"Chora o Anyanya Galpa" is a collection of seven stories -- all intimate portraits of life in Odia villages and small towns around mid-twentieth century, before such life was fundamentally altered by modernity. Children grow up and become teenagers and then adults, constantly making mischief and testing limits, and yet their activities are at heart innocuous, not really calling into question the established order. The stories present interactions between actors in the dramas played out at a time of greater innocence and within a space in which transgression is both possible -- at times even encouraged -- and yet also contained, a space of play and interplay. Banter, games, flirting, name-calling: these form the veritable substance of the stories and are given more importance than events or actions. But these too locate us firmly within this world, a remembered world that is hardly idyllic but idealised nevertheless, in which the thin veneer of society barely covers pride, lust, ambition, gluttony and greed; but it's also a world in which lasting friendships are made and transcend momentary differences. Here children compete with each other, teenagers awake to sexual longing and desire and are overpowered by it, men playfully flirt and explore forbidden relationships in the margins of society, and wife, husband and mother (re)perform their eternal demands on each other for recognition and a form of love. The power of these stories lies in their ability to amuse us with the familiar, in their respect for the truth of the immediacy of life.
Kamalakanta Mohapatra is an acclaimed author and translator.