Blurb (as on Goodreads):
Jayant Kaikini’s compassionate gaze takes in the people in the corners of the city, the young woman yearning for love, the certified virgin who must be married off again, the older woman and her medicines; Tejaswini Niranjana’s translations bring the rhythms of Kannada into English with admirable efficiency. This is a Bombay book, a Mumbai book, a Momoi book, a Mhamai book, and it is not to be missed. – Jerry Pinto No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories is not about what Mumbai is, but what it enables. Here is a city where two young people decide to elope and then start nursing dreams of different futures, where film posters start talking to each other, where epiphanies are found in keychains and thermos-flasks. From Irani cafes to chawls, old cinema houses to reform homes, Jayant Kaikini seeks out and illuminates moments of existential anxiety and of tenderness. In these sixteen stories, cracks in the curtains of the ordinary open up to possibilities that might not have existed, but for this city where the surreal meets the everyday.
Kaikini’s ‘No Presents Please’ has certain surrealism to it, a feeling that is brought about by characters pushed into the everyday mayhem of life in Mumbai and how the city accepts its all with an open heart and sustains countless souls.
A bachelor faces a strange and sudden wedding proposal, a young girl tries to comfort her father, a woman forced to do odd jobs in order to survive, an old man stuck in Mumbai rains trying to cling to dear life for six more months, a man desperate seeking the comforts of home during the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi and many such stories set in The City of Dreams.
Translated from Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana, these stories are translated keeping in mind the backdrop, the language and the typical way of life the Mumbaikars lead. The translation maintained the essence of these stories and reading them felt like stepping into the suburbs of Mumbai, traveling through the crowded streets and trains and looking into the city through the character’s eyes.
The stories are not about Mumbai, but how the city brings out the best in people and how these people, born from its belly cling to the city for dear life. Most stories are open-ended as if the author has said all he had to but leaves it up to the reader to take away whatever bits of people and the city’s life they want to.
Other than Murakami, I have never felt this attached to a collection of stories like this one. The words formed a bond with me and I could see the author’s love for this city and its people. Even when I didn’t like a story, I loved bits of it here and there. These stories contain emotions and a certain thrill to them that eventually ends into a thoughtful and ordinary conclusion.
I can not recommend this book enough. These stories are heartfelt and you feel it with every word you read.