Besides the question that the title poses, others could be: ‘Do book reviewers always have murder in their thoughts?’ Or ‘Why do writers get unreadable stuff published?’ Or ‘Is every reader qualified to call a book bad or good?’ Or ‘Is a book that disgusts one reader end up disgusting every other?’ These questions have come up in my mind because one of the stories in ‘The Inevitable’ written by Ashay Abbhi prompted them. ‘Ashes of bad writers’ is one of the stories in the book and I interpret it as the author’s definition of a book reviewer who finally decides to write his own story.
I wonder why the cover has such a lovely photograph showing a dilapidated entrance into a thoughtful probability with the golden yellow hue of an autumn dusk representing stories that embrace the cold chill of creativity smeared all over with gruesomeness. Yes, I wonder why. It is time that publishers and their illustrators and cover designers stop picking up the first one in their stock of royalty-free pictures and convert it into another cover. I hope this paragraph stares at the publisher with bloodshot eyes, just as much as the way the stories peered into mine. And I can tell you that I am not Bashir who ‘decided to look directly into his eyes to tell him to buzz off. But as soon as I gazed back, a chill ran through my spine. His eyes were bloodshot, as if he had just had a glass of blood. Had he???’
The stories are of encounters… no, not the way the police will interpret them, but as experiences of someone who almost certainly could not be just any of us.
This just means that either the author has a pretty ripe imagination or the rest of us haven’t travelled enough to have had similar encounters. This is what I realised by the time I had read the third story and I knew I wanted to read them all and travel to a land where Ashay had been to. Look, I’m sure you’ve never visited a small town with all walls painted white except one that is painted yellow and where the headman in the first story ‘stumbled upon the pile of dead bodies right below it.’ Nor are you the sort who goes to meet authors who you think haven’t written well and like the protagonist of one of the stories, produce ‘a machete from underneath his shirt and in one swift motion cut both her hands off.’ The stories have death and darkness trailing them but thankfully none of them are too long and end before you remind yourself to read a few jokes whatsapped to you before you go off to sleep.
This collection of stories has an umbilical connection, I believe, to the poems that come before each. If you do happen to get this book to read, try reading the poem just before the story and see if your mind also connects poetry to prose. I have loved concluding that all things gory are the prime domain of the story and poetry can, at best, point out to them in a gently murderous way. Well, the poetry in the book isn’t particularly brilliant but the idea of having poetry and prose in an inter-connected way in a book is, let me insist, worth a thought.
The first dark omen that I noticed was the absence of an index and I murmured, ‘I think I have a defective book in my hands. What a ghastly error!’ But then I actually asked a few other readers if the book with them has a similar format and got an answer in the affirmative, I knew that the content to follow has to be gory and gruesome! And it did turn out to be as I had imagined.
There are errors that shouldn’t be there. The grammar isn’t always in place. The thoughts too tend to go haywire at times. Even the gruesomeness wants to take off its mask to tell us that it is actually sublime and subtle… which is not such a good thing because when you’re in a cemetery you love stepping on shattered pieces of bones and love imagining zombies coming out of every bush. The writer needs to write more and develop the way he goes about making even a sunny day look creepy and dismal… and before you panic, Ashay, let me just say that I do not pile up good books on one side in my Study and bad ones in another. I also would not produce a machete when we meet and run after you to sever your hands. Not that your hands deserve that… but then, what if one maniacal solitary reader thinks he wants to collect the ashes of bad writers?
Title: The Inevitable
Author: Ashay Abbhi
Publisher: Maitreya – www.maitreyabooks.blogspot.com
Price: Rs 200/- (in 2015)
27 March 2015