I love short stories. Unfortunately this genre is not very popular with the publishers. They chose to publish short stories collections only of established writers. So when I saw Shilpi Chaklanobis’s Panorama a collection of short stories I immediately grabbed it.
Shilpi’s collection opens with the story Wok. Here a poor housemaid gives her daughter money to have fun at the fair. Instead the daughter returns with a wok for her mother. Shilpi makes a wrong choice with the opening story. This story bears uncanny resemblance with one of Munshi Premchand’s famous stories. So after reading the opening story Wok, I developed a negative outlook towards her writing. Fortunately the other stories were very well written and my perspective towards Shilpi’s writing changed.
The second story Peanut is about the man-dog relationship. In the story the thirst, Shilpi articulates the dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship very well. Her description of the daughter who longs for the company of her mother and who doesn’t hesitate while drinking the poison offered by her mother brought tears into my eyes. This story is very well written and is a nail biting thriller.
Selective secularism talks of the double standards which people harbour. The story bribe revolves around the question which we adults ask our children often ‘Whom do you love more, Mummy or Papa?’ The wait is a story of a young bride whose husband has gone missing. The protagonist in the story successfully hunts him, only to find that he has become a eunuch. The second tsumani is the story of an orphaned brother and sister. The example deals with the teacher-student relationship. It exhibits how teachers can positively influence their students.
In the story the meeting Shilpi demonstrates how financial conditions change the dynamics of friendship. The mirage deals with the thoughts of a child, who has been raised by a single parent, towards the other parent.
Destiny is the weakest story in the collection and I didn’t understand what the author wanted to convey through this story. The Untimely death is about the atrocities faced by the Sikh community post Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The story is narrated from the perspective of a school child, who is not a Sikh. Before it is too late speaks of busy men who always have an excuse for not giving time to their families – I am slogging for you people. All the family members move on and the protagonist finds out that no family member has any time for him.
The sealed wish, the last story of the book is the best story in the collection. Shilpi charms the readers with the suspense revolving around the urn. It reminded me of O Henry’s writing style. Shilpi, in the next edition of this collection, please put the opening story at the end and vice-versa.
Most of Shilpi’s stories revolve around human relationships. She touches almost every relationship. Her stories are set among the poor as well rich. Her writing is poignant. She has good knowledge of human behaviour and relationships and it shows in her writing. I felt she has used the word frequency incorrectly on page 53 of the book. Also I did not understand what she wanted to say by using words she said emotionally on page 54. There are multiple emotions. Which emotion was she referring to?
Yet I liked this collection. It brought the charm of short stories back. Such collections deserve encouragement. Only then the big publishers will realize their potential.