The book, A Place of No Importance by Veena Muthuraman is a collection of 13 short stories. Each story is set in a certain month of the Hindi calendar. All the stories are set in the fictitious village of Ayyanarpatti set in Tamil Nadu. The stories are related to the people in the village and their lives. I have to compare this with R K Laxman’s Malgudi Days which has a similar concept. The language also sounds similar with a smattering of Tamil words. Some of the characters are in multiple stories like Nithya who is a college going girl but is also very snoopy. Then there is councillor Muthu who is trying to build a political career by talking about grand things and always being in the middle of insignificant activities. Kanaka Aachi who is a divorced lady and an enterprising woman, after all she has to be independent. Each story is beautifully told. Some are funny, some sad, some with sudden twists. Each story can stand on its own.
A Festive Suicide, Attempted – Arumugam, the village drunkard tries to commit suicide by drinking poison since it is Deepavali and his family doesn’t care for him. He is indulged by the villagers and councillor Muthu. All, except his wife and daughter, are worried about Arumugam killing himself. Needless to say, it brings out human nature with some funny quirks.
Possessed – This story relates to superstitions and black magic which is more common in villages. In Ayyanarpatti, Mariamma is a ghost who lives on a particular banyan tree. The schoolboy Mani is scared to pass by this tree and one day he has to pass by it alone.
God’s Own Country – Some land sharks reach Ayyanarpatti and plan to build an International school. Nithya feels something is fishy. She snoops around till she finds a way to evict the land sharks.
A House on Upper Street – One of the sadder stories. Kumar, a Dalit, returns from America and is planning to buy a house. He has the money and he wants to buy the best house at the best location. But sadly, he realizes that he may have progressed, but people’s mentalities have not.
A New Release – This was my favourite story. It is about filmstar Vijay obssessed Kalai and her brother-in-law Pandi. Since Kalai’s husband is in Singapore, she relies on Pandi for getting tickets for any new release of Vijay. But, the story is about what is not said in it. It is about reading the bigger story between the lines. Such a unique way to narrate a story.
Scenes from a Scandal – Siva Master is a widower who has just married off his only daughter Chitra. When he takes help from Kanaka Aachi, a divorcee estate agent broker, tongues wag. It becomes the scandal of the village. The story is written in 10 parts. Again, I loved the way this ‘short’ story is told in ‘shorter’ parts.
A New Beginning – It’s the war of the in-laws. The war is between two brothers and their wives. The elder brother and his wife are living off the ancestral land while the younger brother and his wife, Subbiah and Rukku, are treated as farm labourers. When things reach a head on, Rukku decides on a plan in the best way possible with her limited means.
A Love Story starring Councillor Muthu – No, no.. it is not Muthu’s love story. It is a actually a gang war between two rival factions Karuppanan and Bai. Muthu is aligned to Karuppanan with the sole objective to enhance his political career. He has fallen out of grace with his patron and is looking to redeem himself when he gets to know about the love story of Bai’s daughter and a local boy. He makes big plans but it takes a turn at the last moment.
Prelude to a Wedding – This was again an odd story which I could not fully agree with. But still, such things may be happening. Priya is engaged to be married to her cousin Machan. But, he is 12 years older to her and she does not like him. The story follows from here.
The Demon Wind of Adi – The story starts with an idyllic location, home, and hero Natesan. Its a beautiful story and ends tragically all due to the demon winds of Adi.
A Yank in Ayyanarpatti – An American, Ben, lands in the village, to build the house of the Dalit Kuppan. His family has been ostracised by the village for entering the Amman temple inspite of being a Dalit. So, no one wants to build him a house fearing a backlash from the upper castes. Ben steps in as he says, he has no caste. Strange things start happening in the village which is directed as ill-omens because Ben is building a house. Nithya is in the story again for some detective work.
The Amman of saris – In order to sell his saris, Rajesh concocts a story of the goddess Kamakshi Amman coveting saris. He spreads the rumour that every brother should gift his sister a sari on the festival day. All goes well till something goes terribly wrong in his family.
Macondo Thatha : Origins – Karuppiah plans to have a second marriage. He feels a bit guilty but he explains to his wife that it is only to help her with her household chores that he is marrying again. But, someone wants to thwart his plans.
I enjoyed all the stories and look forward to reading more from from this author. The story cover is absolutely lovely.
I read it on the Juggernaut app. Initially, I was skeptical about reading on the mobile phone. But, then I realised that I do read a lot of blogs and news on the mobile. The app is simple and easy to use.
After reading this review from Sreesha, I knew I wanted to read this book.
I received this book for free from Juggernaut app for an honest review. Image source : Juggernaut