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By Nigam, Sanjay
New Delhi, India: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1996

ISBN: 0-14-024529-4 203 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
May 2015

With the exception of the title story, each story in this collection is between 10 and 12 pages, as though he were writing with a pre-established time table.


The Prologue is a hilarious few pages telling of a human king trying to invade the space of the god of gods. A human sage, Vishwamitra, gets caught in the feud between the different sorts of gods, much to his eternal misery.


A snake charmer is bitten by his cobra and, for a while becomes very famous when, in retaliation of the snake biting him, he bites his snake in half and yet lives. Eventually the fame wears off and he retreats rather badly into the old age of a snake charmer. The story is creative and often funny. Yet there is a continuing sadness in the nearly meaninglessness of his life. Quite well written.


Sixty-seven year old Sapna is fairly bored with her life in the U.S. where she’s been for more than 40 years. Her husband has died and left her with adequate funds for living, but she has relatively few friends, and only a beloved cat. She has sons, who love her, but they’ve married non-Indians and the mother-in-law and daughters-in-law don’t get along very well.

She sort of lives awaiting death, but does hope it will be quick and relatively painless when it comes. One incredibly important spark in her life is her relatively new and very fancy white Camaro car! She simply loves how she creates a spectacle when she is out driving it.

“. . . a frail and wrinkled chocolate woman, less than five feet tall, getting out of a shiny white Camero, walking away with small puppet-line steps.”

Her friends are dying around her and she is somewhat depressed by it all. She decides to drive a 3,000 mile trip across the entire nation from the northeast to the southwest to visit an old friend. The thought and planning of this trip just enliven her spirit. Her sons are completely against it, but she’s going anyway.

However, as tough as it is on her, she fails her eye test to get her driver’s license renewed and can’t go. She shakes it off and just goes forward.

At first the ending troubled and disappointed me, but no – it was just right. The whole story was leading toward . . . well, I was thinking to her death, but this powerful intermediate step seems more beautiful and touchingly powerful than her death would have been. The story warmed my 75 year-old heart!


A wealthy young Indian man, Amrish, lives in Phoenix with his beautiful Indian wife. However, he travels with his work and in New York he meets a wild woman, Felicia, who introduces him to several variations of wild sex including sadomasochistic variations. He and his wife have sex as well, but rather bland and, for Amrish, it is uninteresting. Nonetheless he loves Anita, yet is addicted to the rough sex with Felicia.

He travels back and forth to New York to be with Felicia and earns enough frequent flyer miles for three trips around the world. He decides to use them for the three of them, but his wife would not know about Anita!

Eventually his wife notices bites on his back and other such signs that something very strange is going on. He has no option but to tell her about Felicia, and he is confronted with a choice: He has to pick one or the other, but he simply can’t have both, so he chooses his wife.

A great irony comes when slowly his wife begins to decide she wants a much rougher sex and presents him with an ultimatum to which he only reluctantly agrees.


This is a gentle and lovely story of a worker in a large pharmaceutical firm. He is given a new office, but one without a window. This lack nearly drives him crazy and eventually he takes a day off to visit Thoreau’s Walden Pond. It is a beautiful experience for him and one that gives him some unspecified strength to do something to dramatically change his life.

This is a very gentle and lovely story.


Sanjeev is an epileptic who controls his disease with meds. He is, however, preoccupied with his wife’s very large buttocks. He has come to love the American ideal of much smaller and firm buttocks, so he challenges his wife’s size and demands her to change. It all gets out of hand and he causes a major sensation by biting her rump, sending her to the hospital, and there is a newspaper story about it all.

Their lives are dramatically changed by this event and there is some serious “rebuilding” of the relationship that must take place.


This is a rather sad story, but is very well written. A young Indian student works at a corner news stand selling magazines, cigarettes and such. He hates the job it but needs the money. He meets a girl, a regular at his stand, who is very beautiful. She comes in one day being seemingly very sad. He forces the courage to ask her out and she accepts. He not only likes her, but thinks he loves her, then he discovers she’s a porn star of a magazine he himself loves and “uses.” This just blows his mind and he has nothing more to do with her. Indeed it is a very sad story for many reasons, the most significant being his own hypocrisy of loving the porn medium and using it all the time, but being unable to relate to a woman who earns her living posing for the magazines.


