Languid. If I were to describe Kunal Basu’s The Japanese Wife in one word, it would be languid. Rarely do you come across a book that lets you describe it in just one word. This was one of those rare finds. The Japanese Wife is a collection of short stories, of which one of them has the same title.
After having gone through the really good reads that I had in RK Narayan’s Malgudi Days, Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger and oh yes the amazing, Vikram Seth’s Beastly Tales from Here and There, I was really looking forward to The Japanese Wife. And I was a little disappointed.
While the first short story, The Japanese Wife, had a bit of the shock factor with an ending that I have now come to associate with the stories in the Malgudi Days, the rest of the stories were quite lukewarm. For one, none of them really could affect me as a reader, the way the first story did. And I waited for it, story after story. But it never came.
The reason I didn’t enjoy the stories was not because I was chasing a particular feeling, but because I was waiting for just any feeling at all. The stories seemed to just amble along at a slow pace that was quite disconcerting for me, especially after the roller-coaster ride that The Beastly Tales and The White Tiger were.
So, in all fairness I will just quickly look at just the short story, The Japanese Wife, and why I liked it. To begin with, Snehmoy Chatterjee, the protagonist comes across as this simple man who is more content than happy with the way his life has been going. He has been married a few years to a Japanese woman who was his pen friend, without ever seeing her.
The story builds from there to show how this man, with very few wants and needs, nurtures his great loyalty to his wife who is miles away from him in another country. But well, the story would be rather too simple if it was just a simple story about a simple man. Kunal Basu throws in a couple of twists that left me with a small sense of awe (that unfortunately was reserved only for this).