India is a paradox. To harness the nuances that create its vast and varied canvas and give them life in print can be challenging. But not for a gifted writer like Murzban Shroff, who chose to get embedded in India’s remote villages to unearth India’s heart. It is against this background mostly that his haunting stories play out. Shroff tells his stories with a visceral understanding of human behavior, reeling you in page by page, to mirror the lived realities of people: in villages, in slums, in hill towns, in cities. For further heft, he draws on ancient Indian epics and texts to reveal the spiritual truths of India.
Shroff’s prose is skillfully layered, yielding stories that are gripping and thought-provoking, while exploring issues and social tensions rooted in caste and communal identities. Starting with the first story, the “Kitemaker’s Dilemma” and ending with “An Invisible Truth,” the collection uncoils with an agonizing sense of drama and inevitability. With insights as powerful as Shiva’s third eye, Shroff forages through the attitudes, quirks, and insecurities of his characters to create situations that are uncomfortably real. His women are strong and unafraid, empowered and empowering, as evident in stories like “A Rather Strange Marriage” and “Third Eye Rising.” My personal favorites: “Bhikoo Badshah’s Poison” for its exploration of caste and migrant identities, “Diwali Star” for its family politics, and “A Matter of Misfortune” for its gritty depiction of human greed. By inviting readers into unseen spaces of India, Third Eye Rising makes for a compelling read—from the first story to the last.
Third Eye Rising by Murzban F. Shroff. Spuyten Duyvil, January 2021.
Reviewer bio: Milena Marques-Zachariah is an accomplished advertising writer, columnist, and blogger, whose writings are hugely popular with the South Asian immigrant community in Canada. Her blog ‘Canadian Chronicles’ documents the challenges and successes of immigrants to Canada, while ‘Chasing the Perfect Curry’ is a food adventure blog, where she explores off-the-beaten-path places to enjoy authentic cuisines of the Konkan Coast. She is also the founder of Radio Mango, a Toronto-based broadcast service, and has interviewed eminent authors such as Pico Iyer and Anosh Irani.
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