The second Blurb Appreciation Reviews presents a review of Boats on Land by Janice Pariat.
About the blurb:
I agree with one thing in the blurb that Boats on Land is imbued with the supernatural and the folkloric. From the first page itself, Janice Pariat gives a glimpse of the Khasi (an ethnic group of the north eastern Indian state of Meghalaya) culture through the concept of ka ktien, which would roughly mean (if I am not mistaken) the power that words have.
Right in the first story itself, we see the power of the ka ktien and throughout the stories we see other rituals such as “the three night long watches kept by the ieng iap briew (household of the dead) when windows and doors stayed open for the spirits of the deceased.”
Pariat has infused elements of the Khasi oral culture, with its many customs, beliefs and superstitions, into the written word and she upholds the former’s power over the latter.
A Quick Word:
Boats on Land by Janice Pariat is a short story collection set mostly in Shillong except the last story. The stories are chronological starting with the British colonisation and going on to the different conflicts that ravaged Shillong post-independence to the modern era.
We visit the different neighbourhoods through the eyes of different characters in the story such as Kut Madan, Iew Duh, Umsohsun, Mawkhar and many more. We also see the change that inevitably comes to most hill towns in India.
Janice Pariat also peppers her writing with several Khasi words and food items that are found in Shillong.
The stories have a wide range of characters and settings: from shape shifters to a pilgrimage to the past, from an eccentric French lady’s visit to Shillong to a brother being taken by fairy spirits or puri in Khasi or from a Muslim dkhar living in Shillong since he was two to a school girl’s love for her classmate and her need to fit in. At times, the usual nostalgia for the lost town and its charm is the main character. Other times, the protagonist goes missing. Or has a heartbreak. Or it is side character of one old Chinese man who is part of the diminishing Chinese population who had settled in Shillong.
The best thing to take from these short stories are how they are complete in themselves and how they portray a whole world and a spectrum of emotions within its few pages.
That is except the titular story which is a loving story about two girl’s friendship and momentary love. It left me with this incompleteness about whether they meet again. I wish Pariat would write a novel based on that! Or perhaps she has written one? Does anyone know? Comment below!
Read more about the author here!
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