Darker side of human nature

A World Lost and Other Stories
by R.P. Sisodia.
Sterling. Pages 248. Rs 150.

A World Lost and Other StoriesWe all have our moments of glory, fame and achievement. But there are moments when we feel that life has not been kind to us. That is the time when seeds of jealousy are sown that leads us to do strange things. We tend to blame human nature with all its vices with the mask of civilisation disguising them most of the time. But we forget that there are times when circumstances are beyond our control. It is this human nature, combined with the compulsion of circumstances, that the author R.P. Sisodia tries to explore. And he is successful to quite an extent. The short stories reflect human nature in myriad forms. As the Preface says: "The stories are unconventional and upbeat in the sense that many do not have a straight plot and/or a categorical message to convey."

The author is an acute observer of men and it is this power of observation that has stood him in good stead. The short stories are so interesting that the reader just floats from one story to another. However, there are some stories that make you ponder on them.

In The Gullible Couple, the emotions of an old childless couple are played with by a young couple. The latter barge into the old couple’s house and starts emotionally blackmailing them.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare is another such story where village life with the feudal lord at its head is described. Though the ‘untouchables’ are treated with revulsion and have to stay away from the village life, the newly-wed brides have to be sent to the ‘Dora’ (the head of the prestigious family of the landlords) for her first night before starting her new life with her husband. Strange are the customs of India!

The Absconding Soul is a story that shows us how the paperwork in government offices can make you lose your identity. As the hero Kharche ponders, "trying to find out the reason for this sudden interest of the world in his absence". With his education and birth certificates destroyed, he says with a lump in his throat: "I found no proof to show that I existed in this world."

This and other such stories as The Culprit and The Ghost of the Past are happenings that have taken place around us.

The Culprit, for example, tells the story of an unmarried girl who gives birth to a child and disposes it in the lake of the city of Udaipur. However, when she marries she has a miscarriage and doesn’t conceive again. A punishment for the past sins?

R.P. Sisodia does not claim to deliver any judgments. He simply tries to convey "a different point of view or providing a unique perspective to life".

Though one feels quite helpless and sad after reading the stories, one has to accept the darker side of human nature. The reader can only hope not to be confronted with such negative emotions that can leave a bitter taste in the mouth.