A Monsoon Feast (Review by Karthik Keramalu)

7 10 2013

A Monsoon Feast

(Review by Karthik Keramalu)

Big Wall Newspaper by Suchen Christine Lim:

The first short story of the anthology is Suchen Christine Lim’s Big wall Newspaper, a mildly sardonic recipe of human life.

A divorced parent thinks of her son as an individual who bows to tyrants without questioning. Suchen Christine Lim’s story is a little piece on moving on in life by holding a mirror that’s cracked and re-framed for a future use. The divorced mother who has none but her son for conversations and complaints cannot accept the silences the child had showed her as a teen. Wai Mun, the little son is okay with the consequences his actions have to suffer; he’s no coward. He tells much later in his life what winning is about to his mother’s delight.

The Death of a Schoolmaster by Shashi Tharoor:

Probably, the longest short story or the best, should I call it, written in 1990 tells that folded hands today mean no same treatment tomorrow. Balan Nair, the villain or the intelligent, as one may decipher who has been asked to look after the lands of Valiamaman registers the lands in his and his wife’s names under the Land Reform Act which states that the lands belong to the tiller. How ridiculous this may sound yet an echoing fact of the times we live in.

Because I Tell by Felix Cheong:

Though Because I Tell is not a children’s story, it is the story of a child, and the narrative too doesn’t dismiss the option. The 16 year old boy in the story seems to have a mental illness. Ben is his name and he is born stupid says everybody, his mother included.

A Life Elsewhere by Jaishree Misra:

Jaishree Misra’s tale is a soberly lit-up-darkened space. The end is open to readers and the central character herself. The oldest and the fondest cousin, Manichettan has found a new life in Singapore with a man, but never tells his family back home about it. the reason is he simply doesn’t want to make his parents unhappy and so by letting his younger cousin a peek into his life offers some sort of reconciliation with self but builds a castle of mystery for the young girl who knows the true story of Manichettan who fears to come out of the closet.

Patchwork by O Thiam Chin:

O Thiam Chin’s story is about moments that make us go back in time and wash our hands off of current matters attached to the past. In Patchwork, May Lee receives a patchwork blanket from her aunt whose death would be of no surprise due to her age and ill health, that has been passed on from so many generations, the woman who receives the blanket has to add a patch to the blanket and keep it for a while until the woman of next generation is ready to do the same. May lee in the end sees no connection with it and dumps or as a refined word has it puts it into the recycling bin.

In Memory of Kaya Toast:

Certainly Anjali Menon’s story does justice to the title – A Monsoon Feast. The only story in the anthology that celebrates the joy of favourite foods and most certainly the shortest story smells of jams and jackfruit and of monsoon, not overtly but mildly.

Taste by Verena Tay:

Taste as the title suggests has a taste, sour or bitter, the reader has to describe. If there’s one pebble in the bowl of rice grains, it is Taste by Verena Tay. An almost drab narrative, devoid of the actual taste other short stores in the anthology offer. Ironically Verena Tay is the editor of this book.

All in all, a good collection of stories barring Taste. Writers from Singapore and Kerala, as Shashi Tharoor puts it in his foreword, writers from Kerala who write in English – have done a good job.