It is after a long time that I read a good book by a not so well-known author. Not many are aware of Sharat Kumar. I was also initially apprehensive about this new author, but he is good, really good, at least quite different from this generation’s authors who mostly write on hunky-dory love stories.
Sharat Kumar’s “The White Marble Burzi And Other Stories” is a book with a fresh take on love, life and relationships. Quite a mature read for mature readers! The women here are not sweet-16, but quite well past their prime and determined to exercise their freedom of choice in their lives.
The author presents a technicolour diorama of life past and present, through the eyes of fictional people as well as his own. Each story, whether it may be ‘Saturday, Sunday’ or ‘The Affair’, is a little gleaming gem of how life, love and sexuality twists and turns everyday people into unique personalities.
In one of the short stories ‘The Affair’, a widower contemplates how his needs and aspirations have changed after his wife’s untimely death. Reclaiming love, he realises, isn’t what he thought it was anymore.
In ‘Florence’, Kumar captures Kolkata and its people in all its quaintness, mores and dilemmas as has seldom been attempted. A beautiful Anglo-Indian woman living in the Calcutta of the ’70s, Florence struggles to balance love, racial differences and relationships until they force her to take a burning decision. The cranky Bengali bhadralok, with all his paan-spewing diatribes hiding a wonderfully warm father figure, plays an able foil to the woman of two races battling life’s vicissitudes of death, alcoholism and domestic violence in this story.
The titular short story, ‘The White Marble Burzi’ is a cliff-hanger in more ways than one as the characters play out the battle between the independence of body and mind against what’s acceptable in polite society. A romance set in the backdrop of an abandoned fort, the narrator and his muse shed light on freedom of choice in life, love and happiness in a series of wry ripostes until the idyllic turns horrifying.
In all these stories, Kumar has shown that we all are in search of good relationship in life, and how a good relationship is actually bedrock of a happy and fulfilling life. These days, we all are in a race of securing well-paid jobs, earning more money, ignoring the basic need of companionship. Kumar highlights this need and how it still dominates our lives.
The book is a collection of 13 short stories, though not all are so short – the ‘Storm’ and ‘Flood’ were quite long. However, I feel, this book may sound a bit slow to some, but sure a worth read!