Surface Textures, by Anita Desai, is about a time in the life of Shelia, who thinks she has changed her husband, Harish, with a melon she brought home. “[purchasing the melon], [Sheila] later saw, was the beginning of it all” (Desai 550). After the melon, he became quiet and reserved, no longer showed any ambition to eat or work, and instead was interested in feeling the different textures of objects (Desai 551). He got fired because of this, the family had to break up in order to survive, and Harish was left to walk the outdoors in search of food, where he was discovered by herders (Desai 552). The story ends with him being revered and taken care of as they think him to be a holy man (Desai 553).
The story is fascinating if the reader appreciates the unknownness of the character of Harish (what has happened to him?), which is either the story’s strength or weakness depending on preference. As is shown in the quote above, Shelia considers the melon to be responsible for Harish’s strange behaviour, which causes the reader to wonder if she is right or if something else is at play. The conclusion adds to the unknownness of the story, as at the ending point it is still unclear if Harish is actually spiritually different and holy, crazy, or putting on a charade in order to survive at a cheap cost (Desai 554). I really like the unknownness that exists in the story and how the question of whether or not Harish has gone mad or has become enlightened, goes unanswered. I would definitely recommend this story.
Desai, Anita. “Surface Textures.” Short Fiction, edited by Mark Levene and Rosemary Sullivan, Oxford University Press Canada, 2015, 550-553.