When I first browsed through the pages of Rubina Ramesh’s maiden short story collection ‘Knitted Tales: A Collection of Emotions’, the blurb of the book gave me the impression that the stories would unfold the dark, grim and intriguing side of the human mind and the harsh truths that spill out as the inevitable consequences. But as page after page unfolded the subtle nuances of every story in the collection, I realized that the book was much, much more than a collection of dark, intriguing tales and the twists and turns and emotions that define each one of them. It was, in reality, a journey, a revelation of the quintessential human saga which spoke of the fragility, the vulnerability of the human soul, on one hand, and on the other, the strong, feisty, spirited flow of human life as well. Keeping this in mind, I would say that all the stories are defined by the sheer fiber of pathos and the captivating secrets evoked by the storyteller in Rubina, be it the unfolding of an eerie past rearing its head out of the closet in ‘A Secret in Their Closet’, the unfolding of the raw emotions of anguish, betrayal and thwarted trust in ‘Lolita’, or the unleashing of the stark, heart-wrenching tragedy in ‘Suvarnarekha’.
Keeping in mind the colossal trend of theme-based anthologies in today’s times, categorized in easy, water-tight genres of romance, thriller, supernatural, horror, feminist stories or children’s literature, here is an anthology that captivates even more because the myriad themes it represents makes it a massive, yet delectable canvas. For me, as I read it, each story filled in the gap of the earlier story, though they were not technically interconnected stories. However, the undercurrent of loneliness, deceit, agony and the fragility of being a human shines so strong in most of the stories that often times, while reading, I felt one story feeding into the emotions of the other. The narration, sometimes pacy, dramatic and sharp, sometimes lyrical and full of cadence, compels the readers to get at the heart of the emotions of the protagonist of every story. So be it the immigrant mother and her daughter who confront racism in ‘Chicklet’, the fiercely introvert filmmaker Abhijit who wronged his wife and the lady-love of his growing up years in ‘Forgive Me, For I Have Sinned’, the tremendously intriguing wife Raima with a clandestine online friend in ‘No Regrets’, or the vulnerable Jyothi in ‘The Other Woman’, somewhere the storyteller makes them all splinters and shards of our own unacknowledged selves, and we cannot help but get drawn into their fractured walls.
The element of the dark and supernatural is yet another strand which makes this assortment of stories of elemental human emotions so delectable and engrossing. Right in the first story of the collection, ‘The Secrets in Their Closets’, I had been startled with the stark revelation of long-buried crimes and the way the narrator revealed it in astonishing, shocking spurts. In ‘Betrayal’, the ghost of a dead husband presents a riveting, shocking tale of a conjugal life gone awry, a tale of domestic violence where the festering stench of morbidity seeps through the senses of a sensitive reader. In both ‘The Missing Staircase’, and ‘Cliff Notes’, the last story of the collection, though the themes are diverse, the narrators in both the tales take the element of the supernatural in its most elemental form and build it up to a crescendo where the readers are transported to a world, sinister yet irresistible, a world which we are compelled to explore, tearing apart our comfort zones. In the final analysis, I would say it is an extremely courageous and compelling book by Rubina where she has shown that the true power of a storyteller lies not only in writing intelligently crafted tales, but churning a world of tantalizing, memorable emotions out of the tales. ‘Knitted Tales’ is mostly successful in accomplishing that, where the last page makes the readers yearn for more.
Definitely a recommended read for lovers of short fiction.
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