By Dr Hareram Mohanty
Publisher: Smt Bijoya Mohanty
Price: Rs 120
Imagine yourself stepping out of the train in the middle of the night to get some drinking water in a platform. When you rush back to your train the train is already on the move and you somehow manage to cling on to the bars. To your utter dismay you find the door locked from inside. You knock, bang and kick the door, yell at the top of your voice and gesticulate frantically just to catch someone’s attention inside the coach. While all this drama of desperation is going on, the train gathers momentum and you feel the chill piercing your bones while helplessly perched on the foot-board in the dark of the night. Chilling, isn't it? And now imagine what would be your reaction if you come to know years later that the person who prevented others from letting you in that night was your wife-to-be.
Some secrets are best kept buried in tight wraps forever, because the blunt truth at times becomes too unpleasant to bear. The wife in the eponymous story ‘Bipanna Nisitha’ (‘Hazardous Midnight’) is clever enough to realise this when she suppresses the temptation to divulge the secret to her husband. Truth is consciously sealed in a chest of secrecy to save the happy conjugal life.
Hareram Mohanty’s collection of short stories has many pieces which revolve around the themes of our attempts to come to terms with the harsh realities of life, naked truths and dark fantasies of the past. ‘Rati o Birati’ (‘Pleasure of Love and Thereafter’) recounts the story of a star-crossed husband who took great pride in his wife’s beauty in his youth. The caring husband went to great lengths to medically revive the good looks of his dearie when years of marital bliss brought an extra layer of fat on the wife’s body. But the doctor who transforms her looks decides to exhibit her around the world as a sample of his magical craft. That suits fine to the refurbished wife but the husband is left lamenting his fate unable to share his embarrassing agony with others. Likewise the stories like ‘Bastabatara Peeda’ (‘Stings of Reality’), ‘Saita Kamana’ (‘Treasured Passion’), ‘Abhula Atita’ (‘Enduring Past’), and ‘Kahani Kalantarara’ (‘Change of Time’) deal with dilemmas of life in which the past throws up strange challenges for the present.
Mohanty's stories are straightforward and simple, with a no-nonsense approach to the craft of storytelling. He builds up the plot till the near-end in one flow, and when the reader is left with nothing much to imagine, he gives a sudden tweak, through an unknown but significant event of the past or with a sudden revelation. That brings in a moment of truth for the story. He minces no words while bringing forth the master stroke of his plots
Mohanty has observed life closely from various vantage points, during his many years of experience as a student, as a college teacher, as a banker and as an intellectual. All the stories reveal his first-hand acquaintance with the characters and events.
The language is formal and sometimes peppered with a pinch of the archaic, which best suit the humorous stories like ‘Utkocha Upakhyana’ (‘On Bribery’) and ‘Banchanabrutanta’ (‘Trickery’).
This smorgasbord of life will definitely give the reader a few chuckles and some points to ponder.