KOCHI: In a career spanning more than two decades, author E Santhosh Kumar has published 14 books in Malayalam, including novels and short stories. An award-winning writer, his works have been translated to English, Hindi, Tamil and German. His latest short story collection titled ‘A Fistful of Mustard Seeds’ translated by freelance journalist P N Venugopal is an anthology of 12 standalone stories published separately throughout the author’s career. While each story delves into a different theme, an underlying motif of the banality of human existence and the mysteries of the mind run through all.
Let alone other people, do you know yourself? The story titled ‘Hills, Stars’ pierces our mind by evoking perilousness of ego. The protagonist Monayi in the story ‘Three Fingers’ lives through the stress and strain of every creative person. How we are constricted in figuring out the ‘other’ is carved out beautifully through the metaphor of an egg in ‘The Perch’ which tells the story of Padmini. The tale narrates how different perceptions are shaped by identities. Padmini’s dislike for the stench of eggs and her reluctance to cook them for her husband represents the subconscious empathy of a mother who nurtures the foetus to a child.
In ‘Three Blind Men Describe an Elephant’, the writer gives an account of how captive we are in our perception which is largely a product of our contexts. The alienation of the excluded is more touchingly carved out in the story ‘My Father is a Thief’. Mathukutty, the thief, is a victim to the vicious nature of the society. The story symbolically narrates the attempt of the boy to rescue his father. However, Mathukutty enters the property of Melmuri Pappachan, a feudal landlord and commits suicide.
Here, Melmuri Pappachan represents the treacherous face of society that traps the poor and unleashes violence on the marginalised.Juxtaposing individual and society and spotting nuances of human emotions, this anthology offers a wonderful reading experience.
Each story forces the readers to identify themselves as the protagonists. Read it only if you are ready to let your emotions tumble out, like a hand full of mustard seeds. Amruth G Kumar is a professor in School of Education at Central University of Kerala, Kasaragod (Views expressed are his own)