It's all in the details

Bulbul Sharma's newest novel, The Tailor of Giripul, comes with heady doses of magic realism and beautiful details. But the reader might just have to keep waiting for the promised murder on the back cover

Author Bulbul Sharma's talent lies in conjuring up the most mundane of everyday details through beautiful prose. Whether it is her earlier works like the Anger of Aubergines, a cookbook cum narrative on Bengali food or My Saintly Aunts, a collection of short stories based on feisty, passionate women, the details are always bang on.

In The Tailor of Giripul, Sharma creates a tale with fantastical elements in the tiny, fictitious town of Giripul nestled amongst mountains. Janak, a ladies tailor is much in demand for stitching clothes for the women of the village. He also has the talent of making these women share their innermost secrets with him while he takes their measurements. A jealous wife at home and a taunting mother-in-law complete the scene.

Janak's perfect life comes to a standstill when he starts having strange nightmares that involve the impending death of the village headman. The dreams start coming to him after the village headman's third wife reports similar dreams to him. He tries to share his nightmares with the village beggar Balu and Shankar the fishmonger. One day a dead body turns up in Janak's shop and leads to the unfolding of events and the entire village comes under suspicion.

The reader has to wait for quite a few pages before he finally comes to the section where the promised murder takes place. What Sharma excels in is creating colourful characters like the village headman and his three wives and a Chinese hairdresser mistress  (think the film Ishqiya) tucked away in Simla or Lala, the owner of the village tea shop who occasionally goes ballistic with his gun and a beggar with mystical powers whose day depends on reading truck signs.

The reader gets so engaged in these hill station characters and the simplicity of their lives captured through Sharma's rich imagery and prose, that the turning up of the dead body becomes merely incidental to the narrative. The book might remind you of Ruskin Bond's narrative style and his slightly eccentric characters from Dehradun.

The Tailor of Giripul by Bulbul Sharma is published by HarperCollins and is priced at R 299. Available at all leading bookstores

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