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Dasu Krishnamoorty’s book ‘The Seaside Bride and Other Stories’ is a tale of life

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Digging into the occurrences in his life, Dasu Krishnamoorty’ weaves heart-warming tales

After his 85th year, professor, editor, journalist, Dasu Krishnamoorty wrote these stories, reminiscing what he had been through in life: they vary in length from 3 to 19 pages, and comprise memories from the age of nine to 90. Dasu does not give, like Shakespeare, ‘an airy nothing a local habitation and a name’, but weaves his tales from actual occurrences, not unlike Wordsworth’s ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity.’ Stylistically, he ranges from straightforward narrative to fable, minimalism and stream of consciousness, and makes us smile, laugh or weep, as he chooses.

Born in Doubt is a delightful story of his name and date of birth. In their excitement that Lord Krishna was born to them, his parents failed to register his birth with the municipal authorities. Called Kishtu at home, entered Krishnamoorty in the school register, he came to know later from his mother that his ‘correct name’ was Sri Krishna. According to the school register his date of birth is 1 July; as per the family priest’s calculations, 6 August: truly ‘twice-born’. Eventually, he gets his birth certificate from the Registrar for a bribe of five hundred rupees,

euphemistically called processing charges.

In the title story The Seaside Bride, and The Girl Next Door, we see the author as a young man with a roving eye for girls, weaving fantasies, falling in unfulfilled love, coming under the spell of yet another girl on the train, agreeing to ‘view’ the girl the family women have chosen for him, and finally consenting to marry her, 12 years younger, without asking a single question.

The most moving story in the collection is also the best crafted: Journey’s End. It begins with an ill omen, ‘the mourning hoot of an owl’. Half awake on the bed, his wife at 63, ‘looks like a saint waiting to be anointed.’ They have a doctor’s appointment, and he goes to the

bathroom to shave. While lathering, he hears ‘a strange, blood-curdling scream’ from his wife, and rushes to ‘find her unmoving on the bed’. During the ceremonial bath, ‘a reflection of the garden she has raised spreads on the water as it flows down her body.’

The very next story, Junking the Past (59-69), is in fact a precursor to Journey’s End, a remarkable foray into the stream of consciousness technique: the couple prepare to bid bye to India and move to USA. As he is sorting out dusty old files, Dasu comes across a family photo taken in 1939: his father’s dress ‘so simple and Indian that looking at the picture you’d not guess that he had studied law at Gray’s Inn and had worked for the London Times. As the author’s wife looking from behind him comments on the beauty of his sister in the picture, he breaks down and sobs: suddenly, the sister’s face reminds him of the day he ‘held her hand firmly to prevent her from yanking off the tube connecting her hand to the glucose drip’; she was ill, and he ‘could feel her temperature slaking and the body becoming cold. Life flowed out of her’; he had performed her last rites.

    Dasu’s prose at times is lyrical: I see lilies with six petals, each a color purple at the base that pales off into white… Suddenly I see a goldfinch come hopping onto the ridge and begin to warble a melody… What a pretty bird in bright lemon-yellow, black, and white habiliment! (36-37).

    Like R K Narayan’s, Dasu’s humour is gentle: Jogen Chowdhury’s reclining feminine anatomies are ‘too delicate to stand the touch of a garment’ (36). ‘The TV held us together for most part of the day in a state of conjugal tension, alternating between bickering and bonding’ (78). ‘Then there was this fashion channel … Models revelled in textile minimalism’ (78). ‘A few mails later, the flow stopped abruptly like water from a municipal tap’

    (152).

    The blurb says ‘Cracking Infinity’ ‘epitomizes modern minimalism’, but most of Dasu’s stories practise the virtue of brevity, the soul of his wit. His stream of consciousness technique is more accessible to the reader than the obtuse work of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Picnic and Reading a Story harness magical realism better than Haruki Murakami and Salman Rushdie.

    Dasu’s stories rank with the best in world literatures in English. But the blurb needlessly calls the work ‘autofiction’, a term coined by Serge Doubrovsky in 1977 for ‘fictionalised autobiography’, taking it a trifle too far, reminiscent of Purushottam Lal’s ‘transcreation’ of the 1960s, to cover up translational liberties with the original.

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    Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 6:21:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/dasu-krishnamoortys-book-the-seaside-bride-is-autobiographical-in-nature-with-subtle-humour-and-gripping-narrative/article30123569.ece

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