I had bought Kardamom Kisses almost a year ago and gave it up after a few chapters. It somehow didn’t keep me wanting to finish it. Last week I bought Shinie Antony’s collection of short stories, ‘Seance on a Sunday Afternoon’ spurred on by the recent coverage about her book launch. After reading that I tried to give Kardamom Kisses another shot and I think I have figured out why I couldn’t complete it earlier. I am not a seasoned critic but in my opinion it has to do with the pace. Shinie’s writing is brisk and fast, almost staccato. This works admirably well in the short story genre but in a novel one tends to be attuned to a leisurely pace.
I almost fell in the same trap as with my earlier failed attempt and was beginning to lose interest with the first three stories – ‘Contact’, ‘Monkey Darling’, ‘Opposites’. These were totally over the top and had more shock value than any real content. However, the next one ‘In the Night’ was a good one dealing about conflict and loss. And soon I was kind of hooked. ‘The Sofa’ was a poignant story about old age and the tussle between parental love and marital amity. ‘Overheard’ is a brilliant piece on stray conversations with no real connection between them. These are 26 separate monotones that talk about things that an ordinary person goes through everyday. The others that stood out for me are ‘Seance on a Sunday Afternoon’, a story about despair, futility and ennui. The protagonist lives a despairing life without any hope of deliverance except in suicide. ‘Tasteless’ has middle aged Devi trying to take control over her domain, the kitchen and establish her culinary skills only to realise that she is just not as good as her mother. Her final comfort comes when her son announces that he is a chef in the US and a noted one at that. A simple but delightful story. As is usual in short story collections consistency is an issue in this one as well.
As stated earlier, Shinie’s style is perfectly suited for short stories, its fast paced and rapid. The themes are ‘slice of life’ and very realistic. The stories do not run on like novellas and usually don’t go beyond 6 pages at best. Therefore it is easy to finish a story between ad breaks if you multitask like me between a book and ‘CSI’ or Last Comic Standing’.