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Operation Monsoon

Operation Monsoon

by Shona Ramaya

In Shona Ramaya's tough, lyrical, and ironic stories of a globalized India, pop culture and history fuse

When you bring on the rain, everything changes, my grandmother had said. It's not the same place anymore. The rain takes over.

Set in a globalized community of merging cultures, Operation Monsoon offers an India where Hindu epics are


In Shona Ramaya's tough, lyrical, and ironic stories of a globalized India, pop culture and history fuse

When you bring on the rain, everything changes, my grandmother had said. It's not the same place anymore. The rain takes over.

Set in a globalized community of merging cultures, Operation Monsoon offers an India where Hindu epics are broadcast as soap operas and kidney donations have supplanted reincarnation. These intricate, multilayered accounts show how people use stories to make sense of their lives in an incomprehensible world. A girl romanticizes about a distant cousin, a terrorist in exile, amid the intoxicating Calcutta monsoons. A crippled woman runs a matchmaking agency on the Internet. An IT consultant finds himself on a strange journey in America as he enters the shadow world of "bodyshopping."

Shona Ramaya, praised by Cosmopolitan as a "born storyteller" and by Mira Nair as a writer who "has the rare talent of knowing her characters so well that when you finish the book, you feel they have spoken to you," presents an India of radical transitions, exploring junctures where history or myth cross paths with contemporary events.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Born in India, educated in England, and now writing from Massachusetts, Ramaya (whose previous works include the novel Flute) uses her second collection of five short stories to explore a modern, multicultural India. She tackles poverty and the selling of corneas and kidneys for money in "Gopal's Kitchen," takes a humorous look at internet dating and matchmaking in "The Matchmakers," and, in "Re: Mohit," cleverly addresses overseas work-related immigration issues via a series of emails. The most intriguing of the group is the title piece, in which a young woman is fascinated with a distant cousin, said to be connected with a terrorist group, whom she finds living upstairs in her family's home. The author's writing is lucid, and each story is different enough to showcase the diversity in her style. Like Kavita Daswani, Ramaya may be yet another emerging writer to watch among the recent influx of Indian American writers. This will make a nice addition for all libraries serving Indian populations and those developing collections in this area.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Five novella-ish stories meander ironically through modern Indian subjects. Under the guise of illuminating the "dotcom colonization," Ramaya (Flute, 1989, etc.) fetishizes modernity as the indentured servant, the terrorist, the arranged-marriage matchmaker, the IT status climber, and the callous grad student each clutch at their gadgets. Nike sneakers and laptop computers bolster plots filled with frequent e-mail interludes and the incongruous culture-clash of Old World mysticism (the destiny of arranged marriage) and New World technological savvy (Internet dating). The snarky title story focuses on academia's garish sensationalizing of terrorists. Twenty years after the event, at an academic convention, two women fight to co-opt an experience: an obtuse interaction with a low-tier but deeply romanticized terrorist, Manik, who, we're told in all seriousness, "must never again be separated from the rain," removes his clothes during an interview, thus sparking a Fulbright's worth of speculation. The real tension in the story comes not from plot development but from, on the one hand, the strain between the melodramatic relationship soulful Pia shares with "her terrorist" and, on the other, her comic jabs at the fawning Westerner's blockbuster movie, tell-all book, and doctoral thesis-all based on the single flimsy encounter and generously sprinkled with absurd postmodern jargon. In "Destiny," this intellectual arrogance comes from an Indian woman who, seeking material for a anthropologist's dissertation in a superstitious village, blithely remarks to her American advisor that "the third world exists for exploitation-what else?" before inevitably falling sway to the magic of the swollenriver. "Gopal's Kitchen," a would-be fable about reincarnation by way of black-market organ transplants, employs clunky exposition and clearly stated themes. In "Re: Mohit," entirely told as an e-mail exchange, slapdash storytelling abounds under the pretext of capturing online authenticity. American-minded modernity struggles aimlessly against the soul of paradoxical India. Agent: Susan Raihofer/David Black Literary Agency

Product Details

Graywolf Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.06(w) x 8.96(h) x 0.80(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Operation Monsoon

By Shona Ramaya

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2003 Shona Ramaya
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-55597-387-6

Chapter One

from "Gopal's kitchen"

