Author: Mahesh Natarajan
Publisher: Gyaana Books
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The eighteen stories in this collection deals with relationships – love, confusion, contentment, desire, fear, hurt, happiness, bitterness, victory, or loss – in a slightly different context. The author highlights different aspects of gay life, and shows how these men yearn for the same things everybody yearns for – acceptance and a fulfilling life.
Written against the background of conservative South Indian society, most of the stories deal with the tender moments in gay relationships interspersed with the coming-of-age kind of realism. The closet breaking scenes are well intended and there is an inherent sensitivity attached with conversation of all the protagonists. Two stories deserve a special mention - One in which the couple manipulates the mother (or mother-in-law, whichever way you look at it) to be part of the annual religious festivities. There is another poignant one which deals with the first realization of gay feeling while engrossed in a reading session of Indrajaal comics with a friendly neighbour.
But the main problem is the book loses its steam too quickly, the thoughts start going all over, and few of the stories appear too contrived and forced into the book. At 168 pages, it is not a difficult read; but the book fail to touch a chord because there is no real dramatic conflict at all, making it hard to feel either sympathy or great affection for any of the stories. Few Stories are so tedious and bird-brained that it's surprising to know that anyone above the age of 10 has written them.
There has been a bit of hype around the book as it brings the queer literature in open with the mainstream fiction which is a noble thought, no doubt. However, the major problem in India has never really been within the homosexual cliques but the issues that start to surface when they start interacting and intermingling with the heterosexual communities. That's where the differences, the deliberations, the dichotomies start pouring in, which in turn make queer literature more "exciting" and worthy to read. Having said that, it is completely writer's prerogative to draw boundaries or define scope of his writing.
I am going with 2/5 for Mahesh Natarajan's debut collection of short stories. If you are a fan of linear and simplistic storytelling, you may just like it. A few are thought provoking and touching, but most are bland and boring. Read it, if you are in a mood to indulge in something different (and i don't mean it in a sexual way).