Book Review: Of A Man And The Mountains by Madhumita Ghosh

Santosh Bakaya

Review by Santosh Bakaya

BOOK: of a man and the mountains: collected short stories
Author: Dr Madhumita Ghosh
Year: 2018
pp. 216
Price: ₹ 450, $ 40
ISBN:  978-81- 93 5295 – 84

Dedicated to ‘My mother, my first teacher, ‘of a man and the mountains, is a delectable collection of forty three short stories.

There are stories strewn all around us, stories of all hues, of all shades.  In this collection, the writer weaves stories around those very hues - dark, dismal, bright and sanguine.  She writes very sensitively about the world around her, which she sees ‘blossoming or being torn apart’, offering us stories which are surreal, real, spooky, mundane, and also stories based on pure fantasy.

Through a brilliant play of words, and a deft handling of the various themes, the seemingly ordinary hues of life, in her hands, assume extraordinary hues.  We can hear the palpitating  of a sensitive poet’s heart in almost all the stories, be mesmerized by the play of light and shadow, feel that tug on the heart strings, and that tingling sensation in the eyes. Marked by poise, purpose and the pulsating power of poignant penmanship, we find heartwarming   stories about little men and little women, with their frailties, flaws, and also stories about those marching to the tunes of a different drummer.

Everyone loves a story, and if well-written, it always sits snugly in one’s heart. Based ‘on life in its various scenes and sensibilities’, the stories between the pages of this book, awe, amaze, inspire, make you wring your hands in despair and also gnash your teeth in impotent rage.  
 Always enamoured of short stories, I have never lost an opportunity of getting my hands on a good story. There are many short stories that have had such an impact on me that they have kept churning in my mind for many a day.  Vladimir Nabokov’s story Signs and symbols being one of them, where the old parents are mulling over what birthday gift to give to their suicidal son, who has been institutionalized.   I can still feel the tears tingling my eyes as I recall  the old woman in the story looking at the old man’s [her husband’s  ]hands  ‘clasped and twitching on the handle of his umbrella’ as ‘she felt the mounting pressure of tears.”  I could feel my own tears welling up in my eyes, and they still well up when I remember the plight of that old couple.

Tears also welled up in my eyes as I read many of the stories in this collection.
Crops for sale is one story which made me gnash my teeth at the rampant injustice all around [pp 57- 59 ]
 ‘When the mist cleared, the sun rose from behind the hills, and shone bright, when the mother and son discovered each other on the potholed platform of a nondescript, unassuming railway station….[p38].
The Railway Station 
p 33- 38, where these words occur, is an amazing heart- warming story, and so beautifully penned.  

This raconteur is a poet at heart and one finds the notes of these lyrical stories throbbing in the air as one closes the book.  The title story, of a man and the mountains, [pp 79- 86]  vibrates with so exquisite  a lyricism, that I kept going back to it, wanting more, and also trying to read between the lines. Had I missed something?
 The denouement in Mrs. Sen made me lose my notorious loquacity; I regained it, albeit for a short period, to lose it once again.  All the stories give us immense food for thought, hence one inadvertently slips into a brown study, holding speech in abeyance.

Seasons in Two Suns, [P142- 147], Remembrances; A life of many Suns [103 -109] are two more stories that kept me totally enthralled.

Absolutely riveted by the patterned sunshine, that they are splashed with, they warmed me, in the early morning chill, as I sat in the balcony reading the book, as the sun in the eastern sky serenaded me with morning songs. I  picked up the book with a contented sigh and headed inside, to put it in the book shelf, a book-mark in between the pages of my favorite story, where I planned to come back soon- The Banyan Tree. [P 192 – 195] I was absolutely hooked on to this sensitively handled story and the visceral satirical punches, hit me hard.

The great banyan tree hated the hanging roots for once and prayed for a bolt of lightning, the worst and the severest bolt possible.’ P 195.
So did I.

I have just talked about a handful of stories in the book, which of course, is just the tip of the iceberg; to get a feel of the entire iceberg, get hold of the book! It is indeed a great read.
The editing is crisp, and the cover art by Jagdish Shankar is indeed beautiful – a slice of poetry. 
 A must read for all lovers of good short stories and lovers of good literature.  Highly recommended.

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