So many elements of ourselves come together in the act of sex: skin and bodily fluids, desire, fear, greed, joy, stigma, pride, affection, guilt, often in the hopes of creating something more beautiful, our personal elixirs of life, however temporary, however permanent.
In Alchemy, Tranquebar's second anthology of erotic short stories, editor Sheba Karim has brought together thirteen diverse works about the pains and pleasures of sex including an unapologetic account of a postmodern man's attraction to his maid, a futuristic tale of a four gendered orgy, a poignant narrative of a boy's sexual awakening in a cinema bathroom, and a lyrical meditation on a mysterious woman's carnal lessons to an imprisoned monk. The anthology's vivid, well-crafted stories move across genres, orientations, continents and genders, taking the reader on an intimate journey through the complex alchemies of sex, desire and love.
Alchemy, The Tranquebar book of Erotic Stories II is the first Indian Erotica that I have read. To tell you the truth, I was curious and getting a chance to read was most welcome. It was quite an interesting experience to read Indian authors venture into this genre. Not all stories were what I would recommend others to read, but some others proved to be exceptionally good reads. Writing a common review for all the stories together wouldn’t be fair, so here is a brief review of all the thirteen stories.
The Farmer’s Daughter by Rabi Thapa: An ex-editor of a Nepali newspaper, Thapa is a published author. His story The Farmer’s Daughter is a firsthand account of his desires for his maid, how he befriends her but never gets the nerve to tell her what he has in mind and ultimately loses her.
Clay by Gudiya: Clay, to me, was not as much erotica, as a well-written, sensitive, story. The story is so touching that somewhere, depiction & imagination of sex takes second place and human sentiments take precedence.
Sanskrit by Ranbir Sidhu: The story is about an Indian couple, Anu and Hari, living abroad. It’s about their anniversary night and the events if the night, when they are both stoned. A few things like why Hari’s boss Jack has to keep calling him, knowing the occasion and disturbing him, is a little absurd. A good story.
Abandon by Shrimoyee Nandini: Abandon is about a dating couple which goes for drives after midnight, stops at neglected construction sites and have sex. Soon it became a habit and visiting different unattended, half-constructed buildings became their habit. The end of the story is very unexpected; a good read.
Mouth by M. Svairini: Mouth is not a story everyone might appreciate, but it’s well-researched, well-written story about submissives involved in an orgy with their masters.
A Foreigner by Amitava Kumar: A little vague, it’s a story of an immigrant and his fantasies.
Semen, Saliva, Sweat, Blood by Hansda Sowendra Shekhar: If I had to pick a story which I liked the most of these thirteen, it will have to be this one. A story about gay relationships, as a reader I did cringe over the sex involved, probably because it’s the unknown but the emotions spoken about in the story are heart-touching. An excellent read.
F is for Free by Abeer Hoque: A little vague, this is a story of an immigrant and his sexual fantasies.
The Periscope by Lopa Ghosh: I found this one a little vague as well, it talk about sexual fantasies.
The Matinee by Mohan Sikka: My other favourite in the book, this talks about how a boy finds out about sexual desires. A subtle, well-written story.
The Marrying Kind by Mary Anne Mohanraj: Story of Leilani and Jared. Jared is the perfect man who wants to marry Leilani, but she doesn’t feel the spark until he breaks all his own barriers to satisfy her.
The Monk by Ananda Devi: A little boy believes he is a monk, reincarnated and leaves his parents behind to live in a monastery. Someone who pushes himself hard, and is one of the best there, suddenly encounters puberty and all the fantasies that come with it. Definitely a good read.
Next Year At The Taj by Sheba Karim: A story about an estranged couple where the man wants to make it work and the wife is already distant and detached. The man ends up sleeping with a hooker while travelling to across the globe, and is so guilt stricken that he resolves to get the old love back in his marriage.
Excellent editing and a good compilation. I am not very convinced about all the stories being erotica, but most of them are very well-written reads.