Books Magazine

Short Stories Challenge – The Infamous Bengal Ming, from the Collection I Am An Executioner by Rajesh Parameswaran

By Bibliobeth @bibliobeth1

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What’s The Infamous Bengal Ming all about?:

An explosive, funny, wildly original fiction debut: nine stories about the power of love and the love of power, two urgent human desires that inevitably, and sometimes calamitously, intertwine. In I Am an Executioner, Rajesh Parameswaran introduces us to a cast of heroes—and antiheroes—who spring from his riotous, singular imagination. The first story involves a lovesick tiger, who ends up mauling his beloved zoo keeper (out of affection of course!)

What did I think?:

I first heard about this book through the podcast I listen to regularly – Books on the Nightstand, and thought it was a perfect addition for my Short Story Challenge.  Our narrator for the Bengal Ming story is a large Bengal tiger living in a zoo. He has been rejected by his former tiger girl friend, preferring a male tiger called Maharaj. He notes:

 ”I’d had to listen to their cooing and screeching sex noises all night, but it didn’t bother me. I didn’t know why yet, but I realized: I was over it. Saskia could sleep with every tiger in the world but me, and I wouldn’t mind.”

It is then that our narrator figures out that he has been in love for a while anyway (so never mind that Saskia!), with his keeper Kitch, who he describes passionately, almost in an adolescence lusty manner. But something is wrong today. Kitch does not appear with his huge lumps of meat for Ming’s feeding and he is starting to feel rather hungry. To add to his troubles, his love rival Maharaj keeps wanting to mark his territory, and claim Saskia indefinitely. Kitch finally appears but something is different… he is holding a large stick, and uses it to wallop our tiger when he does not obey an order. This is where the story takes a turn, and had me surprised and shocked in equal measures as Ming learns about a little thing called instinct.

I can’t sing the praises of this author highly enough, and to think that this is his fiction debut is mind-blowing. I loved that the story was narrated by a tiger possessing human qualities (see above quote), and I collapsed into chuckles at other points at the hilarity of the words that he is given. An old homeless woman who is often seen singing outside his cage at the zoo, quite happy in her own little world, christens him “Ming the Merciless,” and when the story takes a turn, make no mistake, he lives up to that nickname. I’m not often shocked by what I read in fiction, but at some points in this story, particularly at the end, I felt slightly uncomfortable. However, I knew this was down to the fact that the author had me hooked from the very first word, and had my emotions at his every whim.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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