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Friday, December 02, 2011

Lingering Tide and Other Stories

Latha Vishwanathan’s Lingering Tide and Other Stories is an endearing collection of short stories.

Lata takes us to places that are mostly homely, but get lonely and forlorn as we get know them better. It’s a world that we wouldn't want to leave once we’re in because it’s where we meet people who’re like us and yet quite different and distinct, and they stay with us a long time; long after you’ve read the book.

It’s a world of cloistered neighbourhoods; of a lovable though tragic character of Ammini (Brittle), who savours peanut brittle. This seemingly inexplicable addiction, when explained later in the story, leaves us with a lump larger than a brittle in the throat, and one that refuses to melt.

In Eclipse, we meet Divya, the flexible wife and mother who is eager to and therefore successful in adjusting to a new life in Canada. Her husband, Sharma, a maestro of sorts, is unable to make the transition; and is reduced to watch his world transform radically from the sidelines. Suddenly, the difference in age between the not-so-young wife and the old husband becomes an unbridgeable and an ever-widening chasm, and he wonders, “Why had he not seen this, her agility spanning continents, skipping oceans?”

Lata Vishwanathan
These stories are of people in India, North America, East Asia, and one that is of a young alchemist in medieval India, who is an expert at making rose attar. Each milieu as carefully crafted as the characters.

In Lingering Tide, the time difference between India and the US is described thus: “The hours Surya struggles to fill in India have yet to be born in America.” Or Sharma’s brother in Eclipse, experiencing the vastness of Canada for the first time, observes, “Isn’t it odd; I haven’t seen so much of the sky at one time.”

The coming of age of girls is described with subtlety and tenderness. In Bat Soup, Robona’s sister describes her thus: “Sitah noticed how Robona walked since she turned sixteen. She wound her sarong tightly, pulling at the edges before tucking in. Then when she walked, she swayed just a little, thighs brushing, small tight buttocks seesawing; so glad to be alive.”

At the Fall launch of TSAR books, Latha read an excerpt from Cool Wedding; a poignant and hilarious story of an immigrant housewife, writing a letter to her sister. 

Here’s a sample from that story:

“You will not believe the competition in America. What with all the smart Chinese children. Thank God for the Americans. Without them, how will our children shine in America? I, personally, am very glad about the one child only per couple in China. Wish the Chinese in America would also take it up.”

You can buy the book here: TSAR

Images: TSAR Publications

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