A collection of short fiction examining the lives of 21st-century Indians.
Set both abroad and in a fictional city in India's Kerala state, Ajay's slim debut attempts to navigate the disjuncture in identity that occurs in a fragmented, post-colonial world. Divided into sections titled "At Home" and "In Exile," the stories follow Kerala residents through quiet moments in their daily lives: A man searching for his missing father meets a mortuary assistant whose son committed suicide; a corporate drone receives a strange email that leads to a dialogue with the man's spiritual opposite. The strongest stories are slice-of-life narratives that obliquely explore the affects of diaspora, such as the title story, which describes the narrator's encounter with an Indian who returns home after having spent three years in the United States working with the SETI project. The prose is illustrative and, at times, beautiful--the author's experience as a poet is evident--but the collection is inconsistent. Many of the stories are not fully developed, and the weakest among them, such as a neo-Platonic dialogue between a murderer and his friend, rehash well-worn philosophical territory. Others, such as one in which an author meets one of his characters--a clichéd premise first inspired by Luigi Pirandello and beaten to death by postmodernists--or a sketch in which the narrator sits next to Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska on a tour bus, seem little more than writing exercises. Still, the best of these pieces demonstrate a sensibility and a promise that will hopefully be realized in the future.
More misses than hits, but heralds a bright future. -- Kirkus Review, November 7, 2006
First things first: if the cover of a book plays a role in enhancing the look and feel of a book and eventually driving its sales, the title under review should go a long way. The cover of the book evokes images of the scenic and peaceful Kerala during the monsoon. But then the book - a collection of evocative short stories - is about the lives of traditional Malabari people of Pambunkavu, a fictitious village in Kerala. The book, divided into two sections, `At Home' and `In Exile' comprises seventeen short stories capturing the lives of the people within their native land and abroad. The protagonists in these stories, whether they are living in their village or outside, are quite conscious of their tradition, values, mores and mannerism. And there is not much of a difference in the voice of a person who has spent all his life in the village or the one who has migrated to a far away land for new opportunities. These are the stories of a people craving for a sense of belonging, an identity, and of their attempts to strike a balance between modernity and their ancestry and value system. The stories stand out for the simplicity of their characters, riveting plots and beautiful imagery. -- Sahara Time, June 17, 2006
Having moved many times in my life, I can attest to the feeling of holding onto one's roots yet feeling a need to adjust to new cultures. In MK Ajay's book, 'Drizzle of Yesteryears', his protagonists are examples of this struggle. To be or to have, that is the question.
This collection of short stories is a vibrant example of good writing. Two sections divide the book into At Home and In Exile with the tales together giving the overall message of belongingness. The At Home section includes stories of a fictional village set in the Malabar region of Kerala, a southern Indian state. Revolving around a seemingly forgotten temple, a possibly sleepwalking pastor, and a man who sang to the stars, among others, the short works are powerful in evoking the feeling of home. The sense of belonging exudes from every page. The In Exile section deals with those who have left their homes for various reasons and their feelings of homesickness, belonging, and dealing with the change. Learning from a stranger met through spam, discovering that a trip is not what was expected in any sense, and being drawn back to artful ways are some of the topics touched on as the author explores the feeling of living in exile. My favorite tale is one with a wonderful twist, a visit from a young man's parents and a realization of happiness.
While the book seems to be light reading, upon further inspection it is actually a work that can be pondered for many an hour. The study in human reactions, an examination of the minute details and the overall picture, and the fluent telling of the tales all culminate in a delightful and interesting book. MK Ajay's attention to detail, his perfect simplicity in characterization, and broad spectrum of subject and plot leave the reader wanting more. I hope to see additional books from this author!
-- Heather Froeschl -- BookReview.com
If you have ever been the newcomer or felt like an outsider, this is a book for you! The short stories in this book focus on identity, belonging and memories (both good and bad).
The book is divided into two parts: At Home and In Exile.
In At Home, the theme is belonging. The characters are people living in Pambunkavu, a fictional twenty-first century village in the Malabar region of Kerala. The stories include a sleepwalking priest, a reunion of old friends, as well as learning that it is never too late to reclaim the artist within oneself.
