Transactions of Belonging – Jaya Padmanabhan
Only occasionally we stumble upon collections such as Transactions of Belonging. When Leadstart gave a set of names to review, I chose Transactions of Belonging as it was collection of short stories. I sometimes finish novels with intermittent naps. Short stories are much safer. We can jump over a story if the plot is too confusing or boring. Also, we can complete a story in available short breaks. Moreover, flavour of each story would be different and would generally keep us occupied, unless the writer is renowned and has a style of story writing. Being a debut collection I have to honestly admit that I did not had much hope on this Transactions of Belonging when I chose this book. However, the note about the author Jaya Padhmanabhan was pretty encouraging. She had been a Copywriter and a Television Producer, apart from her other roles. She has won three Katha Short Story Contest titles and also the New America Media award for feature reporting. She is also the editor of India Currents magazine. With this note I entered into the collection of the dozen short stories.
Needless to say, Jaya moved me. Just a dozen short stories. Each story had a different plot and each written in a different format. I was controlling my emotions through every story. The beauty of these stories is that it does not elaborate. It is left to the reader to visualise the situation. And the author provides enough detail for the reader to visualise the story. Even the titles are well thought of. You would appreciate it when you complete each story. Given an option and permission, I would love to translate every story in this collection.
- The Fly Swatter was based on politics and how a guy is treated in the hands of a minister. This also talks about the dark hidden sexual life of a socially nice person.
- The Blue Arc was about the life of a girl in a brothel. Underlying is the girls love to her father whom she doesn’t at all remember except through a notebook. What is done to the notebook and the girl’s decision post that is too deep.
- Mustard Seeds starts with the fire and Fibonacci sequence. The story keeps explaining an old incident which leads to current one. The story goes on with briefing intermittently until the story ends with a killing by fire.
- Strapped for Time is about an old man killing his time waiting for his end and reading obituaries daily. He has affection towards his maid and plans to gift his wife’s watch. However, fate is different.
- Curtains Drawn is another story that moved me to tears. This is about the relation of a son with his father. A little bird plays and explains the relation between them. I have read this story more than a few times and I end with heavy heart every time. This could be an excellent short movie.
- His Curls is a story of a mother’s love towards her son and her son’s love towards his belief. Though this story is woven around Sri Lanka, it talks about the agony and pain of a mother of every extremist across the globe.
- Neyyappams is about a small innocent child eager to eat the dish. Through the child, this story talks about caste discrimination, untouchability and hatred towards girl child. Brining all these in a single short story is marvellous.
- The Length of a Breath has a story within the story. Through a story about a girl protected by a wolf, the bigger story is explained. The affection is explained by a subtle story.
- The Little Matter of Fresh Meadows Feces is a collection of letters and pages of a diary. This give a picture of the life of old retired people, their need in the society association, their post retirement life in a foreign land, their relationship with the kids and the generation gap. A unique way of storytelling.
- The Smell of Jasmine too was a little away from normal linear story. The story expands through the views of a rich lady believing to control everything but losing her life and temper to her maid. I am yet to completely grasp this plot.
- Jumble is about a love between two educated people but of different beliefs. About how their family deals with their love and how they deal with it.
- Indian Summer is a play in one act. It is about a guy being gay and of how his family deals with it. I also liked the way author Jaya elaborate the atmosphere of the play before the dialogues start.
Of all, I would recommend this book to any short story lover. The stories are not straight forward thereby doesn’t take the reader for granted. The reader is made to think. Imagine. Expand the story in his/her mind. One of the best short story collections that I have read recently. However, none of the story has a tinge of humour and every story is too deep to move you. Curtains Drawn still brings me tears.
My Verdict: Preserve in your library.