Review of Who is Responsible: A Collection of Short Stories
Dr. Sulakshna Sharma
(Published in 29.2 (July 2016) issue of Poetcrit)
K. V. Dominic’s book, Who is Responsible? (2016) is his maiden collection of fifteen short stories. Many of these stories, according the author, “have been published periodically through . . . [his] own edited journals as well as through other international refereed journals, both print and online” (Preface). Dominic has “used several themes and focused on many issues which are universal and at the same time frequently occurring in . . . [his] own State, Kerala” (Preface). The themes are mainly socio-political and socio-economic. The tone is satirical and, at times, didactic.
The author has enlisted a number of themes in the preface to his book on which his stories are based. Succinctly, the various themes can be put under the following main headings: unemployment, Diaspora and its repercussions, devaluation and the frustration of highly educated youth in the highly literate State like Kerala; superstitions, immorality and modernity, discrimination on the basis of caste and social status, the follies in the Indian marriage system, communism versus democracy, corruption and political exploitation of the weak and the downtrodden, plight of the poor, wild life and its conservation, the Hindu religious philosophy of karma et cetera.
The characters and their social milieu are plausible and interesting. Every story brings into light a bunch of fresh problems and themes are explored and realized by its characters to the fullest. Every story leaves a stinging question that forces its reader to rethink his/her role and contribution towards the society. For example, at the end of his short story, “Ammu’s Birthday” (35), an English Professor, Dr. Sankar asks his class about the story he had just read for them. The students, referring to the story as an ordinary one, insisted that they wanted “to hear something merry and pleasant” as “tragic incidents” are rife in newspapers (38). Perturbed by such responses, Dr. Sankar tries to explain the need of such a “tragic” story, thus:
“My dear students, I honour your reactions. What Joseph said is true. This is just an ordinary story. I am not revealing the author’s name. And what relevance has an author in a work as per New Criticism? The author has mentioned as a footnote that the story is based on a tragedy at a village in North Kerala. As Meera has complained we are reading such tragic lives every day. Dear students, don’t forget the fact that our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts, as Shelley has written. The more we read such things the more compassionate and humane we should become. Such literature purges our mind and we get karunyam (compassion) rasa. We should not turn our faces to miseries and tragedies of others. Such tragedies are part of the flow of the system and as participatory beings we should flow with the system. Mysterious are the ways of the Creator and our little intelligence can’t find justifications for the multitudinous activities of the Almighty. Hope you are satisfied with my answers,” Dr. Sankar ended his lecture (39).
Clearly, the aim of the author as a “social critic” has always been the betterment of his society, State and nation.
Most of the stories have a somber tone. They exhibit various socio-political-economic vignettes and are brimming with moral implications: ‘Who is Responsible?’ (11), ‘A Good Samaritan’ (19), ‘Best Government Servant’ (25) ‘Ammu’s Birthday’ (35), ‘An Email from Senthil Kumar’ (40), ‘Joseph’s Maiden Vote to the Parliament’ (50), ‘Matthews, the Real Christian’ (56), ‘Our Dear Bhai’ (66), ‘Sanchita Karma’ (73), ‘Selvan’s House’ (85) and ‘Twisted Course of Destiny’ (103). In comparison to the above mentioned short stories, the following stories put forward the message of the significance of rational thinking, morality, compassion and humanity in a more jovial and a light-hearted manner: ‘Fire Your Horoscope!’ (45), ‘School Entrance Festival’ (78), ‘The Twins’ (104) and ‘World Environment Day’ (112).
In conclusion, the book is a true mirror of the society that writhes under the burden of economic insecurities and lack of good governance. Most of the stories in the book can be adapted for small plays, skits, and eve TV serials—aiming to spread social awareness on the burning issues and rampant evils in the Indian society and the Indian political system. Moreover, the stories can be easily incorporated in English textbooks of any school or college. Its copies in the school and college libraries will contribute towards nurturing the young minds of India and making them more humane, considerate and socially aware citizens. I congratulate K. V. Dominic for the success of his noble pursuit.
Dr. Sulakshna Sharma is Associate Editor as well as Review Editor of Poetcrit, an international refereed biannual journal on literary criticism and contemporary poetry edited and published by Dr. D. C. Chambial, Maranda, Himachal Pradesh, India.