Pull of memories & home
Gitanjali Sharma

The Silence of Time and Other Stories
by Kripa Nidhi. Rupa. Pages 189. Rs 195

The Silence of Time and Other Stories"Time conceals the answers to all questions – inconvenient or otherwise – in its bosom". Almost all the 10 stories in the collection reflect this truism mentioned in Kripa Nidhi’s short story The Silence of Time.

This Calicut-born writer-cum-engineer, at present living in Houston, has placed adeptly images of his home state onto the larger canvas painted from across the shores. Evocative and touching a wide gamut of human emotions and experiences, most of the stories are set in India, mainly Kerala. The two set in the US are also dotted with reminiscences rooted in homeland.

The accounts are haunted by memories — of a friendship left behind, a land that once one belonged to, a childhood mate, an attachment that got eroded over time or a bond that has snapped. Time and again, the protagonists nostalgically "scan old pages of memory — pages that are not just dog-eared but also blurred".

A single theme runs through most of the anthology — exploration of man-woman relationships, most of it again chronicled in the backdrop of memories. Every story, however, is around a plot that is different and absorbing, thus presenting a range of encounters and sentiments that sustains reader interest.

If in Before the Storm, the writer is able to bring the pain that the protagonist Suhas feels as he connects with his childhood mate who is suffering from cancer, in Beaten Tracks the focus is on a bored executive who feels enriched spending a couple of hours talking to a sex worker. It dawns on him that "compared to the intensity and honesty of these people’s lives, how trivial were our lives. We only made mountains of our little discomforts and bragged about our puny victories".

Written lucidly, the narratives are intense, at times almost spouting bottled-up emotions. For instance, The Other Side of Dreams brings forth powerful and dark images of a betrayal resulting in a life devoid of emotions. The emotional graph of a woman who becomes a prostitute after she being spurned by her lover and society is depicted sensitively. The images are stark but moving: the girlie crush, followed by rejection and the final acceptance of a barren existence. So barren, that there is even no emotion left to feel gladdened by or accept the marriage proposal of the prodigal lover keen on making amends. The gripping tale brings alive the character as well as her pain and hurt.

Since the subject of most of the stories covers insightful perceptions and thoughts related to passing of life and time, Face to Face comes as a refreshing change. Kripa has deftly dealt with a light-hearted anecdote that evokes more than a smile: a young man and a woman, two strangers travelling in the Delhi-bound Mangala Express, are acutely aware of each other’s presence even though they don’t share a word with each other.

Each page of the writer’s first anthology holds your interest, and eggs you on to relish the next.