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Bouquet of Feeling

Malati Mathur

By Lakshmi Kannan
Orient Blackswan, New Delhi, pp.266, 0


This collection of stories (originally written in Tamil and translated into English by the author herself) brings to the reader slices of life tinged with courage, pathos, humour, in short, situations and expe-riences that we can identify with in a myriad ways. Whether it is the field of academia frau-ght with gender-biased undercurrents, family issues and the plight of the aged-so beauti-fully brought out in the surreal setting of the story 'Nandanvan', people caught up in emo-tional and physical impediments or a look at hidebound traditions and stereotyped preju-dices ('A Political Colour'), the stories take up the threads of ordinary life and deftly weave in a rainbow of sensation and thought, making them resonate with the sense of the present, of a life lived now. Rooted strongly in middle class India, the stories explore the physical as well as the psy-chological world of the characters without taking up an overt judgemental position. They are who they are and they act or react in the way do but the author does not force any opi-nion on the readers although in stories like 'Simone de Beauvoir and the Manes' and 'Ano-ther Hour, Another Hue' for instance, there is no mistaking where the author stands. Simi-larly, the issues of women-whether in the traditional spaces of households or at the workplace-are stated subtly without the ex-hausting waving of feminist banners or in-your-face brandishing of 'isms'. The notion of the arrogation of superiority by men or the issue of the male gaze for instance, are brought out in the narration itself without any speechi-fying. It is the subtlety of the unstated autho-rial view that makes the stories resonate in our minds and forces us to look again at deeply ingrained beliefs and value systems which might not have been the case with a blatantly 'agendaized' narration. As she explores the world of women, Kannan also brings in questions of choice, whether of lifestyle, friendships or sexuality that have for so long been denied to the woman and are still looked at askance in many families and societies. In fact, she strongly comes out both in support of the right of an individual to make choices as well as in con-demnation of those who pompously and sm-ugly aspire to sit in judgement over choices that are at variance with their own in the tou-ching story 'Maria'. The conflict within the author's own mind, the critical and ...

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