Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 05/14/23 6:31 AM

Book review: The Blue Women by Anukrti Upadhyay

Compartmentalised lives

 Anukrti Upadhyay is back with a fresh cache of short stories that effectively proves her earlier acclaimed work Kintsugi was no flash in the pan. There are a dozen short stories in this volume, all of them imbued with the characteristic quietude we have come to associate with this writer. When things — dramatic, uncanny or everyday — happen to the characters in the stories, they happen in a discreet way.

It is as if the reader is standing in a vestibule looking into the different rooms leading off from it. In one room, a woman cabbie tries to come to terms with her clairvoyance, which she isn’t sure is a boon or bane. In other rooms, a couple dissect their marriage- gone- kaput even as they head to the divorce courts; a woman mourns the passing of her beloved father; a young girl ponders with deadly intent how to remove her competition (her mother) from the scene; an adolescent boy decides to rid himself of his parents; a young bewildered mother tries to get her son out from the grip of his less- than- normal little friend; a woman and a bat forge a bond; a man goes through life miserably with a malformed big toe.

My pick of the collection is a short titled Made in Heaven, where a husband,  hitherto fast-tracking himself up the career ladder,  gets to discover some startling truths about his wife when she is in the ICU after a hit- and- run accident. Whether the woman recovers or not, we know that life is not going to be the same for the couple.

Nothing very good happens to these characters but they really are ordinary people grappling sometimes with  out- of- the- ordinary problems.  The style is deliberately austere, almost as if any kind of embellishment will distract from the story. The pace too is unhurried, and the reader quickly settles in, matching their own pace to the story`s, patiently awaiting all reveals. One might have wished  for a tale or two which touched on the human condition in a lighter fashion but then, that might have stood out in a jarring manner in  this collection.

The Blue Women By Anukrti Upadhyay. HarperCollins Books. Rs 399. 264 pages.

This appeared in the Literary Review section of the Hindu Magazine on 14 May 2023. 


Anukrti Upadhyaybook reviewLiterary Reviewshort storiesThe Blue WomenThe Hindu magazine

Sheila Kumar • May 14, 2023

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