AR­RESTED DE­VEL­OP­MENT

India Today - - LEISURE -

Enough, Enough my Mas­ters’, scrib­bled F. Scott Fitzger­ald in one of his pri­vate note­book en­tries. The plea sat atop a list of names of women he had known. Any­one who has a weak­ness for l’amour will sym­pa­thise with Fitzger­ald’s plight—pro­vided he or she has also grown to over­come it. But if, in­stead, one’s de­vel­op­ment re­mains ar­rested, then far from con­quer­ing, one is doomed to cling to and con­tin­u­ally nurse—to the point of cor­rup­tion—ev­ery beau­ti­ful fancy, well be­yond that ado­les­cence whose (tran­sient and un­re­peat­able) at­mos­phere alone lent it life. The Book of Love, a brief collection of sto­ries with a grandiose ti­tle, by the pseudony­mous Ekarat, shows the symp­toms of this con­di­tion.

But the con­di­tion is com­mon, par­tic­u­larly among the Angli­cised In­dian com­mu­nity. There­fore, these ac­counts of more-or-less feck­less ur­ban ro­mances read re­al­is­ti­cally. There is the chance en­counter be­tween wiseacres who know they have noth­ing to build on, the over­sexed af­fair with a mar­ried woman

and, more than once, the trope that epit­o­mises this book, which is the pin­ing for ado­les­cent at­trac­tion, into early mid­dle age and be­yond.

Fur­ther, the book is made read­able by the gift for sto­ry­telling, which its au­thor pos­sesses. Ekarat’s plots are deftly con­structed, span­ning time and space, mak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate use of the epis­to­lary form and manag­ing to of­fer at least dif­fer­ent pack­ag­ing on ev­ery oc­ca­sion.

None of this, how­ever, ex­cuses the poverty of imag­i­na­tion, which is both self-aware and de­fi­ant. “This love felt so much bet­ter from the other side,” ad­mits the no-longer teenage pro­tag­o­nist of one story who has fi­nally sat­is­fied a teenage long­ing. “I can only look back. So go to hell, will you!” rages the el­derly pro­tag­o­nist of an­other, when laughed at for his fix­a­tion.

In fact, there is the op­tion to be brave, to be un-self­ish in one’s prac­tice of love and never to cease be­ing so. But that qual­ity of en­deav­our, which would de­serve its place in ‘the book of love’, is ab­sent here.

—Aditya Su­dar­shan

THE BOOK OF LOVE by Ekarat SPEAK­ING TIGER `250, 176 pages

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