No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories by Jayant Kaikini, translated by Tejaswini Niranjana [in Booklist]
Seemingly quotidian lives centered in Mumbai fill Jayant Kaikini’s second translated collection, the first book in translation to win the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. These 16 stories, written from 1986 to 2006, were selected and translated by the award-winning Tejaswini Niranjana, who in her enhancing translator’s note writes of Kaikini’s “gentle narrative trick” of turning the “extremely ‘ordinary’ person or situation” into something “surreal.”
Standouts include “Inside the Inner Room,” about a man, his wife, his lover, and their unexpected re-pairings; “Dagadu Parab’s Wedding Horse,” in which a bridegroom on a rented horse gets dragged (rescued?) away to a whole different life; “Toofan Mail,” about a film stunt artist recalling childhood glimpses of her father throwing a package to her mother from a moving train before disappearing; and “Tick Tock Friend,” in which a hospital runs a television studio in its basement.
Most affecting are “A Pair of Spare Legs,” which portrays an incorrigible six-year-old, and the title story about young lovers in the midst of wedding plans. Intriguing, albeit somewhat uneven multi-culti fare for the internationally inclined.
Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, June 1, 2020