacks the maturity to carry most of his ideas. The writing is wrought with grammatical errors; the language and poor dialogue distract from the beauty of the story ideas in their raw form. However, in some cases, what the stories lack ...

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