The product of a Singapore-Kerala cultural exchange programme, A Monsoon Feast, with contributions from Shashi Tharoor and Verena Tay, is a rare anthology where each of the seven short stories evoke a rich, distinctive synesthesia of all that is seen, heard, felt and tasted in each land.
Each story provides charming vignettes of worlds that are miles apart, but are bound by universal concerns. Stories form a cultural continuum, each in an animated dialogue with the other. Memory is a common thread in almost all stories.
This use of nostalgia as a narrative device points to characters (and their creators) who are grappling with a complex world — where the comfort of large engulfing families of one’s childhood has inevitably given way to isolated, secretive worlds of adult individuation (A Life Elsewhere).
Taste is a cruel reminder of that inexorable erosion of a comforting past, while in Patchwork it is the protagonist who snaps the tattered tapestry of tradition. In Memory of Kaya Toast is buoyed by the hope that simple things — cooking, enduring friendship, or travel, will keep the past alive in the present.
The volume is aptly titled A Monsoon Feast; food is a significant motif that brings together disparate worlds, allowing characters to transcend boundaries of geography, age or language. The clever arrangement of stories by the editor also contributes to a satisfying reading experience — Indian authors alternate with their Singaporean counterparts, and each is tied to the next by subtle thematic similarities.
A Monsoon Feast, Edited by Verena Tay, Monsoon Books, USD 15.95 (approx Rs 869); www.monsoonbooks.com.sg
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