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