Having tremendous accolades for his contribution to literature in exile through his computing art, Rinku Koul had started his journey as a story writer in 2010 when his book of stories Molael Rishta unfolded his capacity, capability and creative acumen. His latest book of stories hankal reinforces his focus to be established on a strong foothold. Rinku is not in the habit of dragging the stories unnecessarily. He is sharp and to the point. There seems no superfluity of words. Language is simple and cohesive away from the old fashioned style. This is a plus point for the readers in modern times. The flow is continuous and rhythmic. The stories are man-centric. There are a few typographical errors. Some of the stories of Rinku seem to be autobiographical but are realities. A few stories evince repetitive fictional outflow.
Having grip on the societal problems of his co-exiles, Rinku connects the present life with the past. He gives broader perspective by using haakh. Despite available everywhere nowadays haakh of our homeland haunts us. Kakni is a patient of cancer. She has no wishes now. Sham Lal is the son of her father’s first wife. Kakni feeds him very well. He wants her to leave the soul with ease. He telephones his Muslim friend Rashid. Rashid comes from Kashmir for Kakni. He brings haakh. When he enters, Sham Lal says to Kakni:
‘Kakni, look, Rashid has come from Kashmir and has brought haakh’. Kakni opens her eyes. She looks towards Rashid with love and bids adieu.
On a cold day, the sympathetic protagonist raises his head to donate a blanket to a beggar in bechhvun. His father is irritated with this kind of generosity, as he had purchased this blanket for his son. The compassionate mind-set of the son overpowers the father’s irritation. The protagonist is shocked on seeing the advertisement of an unidentifiable dead body next morning in the newspaper. He recognises the blanket. It is that beggar. The story Lal Ded is a strange blend of teacher’s teachings, his financial helplessness, and the student’s aspirations. The teacher teaches the importance of Lalded, the iconic spiritual and historical poet. But he is compelled to sell the books to a second-hand stuff dealer. The student tries to save this treasure but financial constraints fail him. The student thinks of taking loan. Until then second-hand stuff dealer goes out of sight on cycle.
In Kotsh, corruption lands the author in conscience-conflict. A youth is employed on daily wages. He is made to work hard for no extra benefits. He is asked to frame a list of daily wagers that was to be sent to higher authorities for regularization. Impressed by his work his clerk drops a packet of money in his pocket. Going against his conscience, he returns it. However, an officer calls him. He manipulates in such a way that the youth is forced to take it reluctantly. The youth feels restless. He tries various ways to get rid of this sin. Some relief comes by dropping this packet in the cashbox of an old age home. Nevertheless, his conflict of mind remains there.
Racchan Dodh is a story of love, sometimes shadowed by old faiths. Parents leave for Pune to meet their son and daughter-in-law. On seeing the pet dog, even in the kitchen, the mother gets irritated. The father accommodates the differences. The mother stresses her husband to make the son understand and send the dog to other place until they return. Daughter-in-law leaves to get her dog vaccinated. She returns with the moaning dog late in the evening. The dog jumps into the lap of their son. The mother recalls the day when her son was vaccinated and was moaning. This affects her heart. The motherhood wins. She also compromises with the changing trends. In Peeraz a young man lacks the courage to confess his love to a girl. He goes to a peer. On seeing his spiritual powers exercised on a child, a woman, and a man, he gets awfully impressed. Peer asks him to tie an amulet. Strangely, the youth gathers courage to unfold his love. He gets a very positive nod. The young is in a fix whether this solution came through the peer or through gathering the courage.
The stories like kuner, praznath and herath speak of pain, nostalgia, aftermath of displacement, existential challenges, hoping against hope, pain and blurred future of the old. The old are living not only with one-generation gap of their progeny but with hundreds of generation gaps due to disastrous exodus coupled with urbanisation, globalisation, and liberalisation. Wrongly or rightly, the young thought-process is not shackled within established socio-cultural and religious norms. In yatch ta patch Arjan Nath makes the children understand that their dead grandmother would take rebirth in the shape of a crow. The children take it well and eagerly wait for khetchhmavsi to offer the crow a special food in a traditional way. This soothes Arjan Nath. Anhoni is a tragic story of a young student who gets 92 % marks in twelfth standard. He demands a motorcycle. Father buys the motorcycle unwillingly as he fears something odd. One day, a dog comes under the motorcycle of the boy and he falls on the road. A vehicle crushes him to death. The story questions the morality of those who allow stray animals on roads, traffic police and the general public who behave as mute spectators.
Sanaskar opens a debate for the exiles whether a girl child can perform last rites of her near and dear. Bhaskar Nath’s contribution to bring up his younger brother and sister in the absence of their parents is ditched. His brother’s wife plays a cunning trick. She blames Bhaskar Nath of cutting her clothes. He is sent to jail. Bhasakar Nath is a diabetic patient. He faints in his office and is taken to hospital where he dies. The thankless brother and his family come to perform the last rites. The younger daughter of Bhaskar Nath objects. Among much confusion, contradiction, and debate his younger daughter performs her father’s last rites.
Loneliness has become the destiny of the old. Children are outside for earning their bread. Ded has love-hate relationship with Kashmiri Muslims. She abuses them when there are frequent power cuts in the scorching heat. Ded calls a carpet-seller inside. Her latent emotions surface on knowing that he is from her paternal side. She forgets the tortures given by Kashmiri Muslims. She urges him to take the meal. She reveals personal story to him as if he were her confidante. To keep her heart the carpet-seller does not reveal to her that such problems and moral irresponsibility regarding youth have largely crept in Kashmir too. When he leaves, the electricity goes off again. The existential problems once again irritate her. She restarts abusing those who hounded the Pandits out.