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Summary and book reviews of No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini

No Presents Please

Mumbai Stories

by Jayant Kaikini

No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini X
No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jul 2020, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Debbie Morrison
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About this Book

Book Summary

For readers of Jhumpa Lahiri and Rohinton Mistry, as well as Lorrie Moore and George Saunders, here are stories on the pathos and comedy of small-town migrants struggling to build a life in the big city, with the dream world of Bollywood never far away.

Jayant Kaikini's gaze takes in the people in the corners of Mumbai―a bus driver who, denied vacation time, steals the bus to travel home; a slum dweller who catches cats and sells them for pharmaceutical testing; a father at his wit's end who takes his mischievous son to a reform institution.

In this metropolis, those who seek find epiphanies in dark movie theaters, the jostle of local trains, and even in roadside keychains and lost thermos flasks. Here, in the shade of an unfinished overpass, a factory-worker and her boyfriend browse wedding invitations bearing wealthy couples' affectations―"no presents please"―and look once more at what they own.

Translated from the Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana, these resonant stories, recently awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, take us to photo framers, flower markets, and Irani cafes, revealing a city trading in fantasies while its strivers, eating once a day and sleeping ten to a room, hold secret ambitions close.

The publisher was unable to provide an excerpt from this book.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

With an empathetic eye and evocative language trained on the ubiquitous qualities of the human experience, Kaikini guides readers to a sense of community and connection with his characters. Beyond its attention to class and gender dynamics, one of the most striking features of the collection is the author's use of seemingly recurring characters. On a first read, these stories are engaging, yet entirely discrete slices of life. However, Kaikini draws the collection together, heightening the sense of connection and community with the reemergence of approximate characters across stories...continued

Full Review Members Only (797 words).

(Reviewed by Debbie Morrison).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kaikini's talent lies in his ability to simultaneously capture the humdrum routine of his characters' lives and plumb the depths of their desires...These stories poignantly express the characters' feelings of triumph amid the limitations of circumstance.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[Kaikini's] style and themes will have a familiar ring for Western audiences; there are echoes of Jhumpa Lahiri and George Saunders. But his vision of a bustling city, his sense of its drama and magical moments, is his own. A welcome introduction of a commanding writer to a wider audience.

Author Blurb Rudrangshu Mukherjee, chair of judges, DSC Prize for South Asian Literature
The jury was deeply impressed by the quiet voice of the author through which he presented vignettes of life in Mumbai and made the city the protagonist of a coherent narrative. The Mumbai that came across through the pen of Kaikini was the city of ordinary people who inhabit the bustling metropolis. It is a view from the margins and all the more poignant because of it. This is the first time that this award is being given to a translated work and the jury would like to recognize the outstanding contribution of Tejaswini Niranjana, the translator.

Author Blurb Neel Patel, author of If You See Me, Don't Say Hi
In No Presents Please, Jayant Kaikini cracks open with tender care an extraordinary city, bursting with the ambitions of people who are anything but ordinary. In Kaikini's deft hands, Mumbai comes to life, exquisitely rendered, as much of a character as anyone else.

Author Blurb Devi S. Laskar, author of The Atlas of Reds and Blues
As Invisible Cities was Calvino's ode to Venice, Jayant Kaikini's No Presents Please is a love letter to Mumbai?its citizens, their struggles and triumphs. The language and cast of characters combine to offer readers a bouquet of rough diamonds and freshwater pearls.

Author Blurb Maxim Loskutoff, author of Come West and See
Like a glimpse into a crowd in which each face suddenly becomes clear, No Presents Please brilliantly illuminates ordinary lives in the modern world.

Author Blurb Akil Kumarasamy, author of Half Gods
Jayant Kaikini's stories are like portals opening from the routines of our lives into the unusual and mysterious, where everything contains unseen possibilities. For the outsiders in these stories, even the act of dreaming feels rebellious. A wonderful, and wonderfully translated, collection of stories.

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Beyond the Book

India's Street Children

Young Indian children climbing over train tracksJayant Kaikini's short story collection, No Presents Please, does some of its best work exploring Mumbai's marginalized communities, including the prominently featured community of the city's street children, many of whom roam the streets alone, neglected, undernourished and with few prospects for the future. Stories like "A Spare Pair of Legs" and "City Without Mirrors" address this pressing social issue.

In countries like India and cities like New Delhi and Mumbai in particular, this is a problem of enormous proportions. According to statistics by Homeless World Cup, India has approximately 1.8 million homeless people with the majority residing in major cities like Mumbai. These homeless rates can be attributed to exploding populations...

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