No dirty bits here

Adultery and Other stories
Farrukh Dhondy
HarperCollins
2011, pp 265
Rs 299

But let’s get this out of the way straight off — no dirty bits. Instead, the short stories by Farrukh Dhondy focus on all forms of foolery. Hustlers are more in than bedroom antics. Not that there are no cuckolds, there are a couple of them. But mainly in stories like ‘Bollox’ or ‘E-mailwallahs’, there are small-town crooks and big city con jobs.

In ‘Adultery’, the very literary Sufi muses about his wife: ‘Joanna has developed warts and there’s nothing her doctor can do about them. He’s tried to freeze them off, but they don’t go and when my hands find them in the dark, my passion dies.’

So, here he is, with his war cry of ‘rage, rage, against the dying of the erection’, a ripe candidate for the Other Woman. Sufi typifies the cerebral cheat, the one who wants to do it only because he feels so doomed, who can explain: ‘An adulterer? A married man of lusts. A debauchee.’

Lotus, the girlfriend, is a student and suitably in awe of him for the shortest while. ‘We walked back to the hotel and in the room she kissed me. She closed her eyes and stood on tiptoe and held her arms behind her back. She had a vision of herself. Or was she playing the angel… “So precious,” she said, an adjective that didn’t fit.’ Sufi soon discovers there are ‘two kinds of wanting’ and laments, ‘How could I have hypnotised myself so?’ That is it in the end — a midlife crisis, a ‘hypnotised’ state.

The stories speak very little of love and lesser of lust. Mainly, they delve into the nasty. In ‘Jig Jigolo’, a former client reminisces to her Indian gigolo: ‘You told me that the Indian jokey word for getting it on was jig-jig and I never told you this, but in my mind you were always my jig-jigolo… I came looking for services and went away finding love… You were so handsome, so beautiful, a tiger…’

Twenty years later, after a horrified glimpse of him, she emails: ‘I came to my senses when I saw the middle-aged man, going on fifty now, round with prosperity, with a pot belly over the belt, bald, bespectacled, eating a hamburger with ketchup staining the side of his mouth.’

He replies: ‘And now lady lay, you are seventy-five. One foot slipping into that wooden box… Yes, of course, I came for money. What else? But when was it different? You conveniently forget. You had to beg me to say ‘I love you’… I carried some porn-pics in my wallet and quickly stimulated myself and swallowed my pride. Or the truth is I was an animal and would screw anything, even if with you I had to hold my nose half the time.’

Ouch!

In ‘Boogoo’ and ‘Adultery’, there is admittedly some level of hanky-panky. In fact, these two stories along with ‘Jig Jigolo’ shed some light on the politics played out between men and women. Honesty, the brutal variety, is supplied in large doses.

Dhondy is somewhat a veteran at ripping off masks. When the going is tough, his characters launch into the truth. This is too much of a good thing, incidentally, since most of the tales pose pleasantries told as lies against the later unveiling of things as they really were. The aftermath is not pretty.


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