In Exile, the themes are travel and immigration. As one character reminds us, most of us are displaced at one time or another. The characters are learning to adjust to foreign cultures and homesickness. These stories include connecting through cyber space, finding out what happened to an old boyfriend, plus there is an institute for the mentally ill. One of my favorite stories from this section is Departures which shows the lasting love parents have for their children.
Ajay previously wrote poetry and his short stories are filled with vivid imagery. I could smell the hibiscus flower and almost taste the ripe mangoes. This book also has wonderful storytelling. In a few short pages, there is a lot about character, plot and setting. Many stories have a twist at the end and although the stories are short, you will find yourself thinking about the meaning long after you've finished the book.
His stories reflect his observations of human relationships and how we interact with each other. The characters we meet are quietly eccentric; everyone has something extraordinary about them. These stories remind us to take notice and delight in every-day surprises. I highly recommend this book that transports the reader to different worlds and cultures, and I look forward to reading more from this author!
Armchair Interviews says a question posed to one of the characters is: to be or to have? Read this book to see what different characters discover. -- Yuka Mizushima in Armchair Interviews
What is home? Is it the place you now live or is it elsewhere; where you once lived? That is perhaps what author M K Ajay sets out to explore in the Drizzle of Yesteryears and Other Stories.
The stories are neatly segregated into `At Home' and `In Exile' and are about the people of Pambunkavu, a fictional village set in Kerala. But Pambunkavu weaves no magic as does Malgudi, or a Khasak for instance. Ajay is no R K Narayan, nor is he the masterly O V Vijayan. Flashes of brilliance, yes, but he fails to sustain the same quality throughout the book.
Ajay's strength probably comes out best in the `In Exile' section, where he narrates stories of life outside of Pambunkavu, a life where one is an outsider.
The `In Exile' section starts with the story `Spam Again' which is an interesting tale, that of a stray email sent to the central character, indeed the only character, Sudarshan. The email has only one sentence: "Like sunset, we too must pass gracefully into the night." This is followed by a series of emails which helps Sudarshan cope with the conflicts of his life, mainly the death of his younger brother. It could be that the sender of the mail is only a metaphor for Sudarshan's own inner voice, his conscience or a power beyond the physical.
Another story that catches attention is `Alpine Miracles'. A software engineer boards a tour coach, and a co-passenger chats him up. It is only after alighting that he realises she is a Nobel Prize winner and a Polish poet. The other stories that draw attention are `Rebirth' and `Drizzle of Yesteryears', which have a haunting, brooding quality to them. The `Temple of Snakes' makes for interesting reading. This passage: "Somehow, it was as if he was waiting-- a bored waiting for the moments to pass and create an extraordinary crisis to catch his imagination by surprise," holds promise.
Somehow, this passage holds good for the writer and his craft too. A waiting for that one extraordinary story of great quality that would catch the reader by surprise.
-- Savitha G R -- Deccan Herald, October 1, 2006
Ajay Manissery Konchery was born in the coastal town of Kozhikode, in the Malabar region of Kerala, south India. After spending his childhood and school years in Kozhikode, he relocated to several other places to pursue his higher education and career. He has lived in Rayalseema, Bangalore, Chidambaram, Jamshedpur, Mumbai, Aurangabad and Kuala Lumpur — a displacement that influenced him deeply and which is reflected in his poems and short stories, often obliquely. Ajay’s works have appeared in leading publications in India, the USA, the UK, Canada and Switzerland, including Orbis, Blue Fifth Review, The Little Magazine, Cerebration, Niederngasse, Ygdrasil, Crimson Feet, Chandrabhaga, Brown Critique, Montreal Serai, Poetry Chain, Muse India, Kritya and In our Words: A Generation Defining Itself. Writers Workshop, Kolkata, published his first collection of poems titled Facsimile of Beliefs. Ajay has a Master’s degree in Psychology and is a post-graduate in Human Resources Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur.