The stories of Sujit Banerjee's Rukhsat have a chord of melancholy running through them. The kind that pulls your heartstrings and keeps you engrossed even as you feel the pain of the characters.
This feeling is aptly conveyed by the title 'Rukhsat' and the cover of this book.
The language of Rukhsat is such that there are details and yet there doesn't seem to be one unnecessary word.
There are times when one reads descriptions which are vivid, yet they don't gel well with the story. Not in these stories though.
In case of Rukhsat, the details are written in a manner that they keep you hooked.
The words flow smoothly. They tell the story, but they don't stand out. And that is the way it should be.
"The wind howled and a door slammed somewhere. The candle flickered and died out. I cursed and turned to fumble for the match box overturning the glass of drink. In the dark I groped for the letters, scooping them up to avoid getting them soaked. I yelled at Kishen and he ran into the room holding the chimney candle – its flame steadier than me. He left the room shutting the door and a hush descended – a kind of quiet flush. I poured a stiff drink and looked at the watch. It was ten past nine – past my dinner time. Kishen only served dinner when I asked him to. I took a sip and picking up a knife – slit open the first envelope to extract a thin sheet of paper – just a page."
The stories are told in a unhurried fashion. They are not slow.
You must know people who narrate stories in a way that they would give small details, and linger on, and yet hold the attention of everyone.
That is what I mean. There are details that you love reading about, and at the same time you are tapping your foot impatiently wanting to know what happens next.
There is pain and longing in these gems. And at times, hope.
There are surprises and twists too... a lingering mystery.
There are stories which are so painful you cringe, others that leave you with a very dim ray of hope (against hope),
The author manages to surprise you as the story ends. In a couple of the stories, I kind of guessed the right ending. But more often than not, I had no idea where the story would lead.
Some of the stories are very simple, truly. And yet so very moving.
The author can even make you feel compassion for an insensible, insensitive, nagging woman.
"Six years back he had gone to Bombay for a conference and had fallen in love with a girl. Few months later he confessed. The very next day Chitra bought two tickets to Bombay and dragging him by the scruff of his neck, landed in Bombay to confront the girl and her family. The girl might have taken the humiliation quietly had Chitra not made the mistake of berating her parents. She stood up from where she was sitting and spoke for ten minutes without a pause. When she finished, Chitra had her face buried in her palms, her husband was staring at his feet and the dog was snarling at them ominously. Her parents pretended they were elsewhere. Before booting them out, she told them she would keep the child."
"...to those who shared their stories and left a little bit of themselves with me, inside of me."
The beauty of this is that not once did I feel that a story is not complete in itself. But once I read the 'add-on' story, and I go back to read the first one again, the horizon of 'complete' has expanded, it seems.
I am being vague and abstract and I can't think of another way to explain it.
The author describes it perfectly in the Preface. He says about his stories -
"Here are twenty-six of them, some standing alone, and some chatting up with their long lost friends."
The stories of Rukhsat are beautiful. Beautiful... I thought of looking for another word to replace this cliché, but I choose not to. After all, there is a touching simplicity in the words of Sujit Banerjee.
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