July 26, 2020
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Sly Bends

An unusually skilled writer. So many writers today rush to 'say something' at the expense of artistry. Koshy is a rare—and very welcome—exception.

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Sly Bends
If It Is Sweet
By Mridula Koshy
Westland/Tranquebar Press Pages: 283; Rs. 295
From the very first sentence of Mridula Koshy’s debut short story collection, If It Is Sweet, the reader knows she is in the presence of an unusually skilled writer.

The Good Mother, and most of the stories that follow, are beautifully spare and evocative, with turns that are riveting, surprising, and revealing of the mysteries of the human psyche.

The 17 stories centre on loss and longing within relationships, be these romantic, platonic, or familial. Jeans deftly, and humorously, explores a variety of class, gender and cultural attitudes towards this ultimate symbol of modernity. When the Child Was a Child locates the exact moment of the loss of childhood innocence. Not Known is more political, about a servant girl with a rich inner life which cannot be expressed through the partial education she is receiving.

In several stories, the relationships are refreshingly unconventional. Large Girl explores an affair between a married woman and a girl from her schooldays. Companion explores the friendship between a widow, a monkey and the monkey’s minder.

Some of the stories verge on the experimental, with gaps and interstices that invite the reader to infer meaning, and to puzzle, enjoyably, over the characters’ true motivations. Koshy’s greatest strength is that she never over-explains or condescends. She expects the reader to follow even the most dizzying movements, such as rapid changes of geography, or sly shifts from interior monologue to dialogue.

This fine sensibility sets her apart. So many writers today rush to ‘say something’ at the expense of artistry. Koshy is a rare—and very welcome—exception.

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