Keelein (Nails), a collection of short stories, reaffirms SR Harnot’s merit as an important literary and political voice from Himachal Pradesh. Deeply rooted in the contemporary milieu, the collection brings together one previously unpublished story and six stories that appeared from 2013 to 2019 in reputed literary journals. Harnot’s powerful tales revolve around ordinary characters, ranging from a tea seller to a retired IT official. What connects these stories to each other is their setting in the hills of Himachal Pradesh and their engagement with how the seemingly peaceful Valley becomes a site of violence. Readers go through an extraordinary reading experience as the lives of these ordinary characters intersect with Harnot’s discontent with the politics of current times.
Harnot’s genius lies in transforming the use of nature from a mere element of aesthetic relief to its flora and fauna being an integral part of the characters’ lives that also function at a metaphorical level. The local culture of the hills and the deep emotional relationship between the characters and their surroundings, allow the author to explore important issues like erasure of local natural life and culture by the effects of commercialization and capitalism as in the opening story ‘Bhagadevi ka Chaighar’ (Bhagadevi’s Teahouse).