THEMES: 4.5/5

A world devoid of tragedy is a tragedy in itself”

–        Roshan Kulki, The Pickle

My musings

I am a fan of both short stories and dystopian fiction. Hence it is only obvious that I love it when these two categories combine to give us dystopian short fiction.

Therefore, it was with great delight and eager anticipation that I picked up Roshan Kulki’s The Pickle. Read on to know more about my thoughts on the book.

First Impressions

There isn’t much that one can decipher from the book’s cover. Though the title – The Pickle makes an effort to catch the reader’s eye, I am afraid that the same cannot be said about the book’s cover. The blurb tries to salvage the situation by giving us a sneak peek into the mysterious world that lies in wait for its reader.

The titular story The Pickle promises to take the reader into unchartered territory where hunger and lust exchange places and roles. It talks of a taboo world where hunger is restricted, but sex is openly and publicly accepted in all its permutations, combinations, kinks, and quirks.

The cover

The cover is one aspect where I believe the book could have done better. A simple cover without any embellishments in the form of font styling and graphic designing doesn’t inspire the reader much. The image of an angry young woman trapped in a jar does invoke some interest but as far as looks go, it is the only point of interest.

Who should read?

  • People who love reading short stories especially those who love reading on topics like sex, sexual taboos, sexual quirks, kinks, and sexual liberation would enjoy the book.
  • Readers who like to experiment with their reading and want to try out new Indian authors are also likely to enjoy the book.
  • People who enjoy social, political, and economic commentaries, and who have a taste for dystopia, satire, and dark humor would also likely enjoy the experience.

Who can read?

The book is written in a language that is adorned with rich words. Also, the content and subject are such that it would be difficult for beginners to pick it up. Keeping this in mind, intermediate or voracious readers are more likely to enjoy the experience.

Who shouldn’t read?

The Pickle uses graphic language and many sexual innuendos that might not be suitable for an underage audience. Hence, reader discretion is strictly advised. The book is certainly not suitable for readers below 18 years of age.

The titular story

It must be quite obvious by now that the book is a collection of short stories that the author writes on unconventional and even taboo themes. Though there are multiple stories in the collection, a major part of the book – both in impact and size – is dominated by the titular story The Pickle. 

The story runs over fifty pages encompassing up to sixty-five percent of the book. The Pickle overpowers the book with its theme of a sexually liberated society that prohibits its members to eat freely and openly, placing the same kind of taboos on food that today’s society places on sex.

Showcasing the best in the beginning

There is no doubt that The Pickle is an impactful read. Its creativity and social commentary are one of the best I’ve seen in recent times. But once the reader is done reading it, the other stories are unfairly burdened with the overwhelming task of matching up to its brilliance. The author has done a great job of showcasing his best in the very first story, but somehow that puts unnecessary pressure on the rest of them.

Commenting on the writing style

The author has the ability to conjure and bring to life highly unusual tales that often reflect the dark realities of today’s society. In serving us these stories of eccentric people and aberrant times, he shows us a mirror, letting us reflect on who we are beneath all that façade and mental conditioning. This is one quality of the author’s writing that I highly appreciate.

Further, attempting dystopia is not an easy job. Imagining a dysfunctional world that is much different from ours but still makes sense is not something every author can pull off.

The other stories

As the reader navigates towards the end of the book, the stories grow shorter and crisper. Below are the stories that manage to capture the reader’s mind.

The Fearless narrates the tale of a professor from Faizabad who is a scared soul fearing things that others find dismissive or trivial. On a bright Sunday morning, in a moment of epiphany, he decides to undertake an adventure that will redefine his idea of fear, forever changing his life.

Dis-topia is the story of a deranged but brilliant writer who laments the loss of his inspiration. Kush, a once highly popular writer, is angry and hopeless as he deals with the failure of his last few books. His books once spoke of the misfortune of people, the trials and tribulations of the masses, the offenses against women and children, and many such similar adversities. But with the world becoming a better place, there is a dearth of such subjects to write about and a dearth of readers to empathize with such content.

God’s Will is about an eccentric man called Shobhit Varma who believes in signs and can decipher the most unusual of words from everyday sounds. A bird who says ‘catharsis’ and a car that makes a noise resembling ‘ubiquitous’ are some of his quirky derivations. A chance encounter brings him face to face with a man who claims to expose the ugly realities of politics, media, corporate greed, and men who claim to know it all.

Love-Battles is the story of a man obsessed with his mustache, so much so that he tends to have conversations with it. The man and the mustache enjoy a relationship that is often dominated by the whims and fancies of the latter.

Makes you think and ponder 

As stated elsewhere, the book touches upon many topics that reflect the realities of our society and the current times. Through these stories of various people, the author makes you think and ponder over many things that may otherwise escape your mind. You not just gain a new perspective but also start seeing many events, customs, and traditions in a new light.

Who shouldn’t read?

The Pickle is not meant for young readers as it touches upon topics that are unsuitable for people below eighteen years of age. The graphic details mentioned in some stories might also make others uncomfortable. So, it is advisable to use discretion.

What could have been better?

While the book scores brownie points in writing style, language, ingenuity, and creativity, the one aspect where it fails to score is the editing. There is a discernable lack of proper punctuations throughout the text. A little finetuning could have done wonders for the overall reader experience.

What did I not like?

I did not like the fact that all the stories are of different caliber and of differing quality. The Pickle outshines them all by a huge margin but by the time we get to the end of the book, the quality of writing isn’t the same. For the reader, it is difficult to acquaint oneself with the fact that the first and the last story are written by the same individual. And that is one of my biggest qualms about the book.

In the end

In the end, Roshan Kulki’s The Pickle is a lesson in creative thinking and writing for all new-age Indian writers. It certainly inspires one to experiment with newer and unusual ideas. I will applaud the writer for his brave effort and will look forward to his next read.

Pick the book if

Skip the book if

  • You are an underage reader less than 18 years of age.
  • You don’t enjoy dystopia.
  • You are not looking for a short story collection.

Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Roshan Kulki’s The Pickle using the link below.