The Jasmine Girl at Haji Ali and Other Stories is a collection of fifteen short stories, by Mrityunjay Sarangi, a retired civil servant and editor if Literary Vibes, a monthly e magazine in English.
The unique feature of the book, as I perceive, is the author's ability to bring in an element of suspense that is sustaining throughout the stories, with a climax, that sets the momentum in the reader. The stories are laced with a string of emotions and a tinge of humor, sarcasm and empathy.
As one turns the pages the stories suddenly turn serious.
How budding talent is brutally curbed in the child by uncalled for criticism and how force of circumstances revives the latent musical talent to blossom, is very well portrayed in 'Piano'.
The perception of love across individuals is lucidly brought out in " The Girl in Red".
How gullible are, the common people and fall easy prey to promotions of 'good health' schemes by Dr. Nayak makes 'Monkey Dance', a humorous read.
The suspense and the climax in 'Perfume', stands out and brings out the distinct identity of each character in the story.
I am sure every reader will be able to easily relate to 'A Walk on Lodhi Gardens', where the husband cleverly handles the emotional angle of his spouse by recalling the instant poems the protagonist had conjured during the early days of their marriage and calmed her on their return home after a walk.
The yearnings of the devout homemaker, with unfulfilled dreams, seeking avenues for satisfaction, though common place, is well narrated by the author in 'Freud Stumped' through a recall of life experience when a group of friends meet.
'Rice' revolves around the tragic life of Kamalini and her family, set at a fast pace.
'Yes Boss' is bound to send the readers into peals of laughter, at the turn of events unfolding, as the story picks up steam.
The shortest story 'The Jasmine Girl at Haji Ali' to me is very meaningful with a message loud and clear. It lays bare the fact that the well to do evaluate every aspect of life in monetary terms while a humble teen, a flower vendor, brings home the value of the joy of giving. The Jasmine Girl lingers in my memory long after I closed the book.
'Debt' set me recalling the numerous occasions people have voluntarily reached out to me with timely support when much needed, Some food for thought.
The writer, with his vast experience as a bureaucrat, has given an insight on the way the various departments in the government in India functions, in general, viz a viz the others abroad, through 'A Marooned Bird'.
The whimsical deeds of the ultra-rich, born with a silver spoon, with an arrogance that money brings power to control people, is stopped in its track in 'Flesh', in which the narrative takes a serious turn resulting in murder to avenge the misdeeds.
How love can reason out quietly and bring a man drawn into acquiring material wealth by any means, back into the mainstream is outlined in 'Redemption'.
'The Walk' brings back nostalgic memories of the painful pandemic, through Sadanand.
Finally, 'Pyre' touches upon the caste system because of which a family is separated but concludes on a positive note, though a bit tragic, with the acceptance, due to force of circumstances of a child born out of the marriage.
To sum up, the author has shared his vast experience in his stories which readers will be able to relate to with ease and enjoy the rich variety dished out. My best wishes to the author.
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