An insight into intellect and emotions in different settings
The ‘White Marble Burzi and Other Stories’ is a collection of 13 short stories by Sharat Kumar who has a wide ranging work experience in fields including the Indian Navy, the private sector industry, and later in a Management School. He has earlier novels in Hindi to his credit. The engaging short stories in this volume are embedded in an exploration and examination of the prime determining influences on human behaviour and existence. Almost all stories dwell upon this question, with philosophical diversions in many stories deliberating upon the nuances of these influences and their complexities in different situations. His incisive observations on plausible emotional responses actions of men and women were free from restraints imposed by intellect and reason emanating from social expectations congealed as traditions, compels the reader to ponder over the indicated possibilities.
The stories examine the magical and complex interplay of intellect and emotions through an exploration of human relationships and their dimensions, in different facets of life. The author proposes that emotions rather than intellect have a paramount influence on the quality of a person’s life. Emotion is the prime influence and mover in human relationships. Learning embodies both intellect and emotional strength. However learning through formal education is primarily directed towards sharpening the intellect whereas emotional development is an ongoing process that is linked to and progresses with experience. Human existence is marked by never ending complexities arising from the interactive process and conflict between intellect and emotions, mind and body, the more influential factor in human development being emotions.
All human beings seek happiness, and this hope, coupled with uncertainties regarding its achievement, underlies human relationships. Emotional insecurity and the associated struggles in varying dimensions, affects human relationships. The most important and fulfilling relationship is the bond between man and woman who love each other. The ‘creative nourishment’ that flows from such relationship based on love is ‘functional, emotional and erotic’. So powerful is the sexual passion and its implications in such relationships that social customs taking the shape of traditions seek to restrain expression of this natural impulse. Tradition thus is seen as providing stability in restraining the natural free spirit characterizing man-woman relationship based on love.
Applying the emotional and intellectual/rational yardstick each story examines the subtle and nuanced interplay of the two prime factors of intellect and emotions. The stories reflect different projections of this fundamental proposition.Thus in each story, apart from the story line Sharat Kumar dwells philosophically on the nuanced inter-play of intellect and emotions in different settings and circumstances of human relationships.
Some of these stories are focussed on the natural emotional pulls underlying man-woman relationship that are sought to be kept in check consciously or unconsciously by internalised restraints on their behaviour stemming from social expectations, socialised as traditions. While the mind is forever engaged in the unending complexities of the natural pulls of desire and liberation in combat with social restraints and traditions human beings struggle to come to terms with it. The author delineates such a dilemma in the story of Aparna in ‘The White Marble Burzi’. He analyses the persona and behaviour of Aparna through the prism of the conflicting pulls of bodily passion and the stabilising rational mind, and her own entanglement with the conflict between what she desires and her expected image in her own reckoning, within the boundaries set by social restraints. The theme of man-woman relationship and the dimensions of the inter play of the body and mind impacting human behaviour also underlies the story ‘The Homecoming’ ‘The Affair’ and ‘The Storm’ in differing settings and from different angles. in ‘An Unfinished Story’, which is a story within a story,
somewhat symbolic of the theme underlying the stories, the author muses about marriage and the inter play of the mind and body, freedom and restraint and perceptions of men and women about its nuances and complexities.
The ‘White Marble Burzi and Other Stories’
LG Publishers Distributors
Price : `395 Pages : 223
In another context, in ‘My Life’ the protagonist muses about his own life and his relationship with his children, now grown up, as he sits before his mother lying sick in the hospital bed. Himself turning sixty five, he wonders about right and wrong, truth and untruth about which the clarity he had earlier is no longer so anymore ever since he started examining both sides of an issue which has made a definite conclusion difficult. The never ending complexities of human life have left him unable any longer to understand who is a success and who is a failure. He considers a balanced emphasis on the teaching of philosophy, languages and the arts as necessary for inculcating a sense of harmony between the inner and external life of man and for the progress of science and technology.
The story of ‘Florence’ brings forth the many complexities brought about by the difference of culture and its emotional and existential impact on human life. The conflicting pulls on the life of Florence, and Dora her mother as Anglo Indians and their failed attempts at emigrating to London and Australia and the resultant tensions in their lives with tragic consequences is an insightful portrayal of their dilemma.
‘The Flood’ is a dramatic exploration of ‘the immense mystery of the human mind’ in which the author describes the life and behaviour of a staid and very ordinary officer who turns out to be exemplary in his foresight and extraordinary action in a moment of crisis caused by a flood which saves many lives. His sheer imagination and suitable action in a moment of great crisis was beyond expectations from an officer who seemed so humdrum. His sub conscious mind had probably imagined and worked on many eventualities in case of a flood which equipped him with such extraordinary presence of mind. The inner working of the human mind therefore, propelled by Intellect, emotions and imagination was just incredible and could never be underestimated.
On the whole, each story has a different flavour while embedded in the fundamental theme of the importance of emotions and the inter play of intellect and emotions in different settings and relationships. Man-woman relationship which is considered by the author as the most important bond is examined on this anvil and how the natural pull and surge of emotions, and the restraints imposed by intellect and traditions on it, might affect their behaviour and perceptions of each other. Some of the stories draw the reader into a philosophical discourse by the author on how emotions and intellect offer different perspectives on the behaviour of human beings. Though it might be interesting for some, such diversion does affect the flow of the story line to some extent making it somewhat sluggish sometimes.
The slim paperback volume is convenient to handle and the readable font size is easy on the eyes.
By Malathi Subramanian