A feature by Jason Grunebaum
To read Uday Prakash is to witness profound displacement. It’s not the displacement of a bride and groom migrating from India to the west and negotiating unfamiliar food, or of middle-class youth railing against their elders’ bewildering and intransigent attitudes toward love and marriage. It’s a displacement unleashed by forces both imported and indigenous in the India of today—global, hungry, late-stage capitalism steeped in centuries-old caste oppression—and inscribed on the likes of sweepers, weavers, semi-retired judges, typesetters, servants returned from the dead, sick slum kids, and others unable, or unwilling, to fall in line. Prakash narrates his urgent tales of endangered, recalcitrant beings with attention to both inner lives and external forces in a manner that at once loves and seethes. His gifts as a writer also include permitting himself to meander within the narrative, and to reveal his authorial hand, baldly and unapologetically. This creates additional layers of displacement, and ones that enhance a singular storytelling voice comprised of disjointed, circuitous lives. His gift to the reader amid these dark portraits is an unexpected, wry humor that provides needed perspective and levity. An English reader of Prakash’s stories may wonder where he or she is in the first place. A Hindi reader may remember times of dizzying change, triggering feelings of displacement that once were and continue to be. But both readers will be eager to follow the voice of Uday Prakash wherever he wishes to take them . . .