Brilliant and versatile

2012-09-05 00:00



I Am An Executioner

Rajesh Parameswaran


RAJESH Parameswaran is simply brilliant – audacious, inventive and extraordinarily versatile, as his collection of nine short stories, I Am An Executioner, demonstrates. The stories are notable for their sheer chutzpah; for their often tantalisingly unresolved endings; for the range of narrative voices and styles.

Two stories are told by animals: one, by a Bengal tiger who conceives a passionate, and ultimately destructive, attraction for his zoo-keeper; and the other, by an elephant escapee from a circus, who hastens to write her autobiography in the imagined language, Englaphant, a tongue spoken by elephants who have had close human contact.

In extensive footnotes to the latter story, the apparent translator/editor, working on the elephant’s text, adds further detail and provides information about his own credentials for the task. At times, the footnotes take over, ousting the text.

While both stories highlight the familiar notions of the plights of animals in captivity and human misconceptions of the behaviour of wild animals, it is in the telling that the pieces are so intriguing.

Although he was born in India, Parameswaran has resided in America since infancy. Some of his protagonists/narrators are, similarly, Indians living in the States. In a grimly humorous story, one Gopi, fired from his job, establishes himself — sans qualifications — as a doctor specialising in women’s ailments; in another, a woman has a particular damaging thought, which she believes demons, passing synchronously and invisibly by, overhear and manifest; in yet another, the narrator is in the film industry, working for an egotistical director and surreptitiously cuckolding him.

The title story, I Am An Executioner, is written in the speech patterns of a native of India speaking English and narrated by the Chief Executioner of a “small and famous country”.

Skilfully executed, highly amusing, yet grisly, it is a fine example of Parameswaran’s talent.

Further, Parameswaran includes two futuristic/science fiction pieces, one, a chilling account of a state in which everyone is under intensive surveillance and the other, a glimpse of Planet Lucina, AD 2319, narrated by one of the insect-like inhabitants who prepares corpses for display and disposal.

This is Parameswaran’s début collection. One wonders what he will do next.

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