NO PRESENTS PLEASE Mumbai Stories by Jayant Kaikini

Venturing deep into the heart of Mumbai, uncovering the daily grind, harsh realities and an unforgiving, unrelenting pace, No Presents Please engrossed me and shook me as well. It is a selection of 16 stories of the lives of ordinary people that come alive with his prose and pathos.

Easy-flowing language with simple expressions of deep emotions. Sharing their courage, aspirations, and dreams. Some pining away, some frustrated, some forgotten. Each story connects to an individual and to the heartstrings. I was invested in each story. The maid who lies stricken by the window, the person struck in rains, the photo frame, the movie theater, the bus driver, a father, a wife, a daughter, a mother; each one has a wish, a dream. The author, Jayant Kaikini, has done a marvellous job of expressing them and Tejaswini Niranjana is a master translator.

No Presents Please shares snippets of the life of the ‘real Mumbai’. People who come from all over the country to make it their home and survive all the hardships. They live in chawls, shanties and anywhere they can. Living life one day at a time, they come alive within the pages of the book.

I stumbled on this book and am glad I did. The stories have a rich depth to them, exposing human sentiments and deep emotions. Such a rich Indianness and feel to it. The characters stand out on their merit and personality. Stories are unwinding the person behind the thoughts and actions. Tales based on Mumbai or Bombay, as I like to call it.

All the stories have an edge, a desperation. Looking for success, accomplishment and validation. To finally arrive in Mumbai, make it in the city of dreams. Sadly, not all dreams come true.

Life and its unfathomable ideas of how one should live. Certainly with No Presents Please.


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No Presents Please
Mumbai Stories
Jayant Kaikini, Tejaswini Niranjana
For readers of Jhumpa Lahiri and Rohinton Mistry, as well as Lorrie Moore and George Saunders, here are stories on the pathos and comedy of small-town migrants struggling to build a life in the big city, with the dream world of Bollywood never far away.
Jayant Kaikini’s gaze takes in the people in the corners of Mumbai—a bus driver who, denied vacation time, steals the bus to travel home; a slum dweller who catches cats and sells them for pharmaceutical testing; a father at his wit’s end who takes his mischievous son to a reform institution.
In this metropolis, those who seek find epiphanies in dark movie theaters, the jostle of local trains, and even in roadside keychains and lost thermos flasks.
Here, in the shade of an unfinished overpass, a factory-worker and her boyfriend browse wedding invitations bearing wealthy couples’ affectations—”No Presents Please”—and look once more at what they own.

Translated from the Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana, these resonant stories, recently awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, take us to photo framers, flower markets, and Irani cafes, revealing a city trading in fantasies while its strivers, eating once a day and sleeping ten to a room, hold secret ambitions close.

Jayant Kaikini is a Kannada poet, short–story writer, columnist and playwright, as well as an award–winning lyricist, script and dialogue writer for Kannada films. He won his first Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award at the age of nineteen in 1974, and has since won the award three times, in addition to winning various other awards in India, including the first Kusumagraj Rashtriya Bhasha Sahitya Puraskar. 
No Presents Please, his volume of selected stories, is the first book in translation to have won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

I read the digital review copy of No Presents Please from Edelweiss+ by Ingram Publisher Services.

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