THIS anthology of short stories has aroused considerable interest in the international literary world as they craft out close and intimate, utterly believable, fleshed-out characters, who are like any of you may know. There are stories told with conviction and skill and stay close to the reader’s heart; stories that make their point with subtlety and precision, notwithstanding the conflict-ridden country.
Some of the stories are very ordinary like ‘Baby’ where young 20-year old boy and 19-year old girl love each other but after some time the boy wants to escape from her. But what happens is that on seeing her in front of him, he wants her one last time.
One of the best stories is ‘Settling Affairs’ where a domestic help Zaheer who has worked and looked after 82-year old Khalida Begum Sahib as a devoted servant to the extent of even helping her to pour water on her back when she is unable to raise her arms due to weakness. One day, she collapses on the floor and dies.
A bit of humour is introduced through the story ‘Mir Sahib’s Hairdo’, in which Mir Sahib is forced to dye his white beard and hair with Kala Kola to avoid persistent nagging from his wife. But the result is outrageous because his hair, after dyeing, “ranges from the darkest black to a duller black with intervals of white.” When he goes out for some work, he is reprimanded by a young girl for staring at her when he had actually been peering intently at the blurred oncoming traffic.
In the story titled ‘Not another Voice’, Khadija is sleeping in a hospital bed and has been told that her newborn is dead. The baby had not been a stillborn but was incapable of breathing and thus gets suffocated. The writer Bina Shah describes the ordeal of the mother on recovery from the effects of anaesthesia to hear the daily news.
The selection of stories has been wisely done in the sense that there is unusual diversity in the themes.
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