Chhimmi Tenduf-La’s third book ‘Loyal Stalkers’ fall into the hitherto unexplored space between novels and short stories. Even after I finished the book I still can’t say with utmost certainity whether it was an anthology of stories, or a novel with different chapters. Here’s the closest I can come to explaining it:
It’s a tapestery of emotions and ordinary lives inter-connected in ways they can’t fathom.
After all what connection can a rape survivor, a corrupt godman, a gang of thugs, a serial killer, a tsunami orphan, a nanny, and a couple of high school cricket players possibly have?
The book traverses geographic and class borders to sculpt a microcasm of everyday life that thrives in coincidences and corelations.
Like his previous novels, this book too engages all five senses till you can nearly imagine yourself standing in the suffocating room where a teenager is giving birth, in the posh bedroom where a couple wakes up together, in the squalid hut of a single mother, and in a small cafe one sunny morning.
You’re both with the characters and also an omniscent observer of the entire scene. As a reader you share their pain and rejoice with them in their little truimphs; and also deduce connections and foresee conclusions they can’t.
If I had to describe the book in one word, I would call it ‘human’. The entire gamut of human emotions find expression here: love, obsession, jealousy, betrayal, loyalty, fear, compassion, and affection.
What I love about all of Chhimmi Tenduf-La’s novels is that they are unabashedly human – there’s no romantic serendipity here, which makes the flaws of his characters all the more forgiveable.
You’re horrified by the obessive stalker hiding out in his love interest’s house, but what’s more horrifying are the traces of empathy you feel toward the narrator, in a very Poe-esque manner.
The end, however, I found to be anti-climatic. This is the first story by this author that employs elements of suspense in the plot. The build-up to the final chapter is note-worthy, but by then you’re too invested in the plot and the character’s lives, and the ending was a tad bland for my taste. It isn’t enough to know that the mother reunited with her long lost son, I am eager to know exactly how that reunion transpired – what did they say to each other after so many years, how did they foster a bond?
At the end of the book, I was the young child screaming in rage and disappointment as her mother switches off the TV half-way through a cartoon episode, and tells her to go to bed. “No! I want more!” But such a reaction, in the end, only speaks volumes about how good the book was.