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Book Review: Nair Told & Untold by Mohan Nair

Writing short stories is a challenging proposition, especially for new writers. You have to build the set, describe the characters and their peculiarities, and then narrate a tale, that too all within limited pages. Not many authors rise up to this challenge, well Mohan Nair has done it wonderfully with his first book Nair Told & Untold, which is a collection of 15 short stories.

All these stories offer a fascinating insight into the lives of Malayali people, their culture and religious values that not only influence their daily life but thought process as well. The flavour of the stories may sound local because one character ‘Nair’ is made available persistently through all stories, though his roles differ from one story to another. In the first story, at Kabeer's Tea Stall, he is a silent spectator where one pessimist customer is made satisfied through product differentiation theory. Whereas, in Slaughtering Eyes, Nair is an intelligent commando who busts the secret training camp of a terror organization being run by a famous writer and human activist in the tribal parts of Periyar.

As a reader, you will never come across any awry point where you may feel that the author has plunged into banality with his stories. Rather, with optimum satirical angle, all stories sound fresh and try to spice up over all interest of readers.

The longest story is ‘What Really Mattered’, this story sheds light on strong family traditions and what possible conflict of interests arises when a white-skinned foreigner girl ties knot with a stereotype Keralite Nair. This story delicately unfolds family lineage and rituals, and when Kate, the American girl, takes firewalk, the event goes viral on FB. This is the same story that extensively details the Chamundi Pooja and other religious chores in a typical Nair family.

Other than the in-built behavior of Malayalis and culture of Kerala, these stories also didn’t miss a chance to shed light on wider themes of today's world, like women empowerment, typecast thinking, customer engagement through product differentiation, cultural gap that comes coherently in the case of inter-faith marriages, radicalization and terror spreading gangs and so on.

Despite the character ‘Nair’ being made omnipresent in all stories, none of the story looks repeated or dull at any point of time. Every story has something to tell about today's time. The author sounds at ease even after adding satirical angle to each story, nevertheless all the stories are presented with equal brevity and clarity.

The stories are written in such a simple and lucid way that you need not be a hardcore Keralite to get the most out of them. In these stories, the author's understanding and intuition into the Keralite people’s culture and religion is evident. Some stories are quite short, some are little longer, otherwise rest are of medium length. Well, they are all truly a delight to read.


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