Manoj Kumar Panda’sThe Bone Garden and Other Stories is an unusual collection. Barring a couple out of a total of thirteen stories, almost all of them delineate human suffering; but each piece has a unique storyline and an unconventional narrative structure. He has developed his work on a (counter-) aesthetic of the ‘ugly’ drawing readers into the realm of pathos and leaving them as disturbed as the characters in the stories. And yet, the bleak reality explored in this volume wields an uncanny impression on us. Panda deals with suffering in all its complexities—the causes, the physical and psychological manifestations, and the culmination of suffering in death.
The protagonist in each of the stories is a victim of either the social or the political system, or both. Whether for Rajula Dip, (‘When the Gods Disappeared’) the outcaste who has never entertained the thought of social justice, or for the family of the deceased Luchhan Majhi (‘The Tiger Hunt’) that suffers slow and painful death in the hands of a small-minded village community and a woefully inefficient bureaucracy, there is little hope for redemption. Story after story, as individuals are left to struggle on their own, Panda unravels the myth of Indian community life.
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