Neelum Saran Gour

The Financial Express,October 3, 1997

Who Wants to Die?
Winter Companions And Other Stories
Neelum Saran Gour,
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 1997

WRITING a short story can be more challenging than writing a novel. Within a limited space, the writer has to weave a plot, devise characters who appear complex, fill up the details with deft pen strokes and give it a dramatic, or anti - climactical end that lingers in the reader's mind long after he has finished reading the story. Neelum Saran Gour's collection of stories, titled Winter Companions and Other Stories, does all that and more. Gour's eye for detail, a delicate imagination that has an element of fantasy and easy conversational style, make the stories an interesting read. Most of the stories explore the darker side of life, war, old age, relationships that have soured and so on. Yet the writer's view of life is not a pessimistic one, it transcends the anger / gloom and indicates that there is more to life than merely negative emotions.

Two Women, Two Trees tries to defuse the tragic end by starting another story even as the reader tries to get over the killing of the lovers. An attempt at regeneration, one feels. The last lines in Winter Companions is a well - crafted trope for death. To quote: "The street had reached its narrowest point. He waited alone, ready to cross it when the moment came". Another story, Through the Looking Glass, is about a man trying to cope with his problems, failing vision and a pet parrot who flies away, in that order. Yet, the end is not depressing. His vision is impaired, but a green feather on his doorstep suggests that the parrot had come to visit him, and that is a comforting thought. Some stories like Chandu and the Bissyar have a comic touch and add to the variety of moods in this very readable collection of stories.