The images that touch our hearts most often wear the attire of simplicity. A smiling child, a shower of rain, a night walk and a heartfelt conversation; all of them have the facility to maneuver us and secure themselves in our memories for a long time. Twinkle Khanna falls back on this premise heavily in her latest book ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’.
In all the four short stories she conjures up during this collection, there’s a particular simplicity- a component of everyday. The book opens with the title story wherein we follow a frail but spirited 17-year old Lakshmi Prasad and her dream to secure independence for each girl child of her village. It is followed by the story of two sisters in their sixties, trying to piece together their lives between loneliness and unexpected friendship. The third story takes us into the planet of a young Malayali woman who continues her look for meaning in life amidst multiple marriages. The final story, the longest of the four, chronicles the trials and tribulations of a village simpleton who takes up the explanation for making affordable sanitary napkins for ladies from all strata of the society.
At heart, the stories mean well. While there’s a robust undercurrent of feminism in each of the ‘fictional’ protagonists, the underlying intentions make the gathering an honest read. Khanna’s language is straightforward on the senses, with the occasional humor filling up the space perfectly. She evokes vivid images in her character sketches that appear to possess been through with a caring brush, duly aided by the bounty of nature and its many beautiful days and nights. She also seems to possess a penchant for brief chapters and sentences which infuses the proper amount of rhythm in shorter stories but turns rather agonizing within the longer ones.
The novelty-seeker in me, however, wanted more. Almost one third of the book is devoted to the fourth story which is anything but fictional. It generously draws from the important lifetime of Arunachalam Muruganathan, the social entrepreneur who was the sombre crusader of women’s independence and hygiene and made the world’s first low-cost sanitary pad making machine. That his inspiring journey of perseverance must be retold is well understood but it doesn’t bode well with the collection’s core theme of fiction. The strong voice of a refreshingly original plot found in the first story, gradually loses steam in the fourth. I wish the author had pushed the envelope and played the magician with a tad more gusto.
Nonetheless, the book is a neat slice of life and we shall savour it till the end.
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