by Indeewaara Thilakarathne
In this week’s column, I examine how Singapore-based writer Zafar Anjum has depicted socio-political reality through his collection of Short Stories titled Kafka in Ayodhya and other short stories (Kitaab, 2015). What is significant in his seemingly organic prose is his innate ability to symbolically represent the harsh realities in the socio-economic and cultural sphere through the eyes of the man in the street.
The book comprises eight short stories namely Kafka in Ayodhya, The Lone Fighter, The Rats, Waiting for the Angels, E.D., The Revolt, The Thousand –Yard Stare and Ima.
Zafar Arjum has woven myriad complexities into his skillfully crafted short stories so that they are almost natural in representations, often depicting life in diverse parts of the globe.
In the title storey Kafka in Ayodhya , the author masterly captures the complex ground realities as: “ When we got down to Ayodhya, a small ancient town with a Hindu mythological past, I was struck by its simplicity. It was a place that seemed to be content in its ordinariness, a featureless wasteland. Looking at its topography, the misalignment of structures, the smallness of its huts and buildings, the dirt and the dust, the idea of justice seemed asymmetrical to this place. The town seemed readymade to bear injustice and violence.
‘This is Ayodhya where Lord Ram was born,’ N. said, as we walked towards the controversial structure which was claimed by both Muslims and Hindus. The structure which used to be a mosque built in the time of Mughal emperor Babur, looked like a mottled dolphin, torpedoed to death, lying lifeless at the bottom of the sea of hatred. ‘Ram, the hero of legendary Ramayana, was a maryada purush-a man of principles. When his wife Sita was rescued and brought back to Ayodhya after she was abducted by Ravana, people doubted her purity. Ran listened to what his people demanded and asked Sita to prove her purity by walking through a bed of fire. So judicious and public spirited that great man was”