Set in the largely unexplored terrain of rural Odisha, The Little Monk and Other Stories explores human nature. Whether it's a small boy forced to be a monk, a son with mixed feelings towards his sick father, a child coming to terms with the difference between appearance and reality, or crooked officials getting their comeuppance when least expected, each story chronicles life as it is, a difficult journey, yet not without hope. It is especially sympathetic towards those living on the margins of society. A sensitive look at the fragility of relationships and the struggle for survival in an exploitative world, The Little Monk and Other Stories talks about the dilemmas of life common to all of humankind.
Gourahari Das likes to call himself a traveller. His journeys, metaphysical and actual, have made him a writer. Born in Sandhagara, a remote village in Odisha, he has come a long way. He has about forty books to his credit, and he also writes a popular column Jeevanar Jalachhabi (Reflections of Life) in the Daily Sambad. He has won the Odisha Sahitya Akademi Award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for young playwrights and the Writer in Residency Fellowship of the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. He is the Director of Kanak TV of Sambad Group and lives in Bhubaneswar.
In The Little Monk and Other Stories, a sympathetic but unsentimental narrator sensitively chronicles the lives of the characters, and deftly probes their motives as they face life's exigencies, deal with moral dilemmas, experience crises of survival, or simply try to cope with the complicated business of living. Many of the stories explore shifting and complex relationships between parents and children in a world growing increasingly harsh, unstable and acquisitive.
In such a world, unbridled greed and ambition threaten to tear apart the fabric of human relationships and the moral order underlying it. Parents betray their children, and children, for their part, break the hearts of their parents. Lovers abandon their loved ones in a desperate bid to move higher up the social ladder. The country gives way to the city and unspoilt innocence yields to painful experience. It is almost as if the stories dramatise a fall from the paradise of childhood into a world of adult disenchantment, betrayals and evasions. It is, therefore, not surprising that several stories in this collection are awash with nostalgia for a lost world of innocence, linked inextricably with the hauntingly beautiful landscape of rural Odisha. Characters often engage in reminiscing about the past or dreaming about the future, for the present proves too heavy a burden to carry.
And yet, the final impression that the stories leave in the readers' minds is not one of desolation or despair. True, in some instances, victims do surrender to their heartless oppressors, but the ruthless and the greedy do not always have their way; they too get outwitted and face defeat and discomfiture, and human goodness quietly triumphs.
To read The Little Monk and Other Stories is thus to be vividly conscious of the hardship, the fascination and the melancholy of life.
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