06 July, 2007
Title: Selected Stories
Had the satirical Bengali writer Parashuram (1880-1960) been alive today, one can imagine him writing brilliant pieces about the attempt to prove Pratibha Patil worthy of the presidency, on our attitudes to foreigners revealed by matters like the Greg Chappell controversy, or the love of Indian housewives for saas-bahu serials. But as Parashuram cannot come to us, the only other option is for us to go to Parashuram, and this can be done by picking up the wonderful edition of his Selected Stories published last year by Penguin.
The new translations of Parashuram by Sukanta Chaudhuri and Palash Baran Pal cast his witty, wise and digressive stories into fluent, chatty English. Among the seventeen pieces included here two are, in my judgment, amongst the greatest stories in Indian literature. These are “The Scripture Read Backward”, which imagines a world in which Bengal has colonised Britain instead of the other way round, and “On Bhushandi’s Plain”, about an unhappy householder who dies and turns into a ghost, and whose story comes to an end with a spectacular “twofold concurrence of a threefold conjunction” (Parashuram loved complicated plots).
More on Parashuram here.
Next article: On the periphery of Indian history