Crowded and disordered, the city of Dhaka, routinely deals out unexpected blows, setbacks, and isolation as well as success and epiphany to its denizens, some of whom populate this collection of nine stories. The city comes of age over the course of these tales, from its sleepy start as a provincial capital to the great, dysfunctional megalopolis it is today. So, too, the ages of the city are mirrored by the characters of these stories who face youthful challenges to love and ambition as well as more mature pressures and disappointments. Chameli follows a young boy as he falls for a neighborhood Punjabi girl in 1970 while Losing Ayesha explores tests of young love that endure into adulthood. Dhaka's darker side emerges when an out-of-work accountant accidentally triggers a mob beating, and the returning expatriate struggles to reconcile himself to what the city has become in his absence. In the title story, a Bengali waiter with a violent past is tempted to take revenge on an elder statesman. Perhaps a cautionary parable of the city’s rise, the final story takes place as a business tycoon turns sixty and contemplates why there is no one but himself to organize the birthday party. Severed connections and the subsequent longing for understanding and unity are at the heart of this moving set of stories that will resonate long after the last page has been turned. Employing spare but precise language that recalls Naipaul and Coetzee and vivid evocations akin to Vargas Llosa and Bolaño, these stories mark the debut of a strong new talent in Bangladesh's burgeoning scene of English writing.
K. Anis Ahmed is a Bangladeshi writer based in Dhaka. His first collec He is a co-founder of Bengal Lights, the country’s most prominent new online English literary journal. Bengal Lights will also bring out two print issues annually and its debut edition is due in September. Ahmed is a co-founder of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, and is involved in a range of enterprises, including the country’s first and only organic tea garden and cooperative. Ahmed studied at Brown, Washington and New York universities before moving back to Bangladesh in 2004. He lives in Dhaka with his wife, Juditha and son Alexander.