Fiery beginnings, shaky endings

I skipped the first story in this collection of short stories which has an intriguing title and a stunning cover, because I’d read it in another collection, and the taste still lingered in my mind.

The Infamous Bengal Ming keeps you on the edge of your seat with its love-meets-death theme and the violent and the fallible, the manic and the vulnerable so imperceptibly separated. A tiger in a zoo wakes up with the realisation that he’s in love with his keeper whom he has known pretty much all his life. A bizarre and disastrous day follows, the events of which only just tie together, and only because you’ve suspended belief while you clutch your heart. The story has something both obviously and subconsciously macabre about it, and something which you discover runs through this first collection of Rajesh Parameswaran’s short stories, if not with as delicious impact. The memory of that macabre took me through a large part of this collection. The Strange Career of Dr Raju Gopalarajan crystallises the author’s ability to build an endearing character, and yet with a twist, so that just as you settle into empathising, you’re pulled back, or kept suspended uneasily in anticipation of some quirky turn. (Often these “turns” are set out at the beginning and frame the story, and so the terms of the plot are set, and even while you want to manoeuvre the story elsewhere, you’re mesmerised by it.)

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