Rice Plate - 16 Flavours of Life (StoryMirror)
A rice plate is a melange of food items, set off by colours that make each dish unique. The palate gets to taste a mind-boggling variety, as the salty, the sweet, the sour and the bitter come together in a wholesome blend. This is probably what story teller, Kshitiz Sudhakar, tries to convey in his anthology ‘Rice Plate – 16 Flavours of Life’. The idea is a wonderful one, but how far does the young man go to achieve this?
Dishes: As far as the variety goes, the reader is not disappointed. From an over-ambitious writer-turned-actor who can do anything for an audition (The Stolen Opportunity), to an atheist who discusses the process of life with the gods (Four Gods and an Atheist), from an interesting dialogue between comic creator, Andy and his creation (Andy and the Andyman) to a philosophical conversation between three dogs who met in Heaven (Jhonny, Sherru and Kevin), the themes are varied.
Flavours: What gives life to food are the flavours that entice and regale. In this book, the flavours are myriad. There is the milk of kindness in ‘The Lost Old Man’ and ‘The Second Life’, the latter a story which could have taken a totally different form. For the writer does not shy away from the erotic in ‘The Erotic Death’.
‘Sweet Antipathy’ goes up the path of revenge, but stops short, just in time, unlike the bitter ‘Revengeful Sin’ where the mystery unravels, ending with a twist in the tale. ‘Weed-ster’ tells the tale of a man who falls, and is punished for his weakness, proving that one reaps what he sows.
Two stories that reveal a sense of candour are ‘The Chicken and Mutton Story’ and ‘Confessions of a Child Household Worker’ where facts are conveyed, in a non-emotional manner.
However, there are two stories that stand out because they are steeped in poignancy. ‘A Ten Rupee Note’ is one of the sweetest stories in the book, told with a kind of innocence that wrings the heart of the reader. The other ‘Guilty or Not’ leaves the reader with a sense of deep sorrow, ending as it does on a note of regret.
The writer travels into a different world in his two stories ‘Asswatthama’s Salvation’ and ‘Shiva’s Escape’, maybe to delve into the modern-day fascination with mythology.
The Aftermath: What remains at the end of a meal is the way the person who has savoured it feels.
The book is an unusual one, with a theme that is intriguing. However, it does abound with punctuation glitches and grammatical woes that should have been cleaned up during its editing. The language, which is otherwise good, tends to turn a wee bit casual in some of the stories, which takes away from its content. Also, a cover that reflected the idea of a rice plate would have been a treat for the eyes.
Verdict: A book that deserves to be read, one story at a time, to taste the individual flavours!