by Ranga Chandrarathne
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
― Oscar Wilde
Although coloured by diverse incidents that occurr against equally diverse socio-cultural backdrops, the common thread that runs throughout Zafar Anjum’s fascinating short stories in Kafka in Ayodhya (Kitaab, Singapore; 2015) is the sheer vibrancy of life in its infinite verities and under trying circumstances. The dramatic personae may change from one country to another, from one culture to another; yet, life goes on unabated amidst chaos. It is the rich emotions, pathos and unshakable kinships that forms the contours of life throughout the world. That universal truth resonates throughout the short stories in the collection Kafka in Ayodhya.
One of the poignant short stories in Anjum’s book which is truly a tribute to life and unshakable kinship that sustains it is ‘The Thousand –Yard Stare’. Apart from the moving story and the masterly portrayal of real life characters, the short story is full of vividly realised passages that symbolically represent not only the harsh ground reality in a war zone or rather conflict zone but also how that backdrop shapes the lives of the masses who are caught up in the power play.