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Constructing Imagery in 'Virtual' Space

Malashri Lal

By Farrukh Dhondy
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 265, 299.00


Wit and irreverence are Farrukh Dhondy's hallmark, and there is plenty of both in this set of rapid-fire short stories. The seventh commandment deters no one it seems. Man, woman, gigolos, e-mail wallahs and such others find endless opportunities to defy the old dictum 'Thou shalt not commit...'and happily survive through 'illicit' relations. What's more, the whacky circumstances provide lots of mirth, smart talk, way-out locations and gung-ho attitudes. If the 'vibes' are electric, anything goes. But watch it; the 'loser' may have the last laugh! Dhondy, the masterful writer that he is, picks up the cues in a tech-savvy world but remembers to add the twist in the tail that lights the ultimate spark of a short story. The title narrative features a poet who has been 'working up the annals of the Raj in verse'. Drunk and decrepit, he hasn't got much further than the concept 'Adultery is what adults do' and he struggles to express his thoughts on 'the hostile world, floating on illegitimacy.' A bunch of free-loading people set out in quest of 'history' through the colonial graveyard route of Indian towns. Predictably an ancient aunt is the professed cause for a search, but less predictably Indians can match the Brits in laying red herrings or designing a wild goose chase! Here is the imagined tombstone of the aunt in lousy verse: Anne Mottram 1856-99. She who restored palaces Across the land of Hind Leaves all earthly vanity And but this stone behind. Along with travestying marriage as a negotiable act, it is a story that spoofs several 'institutions' such as colleges, church, government offices, hotels and art industry, 'The Taj by moonlight', everything that rolls into the path of the travelling and cheating spouses. All business is negotiable in much the same way that intimacy is saleable. Most of all it is a spoof on the 'sacred' traditions of poetry, the main poetester being given the name Sufi. Here, for example, is a miserably rhymed epitaph that he composes: The monuments she painted stand O life, O love, O bird in hand, O beauty that must fly away How quickly falls the end of day. Adultery, or rather betrayal, is the concep-tual note throu-ghout the book, the bastardizing of language being one of Dhondy's favou-rite ploys. A delightful story called 'bollox' will set you thinking about the word itself. It dates back to ...

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