A Room in the South - A Short Story by Janet H Swinney, Feb 13, 2020 from the JOAO Rogue Literary Journal
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Website of Janet H Swinney
The opening paragraph of “A Room in the South” would make Khushwant Singh blush. From the initial sentence “Navneen loved everything there was to love about women” we are given a very adult account of just how far his love for women goes.
Nanveen arrived from India and took a simple starter job in London. When we meet him he has become rich enough
To stay with his girlfriends in chic London hotels and take them to top end resorts in Europe.
“He was naturally good-looking. Newly-arrived from India, he had cultivated a pencil-thin moustache in the manner of Raj Kapoor with an eye to Errol Flynn, and had combed his hair back in a quiff. He had also changed his name to Eddy. The girls in the production department had fallen for the rebrand hook, line and sinker.
Now, he was less of a showman, relying more on expensive woody aftershaves, bespoke suits from a Kowloon tailor and the ministrations of a barber in Covent Garden. But he was no snob. His rise from rock bottom had given him no reason to be so. He was a keen observer of social niceties and a pretty shrewd judge of character. He had learned how to approach women of every class. And this was remarkably easy. Most women would respond to an open-ended question about themselves – some, it seemed, never had enough opportunity to talk in this way – and before they knew it, whatever their station in life, he’d be leaning in, doing those things that made them feel they were worthy of attention.”
Much of the story is taken up with his relationship with
“And where had he met Milena? Ah yes, at a function at the exhibition centre in Milton Keynes on the future of plastic foam in the robotics industry. There were lectures, demonstrations and displays, but mainly, as far as he was concerned, it was an opportunity to hand his card around to the movers and shakers in the business. Because that was his line. He’d started off as a lowly foam-cutter in the early days, risen to become a star salesman for someone else and now he had a company worth millions with investments overseas.
Apart from the exhibition stands and demonstration areas, there was food, a huge buffet arranged by the sponsors, and Milena was supervising the staff on the line. What struck him was how much in control she was, both of herself and of the situation. She had a trim figure and wore a snug, figure-flattering uniform. Her hair was immaculately rolled, her complexion flawless and her cosmetics painstakingly applied. Even though she was supervising a team of ten, it was clear that she was under-employed. She rejected his opening gambit, but agreed to talk to him at the end of her shift.”
The relationship takes an interesting turn. I came
to see he was very aware that women were attracted by his ability to take them to posh places. He begins to give Milena money, he does it in such way that she does not feel like a mistress or expensive prostitute. Both do understand the economics behind their relationship. We see Naveen cares about women for their bodies and their value as status symbols.
Like all Swinney’s stories, she develops the characters as arising from their life history.
I highly endorse her first collection The Map of Bihar and other stories and look Forward to reading her work for many years.
Janet H. Swinney’s writing straddles Britain and India. Widely anthologised, her story The Map of Bihar was first published in the UK (Earlyworks Press) and in the USA (Hopewell Publications), where it appeared in Best New Writing 2013 and was nominated for the Eric Hoffer prize for prose 2012. She has been placed in numerous national and international competitions, and in 2014, was runner-up in the London Short Story Competition. Her debut collection of short stories titled, Map of Bihar and Other Stories was published in 2019 by Circaidy Gregory Press, UK. She is currently working on her second collection, and has recently returned from the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai, where she presented her work. You can purchase Map of Bihar here.
Her comprehensive website has further biographical information and a list of her works.