Diving deep into the darker side of life, love & other matters

Diving deep into the darker side of life, love & other matters

In an age where soppy teenage romance and household drama clutter bookshelves, Eunuch Park is a startlingly different read. The said 15 stories are seemingly disparate, yet as you read them, an undercurrent is apparent, that links these stories. The author has daringly picked subjects that Indian readers are usually wary of. However, the characters are skillfully dealt with, their emotions and passions drawn out, so that the reader is left empathising with them, which can be a little unnerving. The experience can be disquieting, especially as Palash Mehrotra has not softened any blows.

‘Dancing with Men’, the first story in the collection gives you a glimpse of what the stories to come are like. It strikes a chord, and seems to resonate with the understanding that in India, men make do without the company of women in social settings. Other stories like ‘Fit of Rage’, ‘The Other Evening’ and ‘Ohkla Basti’ all bring to life the sleaze that is very much a part of large cities like Delhi. Well portrayed through the perspectives of youngsters; murder, marijuana and sex are sprinkled casually throughout these stories of the big city. ‘Ohkla Basti’ is particularly vivid and has managed to bring out in minute detail, the lives of slum-dwellers through a short story. In isolation, these stories could be taken as proof of the vices young people acquire when living in big cities, however, Palash has crafted brilliant counterpoints to this view in pieces like ‘Nobody wants to eat my Mangoes’, a touching story that deals with families and their expectations.

Stories like ‘The Nick of Time’, ‘The Wrist’ and ‘Freshers’ Welcome’ deal with many interspersed themes, the primary ones being the indecisions and frustrations that abound in the life of the modern young Indian.

The protagonists are agonisingly lost and confused and the style of writing brings home memories of what it felt like to grow up and have no one to turn to. The experiences of the characters are painted in graphic and colourful detail, leaving little room for ambiguity. Harsh reality at its best. ‘Freshers’ Welcome’ is an especially gripping story, where a young boy is initiated into homosexuality by his senior in college, as a result of the circumstances that bind them both. 

‘The Wrist’ is another story that, not so subtly, explores what people’s lives become when faced with events out of the ordinary. Ravi and Abha seem to have no control over their lives and this leads to a series of occurrences that are shattering. In yet another story of social deviance, ‘The Nick of Time’ is strangely childlike and unusual, even so, readers are likely to identify with Mayank, the protagonist of the story.

Two stories in the collection, ‘The Teacher’s Daughter’ and ‘Pornography’, seem to diverge from the main theme of the book, in that they don’t revolve around sleaze, slime and the underworld. They are both stories about teachers, their schools, families and lives in middle-class India. It is in these two pieces that Palash shows his strength, for they are both emphatic, without being shocking. They may seem a little out of place in this collection, and yet are necessary, to balance the book and to bring to the forefront Palash’s wondrous writing.

All in all, the themes may seem familiar to some, especially as many authors have been outspoken enough in recent years to write about topics that were earlier considered taboo. It is the style in which the book is written that makes this collection different. Empathetic and touching, the stories are refreshingly written, and the readers will forget the taboo in the midst of the agonies suffered by the characters.

Eunuch Park
Palash Krishna Mehrotra
Penguin, 2009,
pp 185, Rs 250

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