By Syeda Samara Mortada

book Title: Yours Etcetera

Author: Ikhtisad Ahmed

Publisher: Bengal Lights Books

Pages: 135

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.

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by Farah Ghuznavi

Ikhtisad Ahmed 3Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write to be honest, free and meaningful, to paint important pictures. It is a lifelong commitment to converse with the world, to make sense of it, and make a contribution of substance to it. Writing is a disease with no known cure. There is neither peace nor fulfilment without it. The more we do it, the more we are consumed by it.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I have been polishing a play about garments workers in Bangladesh, scheduled to be staged in the UK next year. At the same time, I wrote a commissioned screenplay for an independent film that tells the origin story of a female detective. It has been a wonderful learning experience, which, in turn, has seen me delve into a previously unexplored literary medium. My most recent book is the short story collection, Yours, Etcetera, which came out at the Dhaka Literary Festival in November 2015, and unlocked the novel that has been festering in my mind for some time, freeing me to begin it. The collection makes a comprehensive statement about what I try to say with my writing: socio-political impressions with the central recurring themes of absurdism, existentialism and humanism.