Supriya at Fifty, Stories by Deben Roy
Deben Roy's stories are those of the familiar self-exiled Indians that have been written about quite often in English literature of the past forty or so years. None are more delicate and penetrating than these. In each, the reader is offered the opportunity to learn facets of the effect of modernity on human beings. These are sensitive and percipient studies of relationships, quiet or masked torments visited upon people by the inhuman requirements of a world that has allowed luxury and desperation to co-exist.
The most moving of Deben Roy's stories are about the fracturing effects of a world in which an ancient culture yields migrants to the wealthy United States, where the culture is in its infancy. With elegant prose characterized by a surface simplicity that in a sense allows for greater depth and provides the conditions in which moments of great power arise in the form of a few words--describing a mere gesture is one case. In this the reader becomes complicit, in that having been subtly drawn in and providing a human context that despite the apparent impenetrability of the other--in this case the Indian man or woman--they cannot help but recognize the universality of their very human difficulties. While too often the characters are lost, the readers are not.
That said, the title story is a unique one in the form of a series of vignettes of an Indian woman's life that is mysteriously moving. One finishes the story altered, perhaps wiser, discernably more sad...very likely wondering what just happened. What happened? A life. Several lives. No apparent tricks, no unique or devastating catastrophes. So little that one outcome for the reader is a dreamy certitude that life provides moments for every range of emotion, common enough, even if each be unique.