Short story writing is often considered as a petulant form by a lot of acclaimed storytellers. Short stories possess two conflicting demands: it must abide a readers’ time by confining itself into few thousands of words, but at the same time, the story should establish a strong character or an event to impart an unfeigned impact on the reader’s mind. So, a short story writer had to stringently use every word to take the story forward (digressions has no place here). Considering such vertiginous limits of the short story form, debutant author Roji Abraham’s “Kaleidoscopic Lives: Ensemble Narratives of the Common Man” never fails to give us a thoroughly engaging experience.
The book consists of 11 stories that strive to portray the rapid phases of change on the lives of a common man, who has his own set of prejudices & ideals based on the environment he has grown. Most of the stories work its way to break the preconceived prejudice of a character, while few incidents demands for our cynical side to be on alert. The characters in all the stories are mostly Indian and a significant part of them explore the lives of younger middle-class Indians, who are making trips within their country or across the world, in search of financial freedom as well as knowledge. Human bonding, unlikely friendships, redemption, nostalgia seems to be the vital themes of these stories.
The collections begin (“Chocolate Uncle”) and ends (“Till the Day I Die”) with stories of dynamic & close relationship between two persons, who hail from dissimilar background. An educated young Indian working in an urban center would often come across the less privileged ones, who are either denied an education or affluence of the economy. The immediate thought on young Indian mind, who come across those persecuted persons, would be: ‘how few thousand rupees (which is not huge figure for a software engineer) would work wonders on the lives of such person?’ This line of thought is used in two of the stories — “Shahab” and “The Cripple”. In both the circumstances, the characters witness a life-changing experience: one guy recovers from his past wounds, while the other is pushed into cynicism.
“Pilla the thief” showcases how salvation is possible if genuine kindness is showered on world-weary human being. “The Cab Driver’s Story” alludes how we easily judge certain professionals based on the past mistake done by others of the same profession. It was also a story that teaches how virtues like honesty, hope & punctuality could one day bring betterment in our lives. “Talented Cook” is a humorous story about a cook satiating the taste buds of college-studying youngsters. But, then the cook provokes a new form of hunger on the youngsters. However, a more hilarious & light-hearted tale comes later in the form of “The Court Witness”. The protagonist of this story has witnessed an incident which even haunts him in his dream, and so the kaleidoscopic changes, life bestows on the man, only freaks him out.
“The German Housemate” & “Till the Day I Die” were the highly emotionally resonant stories of the collection. The characters in these stories are fleshed out in an evenhanded manner. Nevertheless, if I had to pick one favorite story, then it has to be “First Fan”. It isn’t as heart-warming as other tales, but then I could personally connect with Roy (story’s protagonist) and his nostalgic feeling. The author’s writing style & choice of words are uncomplicated, although it does leave an indelible mark. Like any work of creative writing, “Kaleidoscopic Lives” too has its own share of flaws. I felt there are overly sentimental touches in few of the stories. Now, I expect the author’s future works to also be set from the perspective of urban Indian women. But, then such flaws don’t restrain or bring down the cherishable qualities of the ensemble.
Roji Abraham’s “Kaleidoscopic Lives” vividly portrays the diverse experiences of a young middle-class urban Indian. It contains enough emotional heft to keep us deliriously engaged.