Finer sensibilities with niche insight
We live in a time where longer formats are being supplanted by their shorter counterparts. The five-day test matches have now been reduced to 4 hours for twenty matches. Is it the evolution or the devolution of the game of cricket? The question remains debatable but in the realm of literature when some neophyte critics advance the analogy of the T. Twenty format of cricket and short stories (the latter presented as the truncated version of long novels) it infuriates fiction enthusiasts ad nauseam. Undoubtedly, in today’s milieu, short stories have evolved as an independent literary genre and author Jayanthi Sankar’s “Dangling Gandhi and other stories” lends credence to the fact that this kind of literature is truly in safe and skillful hands.
The short story titled “Dangling Gandhi” which is placed on a high pedestal in this anthology of these twelve captivating stories in toto stimulates readers to revisit Mahatma Gandhi and reflect deeply on this philosophical idea. It would not be wrong to point out that India failed to do full justice to Gandhi. Such is the depth of this story that its subtlety piques readers’ awareness and prompts them to see Gandhi with a fresh and unbiased perspective. Another story, ‘Punkha wallah’, sheds substantial light on the trials and tribulations that people with disabilities must encounter in their daily lives. Here, one is instantly reminded of a tale ‘Miss Beam school’ by EV Lucas. The parallels can be conveniently drawn because in both tales, readers are told about the fate of people from sections of society with different abilities. This story is an eye-opener for anyone who finds this world full of opportunity, sparkling progress, and happiness.
Many of these stories are set against the backdrop of colonial times. It was a tumultuous time when India was under the sway of the barbaric British regime. Told from many different points of view, they engage readers and enlighten them on many facets of life. Each story is dyed in unique hues, carrying an exquisite tenor and texture all its own. The variety of multicolored themes distinguishes the collection, which successfully touches the deepest chords of the human heart. Therefore, the expatriate author can be aptly compared with Mulk Raj Anand, Manjeri S Isvaran, RK Narayan, Khushwant Singh and others who have rendered outstanding services in enriching this rapidly emerging genre of literature with their literary sense and their finer sensibilities. Readers from the Indian subcontinent can easily identify with the buffet of these lavish tales as all lay bare the daily lives of people from countries on the Asian continent, such as India and Singapore.
If we dwell on the title of this endearing collection Dangling Gandhi, the term is actually taken from one of his tales in which the main character happens to have a Gandhi figurine hanging from the rear view mirror of his vehicle, from where the name ‘Hanging Gandhi’. embellishes the book like its somewhat enigmatic and iconic title.
Each story in this gripping and heartwarming anthology is set in a niche of its own, depicting mundane incidents that take place in the ordinary course of our daily lives. However, after stating that each is very important in the form of a takeaway, it leaves readers wanting more even after they’re done with their delicious dish. All these tales have a lasting impression and they certainly leave indelible imprints in the minds of the readers which makes Jayanthi Shankar one of the most sought after storytellers.