Aravind Adiga

Halfway between Calicut and Goa lies Kittur, the scene of Aravind Adiga’s collection of stories, set in the seven year period between the assassinations of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. But then, despite some very 80s characteristics, the timeframe hardly matters, this could’ve been set in contemporary years too, for as a character says “Nothing ever changes. Nothing will ever change.” One instant comparison I could make was with Malgudi Days. That however ends with the similarity of multiple characters in the same town that is described in great detail – you can picture yourself in the town walking along its roads and identifying places and people.

As the book summary says, the stories slowly bring out the moral biography of the town with its diverse set of characters – from the Dalit bookseller whose kosher relationship with the police is disrupted when he is caught selling ‘The Satanic Verses’ to the ‘sexologist’ who ends up supporting a boy with a venereal disease, and from the ‘mosquito man’ who tries to set limits for the relationship between a servant and his mistress to the mixed caste boy who detonates a bomb in his school.

The book worked for me because the author has managed to flesh out his characters superbly across financial class, religion and schools of thought (political, philosophical) and use the friction between them to drive the stories. In that sense, each story is probably a different style, but the subtext of pent-up fury tinged with sadness cuts across.

An excellent read both as an exploration of a microcosm of India as well as the different shades of human relationships and morality.