Eight fragile human figures, an equally fragile boat, the churning sea in the background – the stark matte black cover with a blue tinted black and white photograph of everyday beach life, fisherman hauling their catch – is a telling picture of this collection of Arun Prakash’s short stories. Written over thirty years (the first story of the collection was written in 1971, the last one in 2002) they are all about bringing to the fore the daily struggle of the ignored, the overworked, the marginalized. These eminently readable stories are peopled by characters one comes across everyday but hasn’t had the time or the inclination to go into the details of their lives. Prakash is essentially a miniaturist of the classical school. He creates his characters and the background against which they act out their existence in meticulous detail. The frame may look small, the scale of lives lived and its struggle certainly isn’t that. The figures he depicts are definitely not of heroes in the traditional mould. Not by the farthest stretch of imagination could one expect them to emerge victors (the lone exception being Sundari Maami of ‘Naa’), not in the contemporary scenario.
March 2004, volume 28, No 3