Spooky, Rivetting tales

What could make a collection of short stories impactful?

A hard-hitting message in every story despite the brevity in narration, which leads the reader to not just sit and ponder about the same, but serves as a stark reminder when confronted with a similar situation and admonish the erring conscience.

The Best of Satyajit Ray is a translated version of 21 short stories from the Bengali.(8 of which translated by the author himself and remaining by Gopa Majumdar). In his Foreword, Gopa Majumdar has mentioned that even if Ray had not written the Feluda and Shonku stories, his success as a writer would not have been affected in any way, as his short stories equally captivate the reader (young and old alike) through several generations of posterity. Not having read any of his detective stories featuring the sleuth Feluda or sci-fi adventure tales of Prof Shonku, I couldn't agree more to that statement.

This book is predominantly a collection of spooky, spine chilling tales with a supernatural element or aliens from outer space (which would fascinate the reader), and few stories with a rivetting message (which would resonate the inner-conscience of the reader FOREVER). As I am used to looking out for "moral of the story" I was more impressed by the latter category mentioned. It probably takes a combination of the film-maker and writer ability in Ray to bring out the desired effect.

I was hooked onto the book after reading the very first story.If the tale about a carnivorous plant with an extraordinary and deadly appetite amazes you, there's the incredible story of a dog which bursts out laughing one fine morning. The reader is left to keep guessing till the end about how the owners of these bizarre creatures tackle with them. Incredible the characters may sound, but the reader is simply transformed into a child and led into the fantasy world.

Despite the fantasy element, the stories seem straight out of life.

In "Ratan Babu and the Man" the beast lurking within a man leading a simple life, is prompted when he confronts a stranger who is a replica of himself.(Physical and habit-wise). Afterall, it wouldn't be all that amazing to see a duplicate image of yourself for a long time.

How would a person constantly looked down by his mates, react when he chances upon an alien creature? Confidence which is shattered by fellowmen, is boosted by this alien creature, and that transforms his life in totality.This is captured in another story.

There may be some people who have confided in us, guided us, and held out a helping hand when we were in distress. That single gesture may have altered our lives for the better, but its not always that we think of the path we tread during difficult days. There might probably be a pricky feeling in our subconscious mind, that we have been ignoring the person whose been the very reason for our success today. Before it becomes too late, atleast to be truthful to our mind, atleast to face ourselves eye to eye in the mirror, atleast to ward off the guilt, we ought to express our gratitude to that mentor. Without being preachy like this, Ray has lucidly brought out the essence of being a human in a couple of stories, both of which are hard-hitting, though there is not a single mention of the word gratefulness/gratitude or any such nouns. I am AMAZED how . (I really looked for those words in a second read).

The last story in this collection, Pikoo's Diary is a heart-wrenching one. Pikoo, a young boy, is in the habit of maintaining a personal diary. His mind is disturbed by the adulterous affairs of his promiscuous mom, which in turn leads to strained relations between his mom and dad. Ray has succintly captured the mind of a child's state of mind in a chaotic household. What more, the whole story is written in the font of a child's writing, with the kind of typos that only a child could make. This gives the reader the feel that he/she is peeping into a child's diary.

Personally, I feel literature is at its best in the language it was originally written. That is one reason why I have been shunning away popular translations of literature for fear of they being simplified for ease of read. But the fact that the author himself has translated some of the stories, came as a plus. Moreover, Gopa Majumdar's style of narration seemed (to me) to be much similar to Ray's take.