The tiger is an animal that is proud, beautiful and mysterious. He is his own master, who traverses the land without fear. However, what happens when a tiger and his descendents are raised in captivity? as the prize attraction at a zoo, to be subjected to a regimented routine and admired, not as king of the wild, but as one of nature's many curiosities. Well in I Am An Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran we find out.
Parameswaran is a new writer, and I Am Executioner is his first collection of short stories, which deal with the age old subject of love. But the love Parameswaran explores takes many guises and isn't just confined to man and woman.
One specific story which stood out for me, there are nine in all, was The Infamous Bengal Ming. Narrated by a Bengal Tiger, you can just imagine how beautiful he looks, who was born into captivity at a zoo, somewhere in India. His story takes you on a journey, filled with many surprises and much emotional reflection. His mating partner is aloof and emotionally cold, you feel the pain in his heart almost instantly, he is also beset by feelings of emasculation, intimidated by the alpha male of the group.
The tiger knows what true love and happiness is though, because since his childhood, he has been in love with the zookeeper, who has been a father, mother, brother and protector all rolled into one. His love is unconditional and transcends boundaries. What proceeds is an awakening for both the tiger and the reader, with happiness and tragedy running side-by-side.
For some, it is hard to imagine one could feel so much empathy and compassion for an animal, but so brilliant is Parameswaran's writing you just can't help it. His spellbinding prose makes it clear that there is no distinction between the human and his animal brethren. True love is not the preserve of man alone.
Don't misunderstand me; the other eight stories are just as thoughtful and just as intriguing as this one. However, the tale of The Infamous Bengal Ming stands as a testament to Parameswaran's talent as a story teller.
I Am An Executioner is no mere flight of fancy or meaningless collection of decorative prose, no, this is a very intelligent, enthralling and touching set of tales by a new master of literary fiction. Parameswaran has nudged his way into my heart, and will I'm sure remain there for a very long time.
I Am An Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Paramerswaran (2012) is published by Bloomsbury.