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Why Su-prose? "Su" in Sanskrit is a prefix for "good". This is a place where we will discuss and analyze prose (with a South Asian Connection) - that which is good, awesome, excellent, and maybe rant about prose that could be better.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Karma and Other Short Stories

Karma, chance, fate, destiny, providence, are the muses of the stories skillfully crafted by Rishi Reddi in her debut collection of short stories. Set mostly in the Boston area, the stories vividly portray the interconnected lives of members of the Indian American community who struggle to balance the demands of a traditional Indian culture with the charm of a modern Western life.
The title story “Karma,” deftly crafted, is about two brothers Shankar and Prakash who live together with their families. About a year after helping him immigrate to America, the younger and the wealthier one Prakash, asks Shankar the older one, an unemployed colonial history professor to leave his house, because Shankar lost his job as a convenience store clerk. Shankar moves out with his family and tries to find a job, any job, and while trying to file a claim at the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment, he inadvertently becomes a rescuer of birds in downtown Boston.
In “Justice Shiva Ram Murthy, “ which appeared in the Best American Short Stories 2005, an irascible retired judge reconnects with a childhood friend while trying to adjust to a very different way of life after moving in with his daughter and her husband. In “Lord Krishna,” a teenager is frustrated and offended when his evangelical history teacher likens the Hindu deity to Satan, but forgives him against his father’s wishes in the end.
A widow decides to return to her native village in India to flee her sons off-putting ways in “Bangles.” In “Devadasi,” a young girl visits Hyderabad to learn dancing from a famous Bharatnatyam dancer, right around the time of the Babri Masjid riots. On her way to the dance studio during the unrest, her Muslim driver saves her from becoming a victim of the riots .
Even though the stories are very well written and reach out to some thoughtful realms, one oddity is the use of unusual spellings and pronunciations for some common terms, such as chalwar kameez for the more commonly known Salwar Kameez and Sonnayi for Shehnai.
The social themes of the stories are very relevant in today’s world. “Many of the themes “Karma” addresses grew out of my family’s own experience as immigrants in America. Writing it was a way for me to understand my parents’ story, and thereby understand my own story,” says author Rishi Reddi.

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