CHENNAI: In the preface to his collection of short stories, titled The Grand Master & Other Short Stories, debutant Chinmaya Desai compares weekends to orgasms — you take a long time to get there and eventually when you do, they are over too soon! One could say the same about this eclectic range of stories this banker-turned-writer has managed to conceive for this publication. While it works well for some, it doesn’t sit as well for others.
The collection begins with the story from the title — The Grandmaster — and sets the tone for the rest of the book. It’s a story told in a matter-offact manner, one that builds up momentum and ends with a twist. Every tale in this collection of 17 stays true to this format. As you go through the book, you realise that it is quite a winning set-up and begin to look forward to that high end. This deceit works well in the narratives of The Foreign Trip (the cleverly introduced detail of photographs from a Europe vacation coming back to relevance towards the end), The Politician (the seed of doubt over a man painted to be the saviour) and The Actor (the sheer absurdity of the circumstances that makes you pause).
Yet, even such a formula does little to prop up other tales, like The Hounds of Bhaskar Villas — an interesting start lost to a peculiar double narration, and The Mathematician — an imaginary childhood story for Aryabhata that packs in more will than vision. Every story ends with a quote borrowed from a Hindi song or recollected from conversations with friends.
This soon becomes a device to look forward to, as much as the turn in the tale. Despite the goodness it has to offer, you come away feeling like something is missing, even in the stories where the plot twist holds good. Perhaps it’s the writing style that hovers between regional and English-author standard; perhaps it’s the Hindi references that need translation; or the trite metaphors and analogies that are sprinkled across the stories. Yet, the book comes recommended; it would certainly make for a lazy day’s read in times of quarantine.
Name: The Grandmaster & Other
Publisher: Notion Press