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Stealing The Moment

Read Manjula for her versatility and for the revelation that the shortest distance between two human points is never a straight line.

Stealing The Moment
Jaychandran
Stealing The Moment
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Kleptomania— Ten Stories
By Manjula Padmanabhan
Penguin Rs 250; Pages: 216
Manjula Padmanabhan is very good at stretching taut the fabric of reality to help each crease speak; and there lies a world in every crease. She does this with great wit and intelligence when her self occupies the centres of her story-world, as in the earlier Getting There and, in this collection, Morning Glory in East of Kailash. She’s also effective when she takes apart the machine of experience, holding cogs up to light: Hosts advance to receive guests "teeth bared in ritual smiles" and from the political thickness of a dining table seating chatty friends, the hostess catches the bearer’s eye and nods her approval.

This flair is best showcased in the title story, which begins as a foray into the meanings of ‘kleptomania’ (including the unplanned compulsion of writers to steal experiences from those around them). This is woven around a kleptomaniac "incident" that’s more surprising than you’d expect. But the story walks further than the "twist in the tale", down a thorny path, and sits with its bleeding feet to think on...

Sadly, this instinct is missing from the three offerings of the rare science fiction genre. They articulate Manjula’s concerns over insane nuclear aggression, the marketisation of every conceivable thing, the disappearance of trees. The ideas are imaginative: a Gandhi Toxin derived from his descendant’s gene is used by a company to eliminate aggression from its competitors. And yet. These are mind-boggling plots at the unhappy cost of her talent for detailed exploration.

The Girl Who Could Make People Naked, the unique fantasy tale, and An Upbeat Story reveal her humanism much better: that the joy of giving company to a gauche cousin at a party is preferable to joining a race of superhumans, and that one of the things people with Down’s Syndrome can do is loving.

Read Manjula for her versatility and for the revelation that the shortest distance between two human points is never a straight line.

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