‘The Strange Career of Raju Gopalarajan’ by Rajesh Parameswaran

When I first began compiling this anthology, the stories that sprang to mind divided neatly between high-concept or ‘influenced by Gordon Lish’. I didn’t feel that was representative anymore, but this story has depths that I only appreciate now. Gopi Kumar, married to the ever-patient Manju, predictably gets laid off from his job at a computer shop and sets up as the eponymous doctor, specialising in ‘women’s difficulties’.  He tends to nearby construction workers and almost successfully passes, before Manju, on making a horrible personal discovery, decides to visit. The story unfolds deliciously, but avoids neatness with a brilliantly ambiguous ending: is his wife’s final decision an act of faith in a man who no one else believes in or is it an act of revenge? It’s both, probably. Narrated in first person plural by the desi community that Gopi wants to impress, the story takes on a tragic feel that belies its dark, comic premise. According to the author Rajesh Parameswaran, this kind of thing “happens about once a year and usually ends very badly”. 

First published in Published in I am an Executioner: Love Stories, Bloomsbury, 2012

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