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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 39, Dated 01 Oct 2011
    CULTURE & SOCIETY  
    BOOKS

    Still Looking

    These stories are gentle vignettes of urban Muslims, but they’re only that, finds Annie Zaidi

    Release And Other Stories Rakhshanda Jalil

    Release And Other Stories Rakhshanda Jalil
    HarperCollins
    144 pp; Rs 299


    IT IS a relief to see a slender collection that suggests the writer has no greater ambition than to just tell the stories that haunt her. One expects fewer languid diversions into history, philosophy, or some form of cultural decoration. However, a short story writer has a right to use the same tools as novelists and to meander into gentle rumination. With Release and Other Stories, Rakhshanda Jalil has indeed ventured into the gentle rumination territory. Her stories are vignettes from urban Muslim families who represent the ordinary, very human difficulties of Indian Muslims.

    On that count, this book is a welcome change from stories of religious oppression. The protagonists confront intimate demons — a man who marries two women of the same name, or a content husband faced with losing his wife. The protagonists are fairly cosmopolitan and secure, which is a refreshing departure from the stereotype of the modern Muslim as som eone inevitably conflicted, victimised or angry.

    Yet, these stories leave you somewhat dissatisfied. They begin well. The characters spa rkle with vitality but often it seems they exist only to feed the reader a morsel of information and then disappear. The most satisfying story is Release since it completes its arc. One expected with such a slender collection, the writer would arm herself with a great economy of phrase and be ruthless with tangents in the course of her storytelling. That is not the case here. These stories are competently told vignettes from urban life, but they are just about that.

    Zaidi is the co-author of The Bad Boy’s Guide to the Good Indian Girl.


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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 39, Dated 01 Oct 2011
 

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