In the span of just a couple of pages and pregnant dialogues, short story writers present life’s varied colors as expressed in emotions and actions. Short stories directly reach the heart of the reader since they touch something personal or close to personal experiences. In…
A similar experience is felt in the short story “Calcutta” by Baj. The story explores the mindset of the two principle characters, one running away from life’s failings and the other taking pleasure in ‘under the table auction’ or in clandestine activity. Under such circumstances, the two come face to face with something more fundamental to human life – a desire for compassion and companionship.
We do not know the name of the main male character in the story and it is immaterial. ‘He was 44, divorced, his backyard overrun with crabgrass’ explains succinctly his setting in life (Line 13). He is fond of adventure, revels in the betting game called Calcutta and assessment of his skills in that game. His backyard’s unkempt condition is a reflection of his own life as a divorcee with little thought for care and orderliness. His love of the betting game is an extension of his wayward life that seeks fulfillment in
adventures with no real substance or meaning to life. Hence it is not surprising that he had an encounter with a stranger and derived bodily pleasure devoid of any meaningful relationship – a sort of under the table auction game called Calcutta. The inflated ego in the man is evident from his giving the contact number to the woman and his anxious waiting to receive a call from her in order that he may have a repeat of the satisfying physical relationship that he was offered. But he is human too and this was brought out with a stunning clarity to both the reader and to the man himself in the climax to the story.
Gracie’s character is the complete opposite of that of the man – we can even consider Gracie as symbolic of his divorced wife – a woman fed up with the wayward life of her husband. "I had a son, Gracie said, and a husband" (Line 24). The past tense reveals her present status as a single person, perhaps divorced. ...
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