I found this to be a very strange story. The main character, Basnati, was of mixed Scottish and East Indian blood and fairly dark. Her European relatives had made her ashamed of her dark skin and she was angry with them for this.

Once she married and had children they wanted a Christmas tree with angels on it. However, she could only find white angels and the struggle of how to keep her promise to the children but avoid white angels proved a very difficult dilemma for her.

I think most readers would expect some sort of resolution of her dilemma, but alas it never happens and Basnati remains frustrated and angry and we are not given the outcome.


I found this tale to be a bit too unbelievable for it to be very enjoyable for me. Hari and Sarita are on an island in the western hemisphere when he bites down on some food and finds a ring in his food. An inscription reads: “Forever yours, Sarita.” It is the actual ring she gave him some 20 years ago on their weeding honeymoon, which was lost across the globe in a sea resort on the Arabian Sea.

They are both astonished; however he goes swimming and once again loses the ring in the sea. It was just too much coincidence for my taste.


This was a sad but believable story of an Indian man who had, in his youth fought for changes, improvements and revolution in India. Eventually he gave up the struggle but for the rest of his days he’s had regrets, thinking he could have made a difference had he stayed in the movement, rather than just thinking of making money. In his mid-40s he’s looking back, seemingly wishing he was who he had been then.


Beautiful Karen and Hari were doing research on dogs. She has to kill them to analyze them. The story follows a date and a bit of misunderstanding about what their relationship was. It was just not a very convincing tale.


This is a very simply story of a father, a math professor, who can’t much help his young daughter with her homework. He’s worried about being underpaid and not advancing in his department and worrying about his advancing in his department as well as being concerned about his aging.

Nothing much really happens, but it is a touching snapshot, perhaps better, a short film, laying out his woes.


This is a sad story of an old and not very successful professor. He’s at a small medium level college in India, once having taught for a few years in a little known American university. But his lectures glorify American and his successes there.

A new young student challenges him and puts him on the defensive, but the student discovers the other students are upset with him but the boy doesn’t let up on the poor old man. Soon, however, with the pressure of his peers, he learns his lesson and stops hassling the old but popular man.


This is an extraordinary tale; mystical, beyond reality, nonetheless gripping and suspenseful. An Indian couple emigrated to the U.S. in the early days of their marriage. Their original intention was to earn and save money and return to India.

One thing led to another and so they were in their old age and satisfied with life in the U.S. One night she dies in her sleep. He is lost without her and soon decides to sprinkle her ashes into the bare garden of their desert-like area.

Almost immediately strange growths appear and he waters, fertilizes and tends the growing garden. However, more and more exotic plants spring up and he begins to think that perhaps his wife of all those years had really been a witch. Happily he manages to shift his explanation to hold that she was some sort of Goddess of growth! And still the garden grows, becoming a veritable jungle of exotic and impossible plants.

When their old and loving dog dies in the garden he interprets this as a sign that his wife is calling him so he sets the garden afire to go to her in the flaming inferno of their garden.

Beautifully written and a gripping tale.


In Transit is a psychological thriller. An Indian man is returning home for a visit and the plane makes an unexpected stop in Dubai. The seasoned passenger next to him whispers that they’ve been hi-jacked.

The rest of the story is what goes on in his mind: fear of death, the state of his marriage, the future of his children, the needing to urinate. So many things go through his mind, and the story ends without our having any knowledge for sure of why they’ve landed in Dubai.

I think the story is compelling, however, I would doubt I would have responded in any similar fashion as does this Indian passenger.


The stress of his life’s crisis leads the main character to idealize a return trip to India, but his decent into madness and the constant bickering between the man and his wife was too much to bear.

Eventually he swims in the Ganges and disappears though no body is found.

So, what has really happened? That’s seems simply for us to surmise. I just wasn’t satisfied with the structure of the story and the incompleteness of its ending.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett