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LOYAL STALKERS by Chhimi  Tenduf-La


by Chhimi Tenduf-La

Pub Date: May 17th, 2017
ISBN: 978-93-82616-92-4
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India

A collection of short stories set in Sri Lanka explores the convoluted inner lives of varied characters.

In order to keep her pregnancy a secret, a rape victim must go through the further indignity of giving birth in her parents’ home assisted by her doctor father. A woman wakes up from a night of lovemaking, checks her phone, and sees a news alert about how the local at-large serial killer is reported to have a devil mask tattoo on his chest—a tattoo just like the one on the chest of the man lying in bed next to her. A mother whose son is embarrassed by their poverty attends his cricket games dressed as Eliza Doolittle: “She wore white gloves and carried an umbrella with frills that she stitched herself using old napkins. She also made sandwiches for all the other parents and kids, which people were kind enough to eat even though they were filled with rubbery cuts of meat.” In this collection of 15 interconnected stories, Tenduf-La (Panther, 2015, etc.) follows the lives of average people struggling to survive in the chaotic and colorful capital city of Colombo in Sri Lanka. The author finds a delicate balance of humorous situations and real-world darkness, as in the title story, in which a shy gym trainer becomes overly infatuated with one of his clients—to the point where he watches her outside her window at night, jealous of the love she holds for her infant daughter. Tenduf-La writes in an even-tempered prose that manages to make dramatic situations slightly cartoonish and gives casual occurrences literary weight: “Pasindu Amarasinghe is a closet homosexual with six toes on his left foot,” he writes at the beginning of the story “Everyone Has to Eat,” “but the one thing he never wants his friends to find out is that he’s been allocated a university application fee waiver.” The mix of specific details from daily life in Colombo—where sari-clad Buddhist women exist shoulder to shoulder with mob enforcers—with the universal themes of loneliness, failure, and liberation makes for a memorable and enjoyable work from this talented writer.

An entertaining kaleidoscope of tales focusing on contemporary Sri Lanka.