Book Review: A happy Place and other stories

Sunday, 6 July 2014 - 6:35am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Author: Vineetha Mokkil
Publisher: HarperCollins
Price: 275
135 pages

A man and a woman meet at a party, a couple cherish having a baby together, an author gets turned down by a publisher, a poet finds his dream come true… some scenes of modern-day living that find place in Vineetha Mokkil's collection of short stories, A Happy Place and Other Stories.

One can think of A Happy Place... as an album of memories, ideas, personalities. The stories introduce people and offer readers a glimpse of their lives, their troubles and happiness and leave it at that.

A Song for the President, a simple story with a twist, relates the experience of a young underprivileged child who gets to perform before the president of the country and how the chance moulds her ambitions. In Orange County Blues, Tashi, a young servant, writes to his mother about the alien and isolated lives of the wealthy people he works for. Sonia, a young professional, is attacked by goons but an unknown saviour comes to her rescue in The Girl Next Door. A man holidaying with his colleagues is deserted on a beach after a boat he is travelling on capsizes. He comes face to face with his fears when he encounters a group of tribals in Red. A young writer is intrigued by a woman he sees at a party and serenades her by waiting everyday at a cafe outside a tattoo parlour she runs in Skin. The formats of these stories have no place for complicated plots. Simple plots, brevity and nuanced characters are the forte of this collection.

A few of the stories have been published earlier. Politics, kleptomania, art, beauty, love and marriage are amongst the few subjects subtly woven into the fabric of the stories.

For a reader residing in a big city, the characters are people one can relate to easily. The maids, the artists, the newspaper reporters are all people the reader might encounter every day. The stories give one the opportunity to delve deeper into their lives to see what makes them who they are and behave the way do.

However, there is no attempt to go deeper, philosophize or judge. The writer provides the details in a stoic manner and leaves the stories open to interpretation. A Happy Place... is an enjoyable read for people who enjoy open-ended stories.

Vineetha Mokkil seems to have found a winning mix as she combines contemporary themes — such as problems of a homosexual writer who wants to publish his novel but finds no takers — with age-old techniques of short story writing.
Collections of short stories by Indian writers are not common nowadays, and A Happy Place and other stories is a welcome break from the run-of-the mill novels.

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