Kumar’s English-language debut aims to be a multifaceted “symphony” of perspectives full of “lasting flowers of light, fragrant with moments of satori and state of epiphany.”
The mention of “satori” hints at the vaguely Eastern philosophical drift of many of the stories in the volume, which is full of swamis, gurus, and wise men of various types from the long tradition of Asian lesson-literature. In one story, for example, a Zen master pours his new student a cup of tea and alarms him by filling the cup well over its brim. When the student questions him, the master smiles and says, “You must empty yourself first to receive new knowledge and transformative experience.” Kumar adds: “We have to erase and clean our mental canvas to paint new possibilities.” It’s the type of counterfactual platitude (it in fact isn’t at all necessary to empty the mind in order to learn something new, as every single human being on Earth knows perfectly well) that tends to fill this kind of book. In another story, a man buys a Picasso painting and shows it to Picasso, who immediately declares it a fake. When Picasso’s own secretary confirms that he did, in fact, paint it, Picasso snaps that it’s still a fake, “a copy of myself.” Kumar calls this “an interesting statement” about “originality and creative authenticity.” He infuses these stories with a tone of once-upon-a-time narrative energy sufficient to keep the whole collection moving steadily forward. Tales touch on familiar philosophical points of enlightenment and inner wisdom, and the author interposes directly with comments like, “Here-now is the seed of bright future and memorable past…Forgive and let go [of] the past.” Readers coming to this pithy collection in search of such reminders will find them in abundance.
Peppy if scattershot Zen-flavored stories that sometimes confuse as much as they enlighten.