Renowned for bringing the marvellous to the ordinary, Vinod Kumar Shukla has long been recognized as one of India’s foremost writers, with a voice uniquely his own. The stories in Blue Is Like Blue deal with ‘smaller-than-life people’. They live in rented accommodation, often in single rooms, where one electric bulb does for light. There’s a nail to hang clothes from and a wall-to-wall string for the washing. When the clothes are dry, you place the carefully folded shirt under a pillow and lie down to sleep. Money is a concern, but the bazaar is the place to go and spend time in, especially if you have nothing to buy. The fear that you may be overcharged accompanies every transaction, but joy is not entirely absent. Few works of modern Indian literature come alive in English, and fewer still in the way that these stories do in Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and Sara Rai’s brilliant translation.
Blue is like blue is a short story collection by Vinod Kumar Shukla translated from the Hindi. Shukla is a renowned poet and novelist. His writing focuses more on lower middle class of the society. Money is a concern for them but all they need to entertain themselves is a day in the bazar. They observe things happening around and spend hours just talking to people about anything and everything under the sun; something as mundane as a passer-by’s shirt colour is a topic for discussion. Most of the stories are set in mundane places; like a street in a bazar, a rented single room accommodation, etc. The stories are short but leave a deep impact and make you wonder.
Like in ‘Old Veranda’ he says
‘The old veranda of our house in Rajnandgaon is now in the house in Raipur. The pole star in Raipur is the same pole star that was in Rajnandgaon. Because there is the sky and the pole star, the homeless do not feel that they are homeless but that they live the same one place under the same sky, which is the same everywhere.’
His writing is raw, beautiful and presents the reality in a way that you may not expect. There’s a hidden side to his characters and you’ll see something in them that you’ll relate to. The translators have done a good job.
Some of my favourite stories are Old Veranda, The burden, Piece of gold and Shoe ashtray. If you looking for a good translated book please do check this one. Also, short stories are great to get out of a reading slump.
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Harpercollins India for sending across a review copy.