In The Lethal Elixir, Iswardas brings to his readers a nosegay of six short stories that offer variety and great reading. Long after you put the book down, the images shall return, time and again, to stay with you. For instance, there are the images of two mothers: “…my Ma and my Ayah. One in the form of Sita, that mythological heroine from Ramayana who silently withstood the onslaught of miseries as well as sufferings... the other embodying the spirit of the mythological figure of Nemesis, synonymous with retribution and revenge and destroying the devil and evil.”
Of course, the book is not about mythology. You find modern day impressions with all the gore
when one confronts the fair Clara as she sets out to take revenge “...with a blood-soaked butcher knife on the right hand and a blood-stained heavy metal rod on the other, with bloody scars and spats on the face and dress all around, the figure appeared with a posture firm and strong”.
You find a tired and downcast Gopal in the elevator mirror “...where it seems he is standing like a convict in a jail cell for no fault of his. He felt sympathy... for that prisoner of life. In that life, Lady Justice had been truly wearing the blindfold while tilting the balance of the scales first with hope and happiness and then dumping the other side with desolateness and depression”. The collection reveals, as if in a miniature, the eternal tussle between man and his destiny. The resultant conflict of forces and the perennial dilemma that overwhelms society at large are shown in detail using the right situation with the exact character.
It is the images that house themselves with you. Take that safe in the bedroom. It unknots the morbid secrets of his parent’s lives, even as you see sleazy Solomon, the politician-turned-drug-smuggler as his life falls apart at the seams.
Or the sturdy Ambassador car that moves around the dream city of Mumbai, the adage ‘survival of the smartest’ wins the author’s heart as he says: “Where else on this earth can you see a place like this that one day is ravage-stricken because of some disaster or catastrophe and the next day like the proverbial Phoenix rises virtually from ashes to life!”
The scent of Kerala’s shoreline is distinct and how I wish Ishwardas had taken us, albeit briefly, to his palm-fringed hometown! But it was not to be, as he finds contentment in letting the past blend with the present. To me, The Lethal Elixir sets the tone with a tantalising opening into this collection where the tales are taut with the role of destiny in human affairs. While the many shades of grey are revealed in ‘The Last Letter’. Though all is not dark and black as black can be. You will find some of the tales replete with subtle brushes of humour. With his debut collection of short stories, Ishwadas enters the world of fiction with incredible ease and grace—all his own.
The Lethal Elixir
Publisher: Notion Press
Price: Rs 190