Strains of affection


Charry brings to the fore, as only an obsessive observer can, characters that smell vividly of regular people. Be it Jayanthi, Sundar, Chuck or Mallika, we are sure to have met or in the least heard, of similar people in our daily lives. The virtuosity of the compilation lies in the pragmatism with which pigeonholed emotions like obsession, jealousy and selfishness are ministered to. Their presence in these stories about love contrasts and thus highlights their normalcy as well as their importance in the spectrum of emotions. To the author’s credit is her honest attempt at portraying love as the true hodgepodge of emotions that it is.

Charry’s perceptive style of writing is made apparent by her performance of fantastic soliloquies, hop-scotching between varying points of view. In the story ‘First Love’, monologues delivered by the younger and the older girl help balance the reader’s perspective. Be it retaining the charm of ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’, emphasising Sundari’s strangeness in ‘Mr William Graham: a ghost story’, Ramanujan’s solitary life in ‘Boston Brahmin’ or the intensity of ‘The Secret’, it is undoubtedly her narrative style that will win the reader over.  

Though the title of the collection may be a wet blanket for many, the multiple dimensions of love that Charry engages with are far from tiresome. Suitably sheltered within the love-story format, they seem to subtly question the existing order of misplaced morality and hypocrisy our society.

Likewise, the author seems to gauge children’s minds and their functioning logic like clockwork. In ‘The Russians’ and ‘Mallika’ the eventual loss of innocence is catapulted by the precise portrayal of their pre-adult pursuits. The author also lingers on many a strong-willed woman who has dealt with the situations she find herself in, to the best of her ability; unsung heroines in their own right.

While the narratives, writing style, themes and perspectives that string the stories hold much appeal, the allusions in the story aren’t strong enough and the treatment meted out to them seems to gravitate towards a harrowing haze. Although ambiguity provides room for the readers to accommodate their imagination, her plots need to have more bones to hold up the muscular structure of words and the fleshy observations. 

Of the dozen stories, ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ stands out for its bravery. Attempting to render a much loved classic like the legend of the Pied Piper is indeed an act of courage. Charry’s new-age take on Robert Browning’s ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ retains the original’s magical charm though the introduction of love results in the aforementioned haziness.

My favourite however, was ‘Shadow’, the story of two women brought together by an unforeseen circumstance that builds an everlasting bond between them in a way that only life-changing incidents seem capable. It is this commonplace sensibility that sustains this book through its ebbs. Picking up First Love in a bookshop filled with IIT-graduates’ regurgitated reflections would easily be your best social-responsibility gesture for the week.

FIRST LOVE
Brinda Charry
HarperCollins,2009,
pp 211, Rs 250

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