Ghalib at Dusk and other stories by Nighat M Gandhi
Stories of Indian homes, where live some very common men and women in the most mundane ways. Somewhere among them are the people who we know are there. But never stop by to see them and listen to their stories. Nighat Gandhi has picked up people from around us and showed us a day in their lives. A day sometimes usual and sometimes not so usual.
Ghalib at Dusk Stories take you through a day in the life of a Christian girl working in a retail store. A man dealing with the discovery of a deadly disease his daughter has. A man dealing with his wife’s death. The housewife living with her husband’s cheating. A woman dealing with neighbors infatuation with her. Of two mentally challenged women: one in a mental hospital and other in her home. A man between his wife and girlfriend, a woman getting long-awaited clarification from her erstwhile lover, a woman who gives up her family possessed by desire. A physically challenged man’s discovery of his sexuality, a woman dealing with a terminally ill husband.
All these stories present a slice of life of these characters. But in a way that their entire life unfolds before you. Most of the stories span only in a day in the life of the character. Though the author has tried to emphasize her exposure to the Indian subcontinent, and the base of her stories being Karachi, Allahabad, and Ahmadabad, the stories are more about homes that exist across the subcontinent. The relationships that breathe in those houses and the frustrations and suffocations thereof. Stories are about people who we know, who we meet every day. But probably we do not know what is going on inside them and the effort they are putting in dealing with that. They could have been based in any small or even large town in the Indian subcontinent.
Ghalib at Dusk writing style is simple and convincing. The description of houses very real and true to life as if the author is sitting right there. And writing about the place and the people. Since the author works as a mental health counselor, it gives her insight into workings of the mind from close quarters. She has been able to bring out the human ability to deal with big issues in a simple way and without making anything melodramatic.
As someone who has lived in the three countries of the sub-continent, I expected her to talk about the differences in these places or rather the characteristics of these places. Instead, what I got was the similar basic nature of the places, which is important because mere political borders cannot change us as a human being, at least not so fast.
You will enjoy the simplicity of the stories.