‘Black, Grey and White’ by Santosh Avvannavar and Santosh I. Biradar is a compilation of five short stories, which attempt to create awareness about HIV positive people. While no other disease has attracted as much attention as AIDS, basic knowledge about HIV/AIDS is still lacking among people. At the same time, this deadly disease is still accompanied with various myths and stigmas, discrimination, depression, violence and even suicidal tendencies. Stigmas attached to this disease bring misconceptions. Consequently people identified with this disease are shunned, thrown out of their family’s house and even left to die. Despite various campaigns to spread the awareness about this disease by both government and NGOs, lots still need to be done. The book under review is one such attempt. This book tries to open an evocative window for us into the struggle, the suffering and the hope of ordinary people suffering from this disease.
So, what is my impression of this book? Well! I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked this book in bits and pieces. While I liked a couple of stories, the rest of the stories failed to evoke any sort of emotions in me. Of the five short stories, I was particularly moved by the second story titled ‘Chintu – The Earth is Round’. This is the tale of an orphaned boy Chintu (a born HIV positive) and society’s approach towards him. This story is poignant without being melancholy and deep without being maudlin. Though very short in length, this story effectively passes the message it intended to pass. The other story, which somewhat impressed me is ‘Abram and His Prodigal Son’. This is the longest of all the stories in the book and does not deal with AIDS related issues. This tale, based on the concept of ‘The Parable of Lost Son’, is a thoughtful story about the values of morals in human life . The rest of the stories of this book can be passed as run of the mill type of stories and, by and large, this book was a pretty generic experience for me.
Out of five stories, four stories are in the form of play. To be frank, I did not like this play like conversational structure of these stories. This type of story structure neither helps in building plot nor characters. On the other hand, it kills the potential to expand the subject matter further. And, that is what happened with these stories. Not even a single character of these stories leaves any sort of impression on you. These stories could have been more effective if written in a simple narrative style. Take the example of second story of this book, which leaves a long lasting impression on you as it is written in a simple narrative style.
The language of the book is simple and the authors have also been successful in producing some of the heart touching dialogues. These dialogues successfully deliver the messages they intended to. The book is also quite short and you can finish it within an hour. The cover of the book is done quite well. The same can be said about the title of the book. It appears that a lot of thought has been gone into the planning of the book. However, as a book ‘Black, Grey & White’ still fails to deliver on certain aspects. Most probably, my expectations were higher.
Despite the weaknesses of this book, the authors of this book should be patted on their back not only for playing their part in spreading a consciousness about HIV/AIDS in the form of this book, but also for contributing a part of this book’s earning to a girl’s education.