Exploring the dark side: Book review of These Circuses That Sweep Through The Landscape
These Circuses That Sweep Through The Landscape is a collection of short stories about people who let themselves be taken over by the more darker thoughts of the human brain. A man who wishes to capture his wife in a jar, a girl who would let a handsome young lover pass to hold on to her dead screen idol and two couples who might switch partners just to stay entertained.
Tejaswini Apte-Rahm’s stories are like an itch that you keep on scratching at till you make the rash a wound and perhaps even after that. The longest and perhaps the most significant story of the collection The Mall, recounts how a woman, attracted by the hoardings of a new mall goes into it and stays trapped inside for a year. This cautionary tale of an overly capitalistic world will speak to those shoppers whose faces have become as common place in a mall as its stores. The story might make you doubt your trusted shop girl or boy’s opinion on which you rested all your purchases. Apte-Rahm’s simple and fluid writing is perfectly timed to bring out the panic one might feel in such situations.
Milli, a story about former lovers meeting each other in Mumbai, their former love nest, is just the kind of summer afternoon read to bring back sweet and sour memories of the one that got away. In this story Apte-Rahm questions if people actually ever can move on.
Apte-Rahm’s bio note at the back of the book says that she has lived in countries like Serbia, Israel, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh, spending a year or two in each country with her husband and daughter. Her writing reflects her global approach yet stays close to her Indian roots.
Another funny yet thought provoking story from this collection is Sandalwood. In it, the writer questions the housewife’s place in the modern world. A woman finds herself turned out of her house when her husband decides to replace her with his boyfriend. Having lived just for the comfort of her husband and children, she has no reason to get out of the bed until one day she finds a set of keys to her old house buried in her handbag.
All the stories start uniformly with a seemingly usual person going through something unusual that brings out their alternative personality to the exterior. Though this might get a little monotonous the content of all the stories are far apart and surprising to the end. The writing is descriptive and detailed which gives the reader a clear image of the scene and at the same time allows the writer to dwell in the moment, elongating every panic stricken second; keeping the reader on the edge. The unpredictability of the stories shows the length and breadth of Apte-Rahm’s imagination.
The last story, also the one the book had been named after, is sort of the culmination of all the stories. Love, hate, regret, greed and killer’s passion all rolled into one. A coming together of a teacher and his prodigy, both well into their old age, leads them to thinking about the past. Their failures and achievements take over them and unleash the darkness harboured in their memories.
Short story collections are very difficult to judge due to the range of stories in them; Apte-Rahm’s book is no different. If you enjoy reading about human ticks and obsessions, then this is the book for you. The quick thrill of these tales will keep you hooked.
These Circuses That Sweep Through The Landscape
By: Tejaswini Apte-Rahm
Price: Rs 299
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