Conversations of an Intelligent Kind 
By Nalin Rawal
Celestial Books. Pages 229. `195

short takes
Tales of love and adolescence 
Randeep Wadehra

Quite a bit of literature is being churned out on matters that are not merely spiritual but introspective and aspirational too. At some stage in life, one confronts certain fundamental questions, viz., who am I, what is the purpose of my life, etc. This book takes a comprehensive look at various physical, metaphysical and social aspects of human existence. The burden of its arguments may be reflected in these excerpted words, “Most of the people we know simply do not care to know what life signifies…We have become compulsive materialists…

We grow up lacking direction… (of which) the world around us is a living testimony…” If you are into self-improvement this book may be right up your alley.

Love in The Tsunami
By Ashok Ferrey
Pages: v+242. `299

THE title story is set in a post-tsunami port town of Sri Lanka. Veena, who has returned to Colombo after studying design in America, meets Deborah, an American NGO worker, and promptly falls in love with her, resulting in quite a few comic and piquant situations. But this anthology is not just about lesbian relationships. It deals with an array of human states of affairs and liaisons, often tinged with sardonic humour. In Jiggy, Asoka is an accountant, leading a married, conservative life in a respectable middleclass locality. One day, to his horror, he discovers that he has a double who lives a colourful life – fast cars and fast girls included – and charges it all to Asoka’s account. The faceoff between the straight- -as-an-arrow Asoka and the rakish Jiggy is quite amusing. Rain, set in East Africa, is a well-crafted story of marital infidelity and deadly treachery. Ice Cream Karma takes a sardonic look at class snobbery, especially of those who work in the West and visit home on ego trips. O Signore Non Sono Degno, set in Nigeria, is the story of an adolescent Romesh’s coming of age via a love affair. He is left bemused by his African girlfriend’s emancipated worldview – “emancipation” is something that western and westernised women are still struggling to attain, but belongs to the African woman by right. 

This collection of short stories introduces us to the world in our neighbourhood that we often ignore as our sights are set on the West.

Tin Fish 
By Sudeep Chakravarti
Harper Collins. Pages 208. `250

Campus-lit is now an established genre. This book, set in the 1970s and published earlier by Penguin, takes us from the Naxalite-impacted Kolkata to the more benign environs of Mayo College in Ajmer, Rajasthan. With Barun, alias Brandy, as the narrator this is basically a tale of four friends who grow up together in an elitist public school, which is like being on another planet. There are the usual scenes of getting to know each other, a bit of innocent ragging and lots of fun. But there are incidents that stand out, like the killing of college boys in Kolkata on suspicion of being Naxalites, and protestors in Rajasthan spitting on Indira Gandhi’s portrait etc. Despite some political strands, the narrative remains essentially pubertal – whether it is Barun’s intense dislike for his granduncles, the depiction of first heartbreak, death of Barun’s mother that sends him on an emotional rollercoaster, or his graduation from school resulting in friends parting and moving on with their lives elsewhere.

Chakraborty is quite good at characterisation. While he has handled poignant scenes quite well, one would have preferred a more effective storyline. Even though the plot is rather thin, the language is something to which the teenage readers would be able to relate.