Literature of India: Dead End and Other Stories by Ajeet Cour

Every passing moment makes us suffer, though differently with different people. The very act of passing through life entails some bruises which nobody else can see.

Though I had heard of Indian Punjabi author Ajeet Cour I hadn’t read her work till LO brought her book from the library, thinking that the title: Dead End, and the first story: Ali Baba’s Death meant that these stories would have some thrills in them. Well, I decided to read the book first in order to see whether the stories were really suitable for him to read.

The collection has 12 stories in which Cour describes the often tragic facets of life in India: Corruption, poverty, loneliness, abandonment, political apathy, and personal distances…

If the first story: Ali Baba’s Death discusses the reason for a lowly clerk in a government department committing suicide and tragically losing in death what he had been committed to his entire life: honesty and integrity then Happy New Year discusses the initiation of a clerk in the murky world of corruption. It also talks rather humorously of the new cultural heritage that burdens one as one rises in social hierarchy: in this case a celebration of new year’s eve on 31st December, a day on which the pockets are empty. But if the lower-middle-class government officers are treated sympathetically in these two stories, in The Beggar, we get a different view of them, as people who would not even move a file unless their palms are greased.

And these contrasting pictures are the strength of this collection. If in The Other Woman, the author discusses the plight of the mistresses in Maami the focus is on an abandoned wife who has to live her life as a servant at the home of her husband’s mistress. In Death, where is thy Sting? a widower father calmly prepares for his death without even informing his son (who is settled in the US) while in Green Sparrows, a young Indian who returns from Europe finds that he cannot mix anymore with his family and though they want him to return, his parents too find themselves tongue-tied in front of him. Returning Home seemed like an autobiographical work till I read Initiation and the two very contrasting pictures have left me flummoxed as to their being autobiographical. Yudhishter, drawing upon the Mahabharat, is about a young boy who refuses to part with his dog even in the face of abandonment and death (and the picture of the dog crying, cradled in the boy’s arms is extremely moving). While all the stories tug at one’s heartstrings, the two that made the most impression were the title story and the last one, The Bloodhounds. Drawing upon the experience of Punjab in the deadly terrorist phase of the late eighties both deal with the general anarchy prevalent during that time. In The Bloodhounds, the atrocities of the police are highlighted as terrorism spreads in Punjab while in Dead End, a young woman finds herself sheltering an extremist who might have killed her brother. The wail of her widowed mother, in the end, is haunting.

Overall, an impressive collection that has made me look for more from this author but poor LO will have to go without reading it. 😃

*

First Line: Eventually that man who belonged to a breed of lesser mortals, who was part and parcel of that faceless crowd which runs the basic network of offices, a creature called a clerk, jumped from the topmost floor of his Town Hall office.

Publication Details: 1997. New Delhi: Sterling Paperbacks, 1997.

Original Language: Punjabi

Translator(s): Various

Pages: 142

Trivia: The story Dead End was made into a DD television serial Doosra Kewal and was directed by Lekh Tandon. The serial, however, makes certain significant departures from the story.

*

Submitted for Short Story Wednesday @ Pattinase.

4 thoughts on “Literature of India: Dead End and Other Stories by Ajeet Cour

  1. I like the fact that there seems to be a lot of breadth of topic and character in this collection, Neeru. It sounds as though it offers a broad portrait of India, rather than just a focus on one class of people or sort of situation. And it’s good to hear there were no really sad disappointments among the stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are spot on, Margot. The stories did cover a vast range. Had the focus been on just one class or situation, the stories would have become repetitive so yes the person making the selection has to be applauded too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds a great collection Neeru. I haven’t read this author before but it’s great to see so much good regional fiction finding it’s way into English. There are so many riches there that were beyond access so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so thankful for translations, Mallika. As you rightly put it, let alone world so much of our own Indian literature would have been out of our reach had their been no translations.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.