Reviewed by Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
A hapless son unwillingly thrown into responsibilities, a groom-to be struggling with society's predispositions and individual ethics, a rickshaw puller with a toppled vehicle on a rainy day or a mourning grandson caught in media pumped idiosyncrasies. Tanvir Malik's collective short stories make a bittersweet play out of each of life's most mundane moments and leave the reader intrigued. The words eloquently elucidate on what the common eye will effortlessly overlook, and finds an emotionally distraught reality that builds towards a postmodern script.
Such is 'Short Takes'.
A compilation of short stories under the banner of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd. (Mumbai), Malik's debut publication takes a deeper narrative insight into life, lifestyles and livelihoods. Intricately descriptive with minimal dialogues, his writings create conversation within the monologue. Concise yet elaborate, vivid yet illusively imaginative Malik creates a precise and familiar environment for the average Bangladeshi reader that eventually defines his characters. It is perhaps this very familiarity that clings on to the reader's attention and makes each story with its protagonists relatable.
However, what's far more interesting is Malik's careful choice of words as titles to his stories. “Ordinary” takes a longer look at a mundane death in the moving metropolis a death that would mean little to the world or the city where the deceased has spent her entire life in, but only affect those she was most loved by. “Difference” revolves around a rainy day that leads to an expected rickshaw accident, and the emotional proximity manipulated by social distance between the rickshaw puller and his passenger. While each tale reposes on any uneventful, insignificant day of our lives, they present themselves as more than fleeting moments but rather, as analogies of how individual thought processes are restrained by materialistic and superficial manmade institutions. Each title is ironic in the sense it stems from words anyone irrelevant to that instant will interpret it as, such as the end of life being perfectly ordinary or a groom-to-be accepting gifts from his in-laws despite his initial stance against dowry. This clever manipulation of language and literature with a punch of sub continental acquaintance is what makes Malik's writing a delightful indulgence.
For the avid reader, each ending is predictable. In most cases, predictability is synonymous to monotone or insipidity. In 'Short Takes', that's the only prediction one will be proven wrong at. Malik's writing is neither dry nor wearisome, rather a playful playground of words and events that eventually characterises who we become in a social context. It's a delightful read, a recommended treat and an intriguing journey that provides its recipients many platters for thought.