(Short Stories / Fiction: INR 125/-)
Lotus? What sort of a name is that? No, do not worry, no lotuses have been personified in compiling this collection of nine interlinked stories. The feat has actually been done by Rajiv Kumar and how. Navarasa by Lotus is a 162-pager quick-read of nine tales, all belonging to genres as different as chalk and cheese.
The book kick-starts with the mutinous ‘Seed’ which introduces us to Rajanath, an erstwhile film star who now stands staring at the gallows. Ho hum, you say. Now where have we read this before? As you flip to the next tale, you meet a common-man who suddenly gets his fifteen minutes of fame. And this isn’t through a musical reality show.
However, you actually wake up to Navarasa with its third story – ‘Mutiny’. A few words down and you are transported to Mosquito Land. Literally. Reminding you in a vague way of Orwell’s Animal Farm, Mutiny talks of how a group of talking and mating mosquitoes get together with street dogs, ant flies and crows to take revenge on the cruel humans who gassed their cousins. Now, this tale, though very meticulous, may get on the nerves of someone not initiated to this world of you know, communicating animals. But for many others, this could be the best bet in the book.
In the latter half, the book focuses more and more on science fiction. Though here too the genres are different – horror, wonder – they all border on the fantastical. Especially well written is the story of Lucky – a woman who wakes up one morning to a strange dream and finds it coming true. Even ‘N.H.’, a take on time travel and the world beyond the dreaded apocalypse of 2012, is a fascinating read. The issue with these stories is that they leave you with an unfailing sense of déjà vu. Though all original pieces of fiction, perhaps they take inspiration from one source too many.
Coming to some technical issues with the publication – the paragraphs seem very cluttered, almost starving for space. But then, perhaps the publisher had a cap on the number of pages the book could have. A more thorough proofreading session would also have helped avoid this mention of the same.
Rajiv Kumar has the knack of handling back and forth narration expertly. The transitions between the stories are fluid and the interlinks – which are the USP of the book – are well established through recurring characters and webbed circumstances. Towards the end of the book, the ‘Lotus’ connection also comes to the fore, in an interesting and all-encompassing tongue in cheek fashion.
Navarasa by Lotus is easy to read, even easy to film if you know what I mean. Though the stories do not leave you feeling very satiated, they keep true to the title and are never taxing. If you are looking for a casual read on an airplane for instance, you might consider picking this up.
The author, Rajiv Kumar, had sent me a review copy. Irrespective of how the review and the book is received, this note is to say that I enjoyed reading it. I wish him all the best for his future endeavours and I hope I can continue being a part of them.