Review of Kafka in Ayodhya by Zafar Anjum: The work of a great student of life itself
by Monica Arora
by Zafar Anjum
Format: Paperback (Ebook not available yet)
Published: November 2015
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“An ordinary man can enjoy breakfasting on juice and rye bread.
But when you are underfed, scorned, miserable or just plain bored, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food.
You want something a little more colourful, exciting, tastier, meatier and juicier.”
These words by young and contemporary authoress RS Vern describe that urge in artists, authors, designers and other creative people to break the monotony of the mundane and the predictable and create something “a little less ordinary”!
Kafka in Ayodhya and other Short Stories, written by Zafar Anjum, the founder of Singapore-based literary journal Kitaab, is a brilliant experiment in quirky and offbeat literature with a Kafkaesque twist (pun intended!) Written in an easy interactive style with a twist at the end in most tales, these stories are delightful and have what it takes to keep the reader engrossed till the very end. In that, the author has established his mastery over his craft!
The title story, “Kafka in Ayodhya” is a figment of Zafar’s very fertile imagination, in which he juxtaposes the inimitable German literary genius in the backdrop of the Ayodhya riots and creates that confused dilemma so often associated with Kafka’s work. “The Lone Fighter” is about the struggle of a poet to get his works published. A funny yet poignant lament on the plight of some literary geniuses!
I particularly loved “The Rats”, as it is a potent statement on contemporary pressures of urban living whereby in order to maintain a home and keep oneself financially afloat, one has no choice but to succumb and be a part of the “rat race”, the mundane rigmarole of a 9-5 job and the challenges that lie therein.
“Waiting for the Angels” is moving and has a strong message for single women to never ever stop living before death actually knocks at the door. It is strong, emotional and moving, all embroiled into the beautiful character of the old lady, who is full of gumption and lives with gusto.
Well, how do I describe “E.D”? Naughty and tantalizing, two very pertinent issues intersect beautifully in this crazy story. An author’s block and an erectile dysfunction, both of which can be quite debilitating if not “stroked and aroused” at the right time (pun unintended!)
“The Revolt” is pure imagination at its best whilst the “Thousand-Yard Stare” highlights the lamentable state of the suffering Palestinian refugees and particularly the plight of the children who have unfortunately lost a friend, relative or sibling in this mindless orgy of power, politics, violence and bloodshed. My heart went out to the young protagonist Samira who clung on to the memory of her dead brother through a photograph that she values the most in this world. This story is very moving and sad owing to the grim landscape that the author has used as a perfect metaphor to enhance the suffering and angst of the protagonists.
And finally “Ima” is again a comical, yet sordid saga of countless men all around the globe who seek “greener pastures” beyond their hearth. Despite perfect marriages or at least marriages which have no apparent glitches, and wives who are bound by rigors of morality and society to stand by and support their husbands in all times, these husbands are always pursuing other pleasures in discreet “foreign trips” only to discover the futility of their wayward ways. A very strong statement on those with a roving eye!
I suggest that you go through each story and take a while to ponder on its finer nuances in order to gauge the strength of their plot and the power of the message that is hidden between the lines. A very meaningful and engaging read coming from a person who has perhaps closely observed people in contemporary set-ups and has a statement to make about issues ranging from the global to the interpersonal. Indeed, it is the work of a great student of life itself!