Short Story Review: “Tayyabs” by Nikesh Shukla

4 of 5 stars.

Restaurants provide a communal experience even if just by observation and eavesdropping rather than by direct interaction. This tale is an accumulation of 5 conversations and 1 interior dialogue in a single Pakistani restaurant in East London. The effect provides a larger glimpse at the mix of cultures in the neighborhood and a hint as to the more recent fluctuations in ethnicities. It also shows the cultural importance of food and the dining experience.

In a series of solo ventures into Tayyabs, a Pakistani restaurant, the narrator has four confounding interactions. The first is with a cocky hipster in line before him. While waiting to get seated, the guy espouses a few prejudiced beliefs and laments his inability to represent ethnics as a talent manager. The second has a wannabe lawyer and arguer misrepresent his intentions as he finagles food from the narrator’s plate. A female hipster laments the loss of authenticity of experience in her history with the restaurant in the third conversation. The fourth merely has a misinformed or paranoid woman conjecture on her skewed view of history and culture:

. . . She tells me 9/11 was an inside job. She tells me that yoga was invented by the ostro-goths. She tells me that the recent ebola epidemic was the first strike in a religious war . . .

A fifth conversation with the son of the deceased previous owner provides context to the history of the restaurant. Then the narrator has his own epiphany . . .

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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