"Is there something special about the Indian short story? I think there is. It sticks to the traditional rules of the craft. It is in fact short and not a novella or an abridged novel. It revolves round one or at the most two or three characters and does not have a long list of dramatis personae as in novels. It is limited in time and space and does not span decades or spread out in different locales. It also has a well-formulated central theme and does not touch upon several topics or clashes of personalities. It has a distinct beginning, a build-up and usually a dramatic end, frequently an unexpected one which sums up the story. Western short stories tend to be prolix, leaving the reader to guess what it is all about" Khushwant Singh
"Crocodile's Lady" by Manoj Das (1975, first published in The Illustrated Weekly of India, edited by Khushwant Singh, 1969 to 1979, a premier source for the publication of quality short stories and poems) is a story in the tradition of magic realism. It is a delightful story which can fairly be called a work of magic realism. Some say magic realism was born in South America, in truth this tradition in India goes back at least to before Homer.
As the story opens a Western professor visiting India wants to see a real village. He is taken deep country to a village where there are no other cars in eight miles, few residents have ever seen a movie and the village youngsters come just to look at him.
He tells the man who accompanied him, he was born in the village but moved to the big city long ago, that he wants to bath in the river as long as the crocodiles are not dangerous. He is told a wonderful story of "The Crocodile's Lady" who lives in the village, ninety-four years old, widowed at age four.
They had a daughter who had been married at the age of three and had become a widow at four. She lived with her parents and, people say, grew up to be a beautiful damsel. ‘One day while bathing in the river with the other women, she was dragged away by a crocodile. She was given up for dead. But a decade later she suddenly reappeared in the village. Her father had died and her mother was dying. Their little hut on the river was in shreds. ‘One morning, two days later, a crocodile was found crawling on the embankment behind her hut. The earth, loose at one place, gave way under its weight. It slipped down on the village side of the embankment and the people thrashed it to death."
I don't want to tell more of the story, but I really enjoyed this work. It does an excellent job combining folk stories with magic realism techniques.
I read it in Best Indian Short Stories, Vol. 1, edited and introduced by Khushwant Singh.