Book Review: Electric Feather by Ruchir Joshi (ed)
Till January 2012, I had only read Ruchir Joshi’s columns in The Telegraph on a variety of subjects. Then I attended Kolkata Literary Meet, saw an extremely handsome man and realised he was Ruchir Joshi when he conducted a session with Vikram Seth. Next I did what I always do after I spot an interesting person – Google search; and this book was one of the first results that the web gave me on the man.
I was initially shocked to know that an Indian writer had edited and published a book on erotica; that too only by authors of the Indian sub-continent! Even though this is considered the historic land of erotica, there has been a woeful shortage (or rather, absence) of any home-grown erotic writing in English. Ruchir Joshi set out to tap this hitherto unknown territory and produced a book which is very aptly called “Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories”.
He gives the readers the background of the book in the preface, which has the curious title “Repairing Brindaban”. When he asked his select group of authors to send unpublished, original writing ‘about and around the erotic and the sexual’, predictably not all jumped at his proposal. Some stayed mum, some showed disdain and some thought it was beneath them to write ‘porn’. But some young, promising and upcoming authors responded with their fare which found their way into the Contents.
Samit Basu describes a Bengali wedding night where the woman makes an elaborate plan of coupling and voyeurism just to seduce the man of her desire. Paromita Vohra weaves an erotic tale around time travel, Bollywood hero and the everyday girl. Sheba Karim introduces a girl to the rules of the game through a ‘dirty book’ and an open cupboard. Abeer Hoque preaches self-help in the affairs of lust. Sonia Jabbar gives a brilliant twist to her tale of debauchery, adultery and religious dogma. Niven Govinden brings a cat into his public restroom romp tale. Kamila Shamsie removes the sun and love from a couple’s life.
Rana Dasgupta takes the action into the swimming pool. Tishani Doshi brings a plain-looking plump woman and a ‘thermometer-shaped’ man together. Jeet Thayil adds lots of conversations to his erotic photo session. Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan describes a man’s perfect first time. For Parvati Sharma, it’s two women who spice up her story under a quilt. Then, finally, Ruchir Joshi makes an unusual object the protagonist of his offering.
Not all tales were equally lustful, not all were exciting reads. Some had too much erotica, some had too less. Some had strong women at the helm of affairs, some had extra-libidinous men. But together, they make an explosive first-time package. Whether to give the horny teenagers a legitimate excuse to drool or to provide the mature adults with a means to enjoy, this book makes the South Asian English fiction grow up with a loud bang.
P.S. The acknowledgment page had a surprising revelation. All the people whom Ruchir Joshi thanked for bringing the book out in the open were women!
In this link, Ruchir Joshi answers some questions on this book. While you read his answers, don’t forget to check out his photo. He would be the only man on earth whom I find attractive, even with a lighted cigarette.