I sat at the table and blinked a few times. Eggs, orange juice, my mother, my brother, the servants, the smell of warm, thick date syrup over toast, all shimmered like apparitions. "Eat something." My mother's voice was far, far away, weakly penetrating the dense fog squeezing my head. "You can go back to sleep ... sleep your jet lag off ... this is what happens when you make a seventeen-hour flight after six years...." Scrambled eggs. A delicate hint of coconut and almonds, silken against my tongue. "Rajiv Gandhi assassinated ... Tamil Tigers ... God knows what kind of riots will start ... Floods, prices going up...." "Who's to take over...." Eggs melted in my mouth with that blend of secret spices only he knew-I dropped the fork and stood up startled, the grogginess vanishing for a few seconds, swept away by a roaring storm of light. "Who made the eggs?" "Don't scream so." My mother pushed me back into the chair. "Namaste, didi," I heard from the kitchen door. "Gyan," said my mother. "Taken over, two years now." He stood against the doorframe, bowing his head slightly, clasping his hands against his chest. His white kurta had a few turmeric stains. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, smiled, touched his forehead. I nodded. He nodded back, swinging his lank, straight hair that fell across his eyes. There was something very gentle and calm in his face and about his slight form. "Who's he?" I muttered under my breath.

"He's the one," my mother answered, touching my shoulder. She let out a nervous giggle. "He's the one-the one-he got the kidney." The fog coiled around my head, making me gasp. At the center of its steely haze, I saw a fresh green coconut. Gopal's kidney. I lay on my bed and looked around the room I had abandoned eight years earlier. Rajiv was blown up the night I landed in Delhi. "India is finished," my brother said. "There's a strange calm all around, like a lull before a storm." Just like that day, years ago, when I came back from school and I heard my mother's shocked voice, "How could you?" And Gopal, bowing his head, asking her to keep it down, not to tell the children. That long scar across his back. But his face calm, a tired calm, in spite of it all. My room had a petrified calmness about it this afternoon. Eight years ago it used to look like a cyclone had ripped through it. Clothes, books, shoes, cassettes scattered in heaps all around. Posters of twisted agonized faces and bodies screaming silent messages of chaos. Plants, half collapsed from lack of water, lying limp in pots as if ready to give up the ghost any second. The books, the posters, the plants were all still there. The bed was in the same old place by the windows. My desk next to it, then the dressers. The rug had been cleaned and the reds and blues glowed bright. The paisleys on the rug turned into little kidneys from time to time as I stared at them. They turned green for a second, altered shape, became green coconuts. I wiped the coconuts off with one strong blink. Paisleys, kidneys. So he had it now. Gopal's kidney. Gyan, then, was the murderer. And here he was how? why? Bringing forth those exquisite scrambled eggs, Gopal's special. For the next few days, lunches and dinners were spectacular. Gyan overwhelmed the table with Gopal's special lamb chops, chicken korma, biryani, all the different vegetable and fish concoctions, and the fabulous desserts that Gopal had been famous for. I chewed and swallowed cautiously, every mouthful a time bomb of flavors. Curling shrimp quivered at the end of my fork as if ready to explode. We ate, smiling, cracking jokes, bursting out laughing. "Tatva-gyan," my brother said to Gyan. "Hey, Enlightenment, get more rice, yaar." Gyan, quiet, shy, withdrawing, smiled and vanished into the kitchen. He didn't have Gopal's garrulous charm, his effusiveness. "I don't understand," I said to my mother and father. They smiled, shrugged. "Well, it's sort of this way," my mother said. "He appeared just after Holi two years back. Said he could cook and wanted to work. Of course, I was wary at first. You know, he had never worked anywhere before, he said. There was no one I could call to inquire about him. And he refused, just flatly refused, to tell us where he was from. He begged for a trial run. So I let him cook for a day. Well, that was that. When we sat down to eat, we nearly passed out with amazement. Gopal's egg korma! Gopal's shrimp curry!" "We found out about the kidney business almost a year later," my father said. "The mali found out and told me," my mother added. "How is it you didn't choke on the kormas and curries," I asked, "knowing that Gopal died of kidney failure four years ago?" "But the food, sis," my brother rolled his eyes, "made us lose it, just swoon. Hey, A-gyan, rice!" Unconscious, my brother called him in jest, adding an 'A' to his name. "What are we eating here?" I asked weakly, in spite of wanting to scream. "Just delicious," my brother drawled, a snarl of a smile expanding across his face. "Let the taste seduce you."


Excerpted from Operation Monsoon by Shona Ramaya Copyright © 2003 by Shona Ramaya. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Shona Ramaya was born in Calcutta, India. Her previous books include a collection of short stories published in India and England, and Flute, a novel published in the United States. She now lives in Massachusetts.

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