By Syeda Samara Mortada
Title: Yours Etcetera
Author: Ikhtisad Ahmed
Publisher: Bengal Lights Books
Yours Etcetera, Ikhtisad Ahmed’s debut short story collection, shifts the setting of the stories dramatically from rural Bangladesh to urban London in a jiffy, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle finding their precedent space. Although a book of short stories, the flow of the stories and character build-up at many intervals gives it a novel-ish feel.
As an example, let’s take “A Half Life”, the very last story that steals the show with its apt resemblance to incidents that might have happened right after a Rana Plaza collapse: a well-to-do family, and its demise; or maybe the unaffected rhapsody that suffers the brunt of time, only to pick up and go on undeterred. What was interesting to me in the story was the stark difference in attitude of the two sons, Naeem and Fahim — how one gets shaken up, while the other is in complete control of his emotions even while realizing the impact of the havoc caused by his father’s (lack of) judgement, something that leads to the factory collapse — and how it speaks of their future grown-up selves. One might see clear links between the apparent semblance of the family and its later fall, to the in-control exterior of Shahim, the head of the family, referred as the “dictat” and the patriarch in many incidents, who ultimately cannot hold things together.