New Market Tales is a collection of eleven short stories by Jayant Kripalani. All of them have different characters except one, where a reference is made to one from a previous story. These stories are named after the main character. All the stories are very different from each other, touching some part of our daily life. Some are romantic, some inspirational, some comic and some tragic. All of them have one thing in common: they are all placed in New Market, Calcutta.
Reading this book, I could get a glimpse of “Calcutta”. As the stories unfold, I felt that the author has actually met the characters he has written about. He has written some words in the way a Bengali person would pronounce it like Sair (sir), waarth (worth), thees (this), gayt (get), phor (for), hwanderful (wonderful) and aks (for ask) to mention a few.
The first story is about ‘Francis D’Costa’, the son of a baker, who is determined to become a jewellery maker. Homi, a Parsi boy living with his mother and her seven cats in a dilapidated building at Dharmatala Street and hates them to such an extent that he goes and gets a dog for himself. He wants to make a one-act play about his life and even composes a song to open the play. Amol, an acquaintance from Calcutta working in a stationery shop in New York, is a very enterprising and positive person. This is reflected when asked about how he lost his legs, he says “so many sad stories in the world…if people do not know one more, there will be no harm” and when he can stand up with the help of prosthetics, he says,” This story you can tell. People need happy stories”.
Rathikanta Chatterjee, nicknamed Atiklanta, meaning “so weary”, sleeps whenever he gets a chance. He does not eat rice, saying, “Rice, you see, makes me very sleepy.” He goes to Darjeeling for holiday and becomes “Mr Bahadur Singh”. Gopa, the daughter of Ganguly Gainjeewallah (also known as Binod Brawala), owner of an undergarments shop, wants her father to appoint female salespersons. She learns a lot about business and life when she insists on being the first woman to stand behind the counter. Mita, a woman with two children, comes to her ex-boyfriend’s house because her husband is having an affair.
Harish gives up his routine life, disappears, returns as Hari, opens a bar ‘11 to 11’ to serve people drinks and listen to their troubles. Zack’s is about a lady, Sati G, owner of the nightclub, labelled as “dishonourable” by the Sindhi ladies of Calcutta. She tells the story about the younger days of her life and how it was transformed by political and social circumstances. Anustup and Mamlu is a very positive story about what people go through when they have to get themselves for HIV/AIDS, especially when they have had a contact with a person who has tested positive for the disease, how people react when someone introduces himself/ herself as, “I am HIV positive”. What touched me most about the story was that it was written both from Anustup and Mamlu’s perspectives.
Anila, a lady who wants to leave both her husband and her lover, weaves a fairy tale about a king, his son and the son’s Guru which was very confusing that I could not understand it. Hari Prasad Condoo, aka Mesho is the proprietor of the largest crockery and cutlery shop in the market and the only person, from the previous generation, who the youngsters thought was worth listening to. He weaves stories about his crystals, his subject walks and his childhood. Suddenly, after a trip to Varanasi, hi decides to take a Samadhi and his family cannot talk him out of it.
I found this book very interesting overall.
Book Source: Bought