24.8.15

Book review - Half Rupee stories by Gulzar

A half rupee, an atthani, is hardly worth anything today. It's more a burden to carry that coin around, you're trying to get rid of it, than to use it to buy anything. After all, what can you get for a half-rupee? Gulzar sets out to answer this question in his collection of short stories, Half Rupee Stories.

A short story is almost always difficult to read and write. Keeping a tale short without being trite or uninteresting, is an art by itself. Gulzars excels in his stories. These stories transport us to varying realms - to battlefields, urban megapolises, slums, middle class houses - many places you have been to, and many you'll never go to. The stories are charming, witty and come with different shades of darkness - insanity, separation, tragedy. A bomber has her photo taken before killing a man, a loyal husband loses his mind slowly when he loses his wife, a slum dweller lives through relationships as if in a dream - each story captures a page out of human emotions. We may never experience these emotions, but this vicarious escape brings us ever closer to understanding the human state.

The English edition is a translation by Sunjoy Shekar of his works originally written in Hindi. Shekar is a prolific translator of Gulzar as his Goodreads profile shows. The language is a little heavy and seems to lose some of the sheer poetry that Gulzar can inspire. It does its job well, but one wonders if the translation can be improved upon.

Definitely worth a read. Take one story every morning or night and feel happy. 4 stars. Verdict - buy and read.