Tales of the here and now, told tellingly

Swathes of the untold lie at the nub of "Turtle Dove: Six Simple Tales". Divya Dubey`s book presents a stark yet compelling universe. The mélange of stories sit on the cusp of the familiar yet not so familiar.

The actual interior universe is desolate even as its objective exterior captures images we are familiar with. Of people whose lives were intimately entwined, sitting across with "the castles of their lives built on either side of the Rubicon now" ("Best Friend"). Of situations, where an ageing woman gradually yields to psychosis, with her husband, keeping watch, slipping into Alzheimer`s ("Arnab"). Of craft, where a boy, now with a brilliant future behind him, gets caught in the labyrinth of crime: "Faces - ordinary human faces... hunting me, haunting me..." ("The Science Wizard").

Dubey`s craft takes us into the zone of the twice removed. We know the protagonist and we know the plot, yet it is the teller of the two that raises them above dreary familiarity.

The title story "Turtle Dove" is exceptional in its conception, power and execution. Which is where amoral starkness steps in to overpower moral certitudes with extraordinary ease. It is the inevitable and inexorable repetition of a dark mythology where the past casts long shadows on the principal protagonists.

Shireen is an unusual child, the daughter of a failing novelist mother and a visceral artist father. As the mother disintegrates, dangerously dissolving into callous fathoms of insanity, Shireen`s attachment to her father takes on an unsettling plane. "My masterpiece," says her father, admiring her intimately. What follows is an amazingly amoral passage of union and separation in an act of the forbidden, the pathos captured in the "loving flap of a turtle dove`s wings at dusk".

Shireen`s past returns, not to haunt her, but to recreate the final frontiers of the mythology of the forbidden when she herself becomes a writer and her son Indranil seeks her and she gives of herself willingly in another union shorn of moral corroboration. It scorns the moral compass. Extraordinary rites of passage, imbued with unredeemed passion and tragedy, at once.

Dubey`s narration, deeply layered, makes for unusual rendition of the solitude of the untold. The characters, etched in flesh and blood, seek no validation, yet return, albeit yearningly, to the regularity of the ordinary. There is moral dialectic too, imbued with overwhelming pathos. "You know it cannot be," says Shireen, even as her father says, "It can be different".

"Turtle Dove" is a different book. There is enough promise in the storyteller and her craft.