Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Each of Us Killers- A Short Story by Jenny Bhatt - December 1, 2017

 You may read today’s story here

Website of Jenny Bhatt- there are lots of fascinating essays on a wide range of topics 

I first became aware of the work of Jenny Bhatt through Elaine Chiew’s interview with her on The Asian Book Blog 

This is the title story in Jenny Bhatt’s debut collection, Each of Us Killers 

Each of Us Killers- A Short Story by Jenny Bhatt - December 1, 2017

You may read today’s story here

I first became aware of the work of Jenny Bhatt through Elaine Chiew’s interview with her on The Asian Book Blog 

In his classic, though deeply flawed, book on the short story, The Lonely Voice, Frank O’Connor (1962) develops the idea that short stories are powerful vehicles for presenting the lives of those without voice, people on the margins of society with no one to speak for them.  O’Connor draws his examples from the great short story writers of Europe such as Gogol, Chekhov, Maupassant, Katherine Mansfield, Turgenev, and James Joyce.  Jenny Bhatt’s deeply moving, disturbing story, based on real events, set among Dalits an Indian Village powerfully exemplifies this in a story of people very far from the existential world of the subjects of O’Connor’s writers.

This is the title story in Jenny Bhatt’s debut collection, Each of Us Killers.

The story takes place in a small village in India.  The narrator is a member of a Dalit class that among other things remove the bodies of dead cows, scared to members of higher castes, that have died of natural causes.

The narrator speaks not of himself but of “us” when he tells the tragic events of “We Are All Killers”.  There are seeming only a few Dalit in the village and our narrator tells us they keep to their side of town.  He is very bitter against the upper castes, blaming them for giving India to the English.  The narrator can be seen, I think, as addressing other Dalits.  He is trying to get them to see the hypocrisy in treating the cow as sacred while forcing Dalit caste members to violate stricture by butchering bodies so they can be used.  He tells the Dalits of their role in Indian history. There are numerous sub-castes of Dalits but all in this story are coming to see their oppression. In the past they were encumbered to accept their lot and hope for a better rebirth.  

Bhatt takes us deeply into the structure of the village.  Her opening very much drew me in:

“Our tiny village of Saakarpada is well hidden too, so much so that when Vishal Parmar drank a bottle of acid and killed himself not even the police could be bothered to find their way to us.

If you are traveling along the Kodinar-Amreli Highway you might glimpse Saakarpada hiding between the farthest fields, on one of those rare days when the smoke exhaust from our rattling trucks and tempo vans is not too heavy. But you might also simply drive on by, unknowing and unseeing. We are so distant from all major roads, there is not even a sign (or finger) pointing in our direction.

This anonymity does not bother us. Our few Dalit families have served in the fields of the upper caste families from before the Maratha cowards gave our state away to the British bastards. Unlike all of them, we have always honored the long-time, invisible borders keeping us to our side of the village and the upper castes to theirs—until the recent tragic events. And our Panchayat leaders are descended from long lines of Panchayatis themselves, so we do not need any outsiders to tell us how to manage these affairs.”

We meet a young Dalit  woman who is very vocal in her opposition to the way they are treated.  Everyone says she should go to law school. Her fate is so cruel, hard to read it is so evil.

There Is so much in this story about social castes, the role of women, changing times in India and on the impact of worshipping cows over people.

From Elaine Chiew’s interview

“The last story, the titular one, is also based on a real-life incident that happened the year I moved to India. In Gujarat, the western state where I was living, four Dalit men were publicly flogged by upper-caste men for allegedly killing a cow. This spiralled into nationwide protests and acid-drinking suicides. I actually went to a village to talk with the Dalit community posing as a journalist. And how the community responded to my questions with almost one voice, united in their story, stayed with me a long time. I wanted to explore their helplessness, frustration, and resignation about what had been happening. I was also super-aware that I’m upper-caste myself and couldn’t really speak for them. So I used my journalist cover as a way into the story.”

Jenny Bhatt's writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology and has appeared or is upcoming in, among others: The Atlantic, Amazon’s Day One Literary Journal, Gravel Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Hofstra’s Windmill, Eleven Eleven Journal, Hot Metal Bridge, Vestal Review, Jet Fuel Review, Five:2:One, The Indian Quarterly, York Literary Review (UK), The Nottingham Review (UK), Litro UK, The Vignette Review, and an anthology, ‘Sulekha Select: The Indian Experience in a Connected World.’ Having lived and worked her way around India, England, Germany, Scotland, and various parts of the US, she now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. From the Author’s Website

I hope to read the full collection.  If the other stories  are even close to “We are All Killers” then I will be truly thrilled.

Mel u

No comments: