Filmmaker Paromita Vohra’s ‘Tourists’ is one of the most enjoyable pieces in Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories and knits a trio of fantasies. Her perfect reader is intelligent and politically correct: hence unable to enjoy anything, even guilt. Until now.

First, Vohra’s suspiciously familiar character Sartaj Khan is a sexy Bollywood star who speaks in complex and compound sentences. Next, he is eclipsed in his allure by the location the protagonists are transported into: a strange combination of domesticity and island paradise. Finally, there’s the period that is powdered rhino horn for the politically active Indian, bearing the markers of hazaaron khwaishein: the 1970s.

Vohra’s short story is a good representative of the collection. Smart, lustful, funny and with enough plot to please the jaded palate. Cars, public loos, hotel pools and train berths are all marshalled. “I was worried it’d be all furtive groping in the kitchen,” says anthology editor Ruchir Joshi, author of The Last Jet Engine Laugh.

At the onset, the betterknown writers of the subcontinent drew their hems away from Joshi’s project but the anthology has not suffered a jot. Sonia Jabbar’s raunchy, highly detailed narrative has the pleasing air of an antique trickster tale (and the wonderful insult: “You are not a man. You are a pyjama.”). Parvati Sharma’s rapid-fire pillow talk (a riff on Ismat Chugtai’s ‘The Quilt’) and Abeer Hoque’s plotless charm are simultaneously full of commentary and bodily fluids. Samit Basu’s après Bengali wedding party and Meenakshi Madhavan Reddy’s chronicle of a sexually inexperienced man energetically fling limbs across the pages.

Ask Joshi what his favourite piece of erotica from Indian Writing in English has been and he wriggles; he is comically relieved to name one. “I liked that passage from Vikram Chandra’s ‘Kama’ when Inspector Sartaj Singh with his open hair has sex with his wife behind the sofa.” His own heroine D is queen of the cocktail party circuit and her particular sexual proclivities are effortlessly memorable.

What theme emerged from the submissions? Joshi mutters the unfortunate paperbag of a term: ‘repression’. However, it is easy to cheer along with him, “Let a thousand Savita Bhabhis bloom.”’ Electric Feather is a welcome arrival. As Joshi argues in his preface, the anthology is battling the “double rape of our Brindavan. If, out of one direction comes the rumble of the bulldozers of mostly male-driven hard porn, from the other direction comes the snap and crackle of people setting fire to the forest from inside”. The latter, the censorious, should find plenty to be offended by in these mostly joyous romps.

Everyday we are informed in increasingly baffling tones about what turns people off. It’s fun to find out what turns people on.