The Infinity Mirror of Humanity
Zahra Rizvi
THE ROCK BABAS AND OTHER STORIES by Ameya Prabhu Westland Books, 2020, 302 pp., 349.00
June 2022, volume 46, No 6

If one could travel as easily as the mind tours the world in a matter of seconds, where would one go? Would one go to a place from memory or a to a place one hasn’t ever ventured to even in one’s wildest dreams? Who would a traveller such as this meet and what would be the stories one would inadvertently become a part of? These are all questions of a mind restless to travel and meet new people and places. At the centre of all these questions lies the human yearning to understand oneself and the others around one who colour a person’s life by entering and exiting a life in a fashion similar to a traveller who stays in one place only for so long.

In Ameya Prabhu’s The Rock Babas and Other Stories, one travels across the world in a collection of short stories that, while offering no overt connection, seem to be filled with a curious interconnectedness of what it means to be human in an ever-changing, diverse world. Written during the worldwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the collection is a testament to the mind’s wish to wander and travel in a world which had shrunk to the size of one’s home and often, one’s own company. Prabhu compensates his readers by taking them on a journey that traverses Tokyo, Japan; Georgia, USA; Cartagena, Colombia; Mumbai, India, and more. He often shuns the touristy spots for small corners of the globe, much like the travel journalist of the story ‘The Man with the Beard’, looking for an unadulterated scene of local life which has been buried behind the flashy, tourist attractions that conceal as much as distract. And so, the reader is introduced to a flurry of unique characters, all larger than life and yet all too human. In ‘The Accidental Philanthropist’, an aging business tycoon comes face to face with human mortality as he is forced to come to the realization that all lives must end despite fame and fortune. Takahashi Watanabe reacts to this realization by seeking to mend his life by making plans for charity as well as reaching out to his estranged daughter. Prabhu sets the mood for the collection when the comic enters the serious, jolting one back to the understanding that life is made of both, when Watanabe undergoes an immediate change, forgetting all the lessons he had learnt, on learning that he will live long.

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