Friday, June 24, 2016

Short Story #2: Big Win for a Small Loss

She is walking briskly across the road. Damn, she is running late for office again. She stays just ten walking minutes away from the office, still she manages to be late. No matter how far or near we stay from the office, she thinks, we always find ways to be late. It is a beautiful morning, bright and sunny. But the Delhi pollution and traffic is already spoiling it. How she longs for her hometown. It has been a decade since she has been staying in this metropolitan, but never really felt at home.

She being the youngest in the family, was the most pampered child. Also her two elder brothers and sister doted on her. Theirs was a joint family, so there was no dearth of hustle and bustle, as well as the noise of laughter in the house. It was big house, with a big courtyard and a big garden, replete with fruits and flowers. She had just joined her first job when Sameer's match came for her. Eldest in family, Sameer was a MBA in finance and worked in a private bank. His father was also a bank official who was due to retire in a few years time. His mother was a housewife, and both his sisters were married but working women. His family was based in Delhi. And they had no problems with her choosing to work like their daughters. It seemed like a good match. But Delhi, it was so far away from her small hometown, almost three hundred kilometres away. How will she survive? The only consolation was that her elder sister, who was married, stayed in Delhi too.

Within four months of the proposal, she was engaged. After eight months, married. She was shocked when she arrived at her husband's place in Delhi. It was so small! It was in a cramped building, in a colony of cramped buildings. It is called a flat, she was told. It had just two rooms, a kitchen and a hall. It had to be a mistake. Didn't her father have good look when he came to check out Sameer's place?

Once she settled down in her new home, after the endless visits to and from relatives, she started looking for jobs. But within three months, she was pregnant and her career went for a toss. As per tradition, she gave birth to her first child in her maternal home. Ayush, her son, gave a new direction to her life, a new meaning, the joy of motherhood. And staying at her maternal home, among her near and dear ones, made her joys twofold. Soon, Aayush was four months old and Sameer and his family wanted the little bundle of joy in their home.

When Aayush turned one year old, she broached the subject of getting a job. Now that Aayush was older, she can start working again and Sameer's mother, Mummyji, could take care of him during the day. But Mummyji would hear none of it. She argued that Aayush needs his mother full-time. When she tried to point out that Sameer's sisters are working as well and they have kids, Mummyji simply said that theirs was a different situation. She responded with tears but said nothing. In her heart and mind she understood that the only difference was that she was not Mummyji's daughter. And Sameer also didn't say anything to support her case.

Slowly days turned into months, and months turned into years. She managed to meet her sister who stayed in the city once in a while. If she wanted to meet her sister regularly, it was frowned upon by Mummyji. She never got to spend the night at her sister's. Her sister understood, after-all she was a daughter-in-law too. Thankfully, festivals gave her excuses to visit her parents for a few days.

A few years more, and Aayush started going to school. By then, it had become impossible to spend the entire day with Mummyji alone in the house. She had started answering back during their occasional tiffs. Even patience has a limit she said. Little by little, she was able to persuade Sameer that for the sake of peace in the house, she should start working again. Also his father had retired and his parents can keep each other company. Reluctantly, his Mummyji agreed but with a warning that Aayush's studies and development should not suffer because of her job.

Oh! How sweet that triumph had felt. It has been three years now that she had restarted her career. Well, she was a decade behind her friends and had to start from scratch again. But better late than never, isn't it! She had been lucky to be working so close to home. But she never goes home for lunch. The family would start thinking that her job is an easy one. She is juggling work and home quite nicely. Mummyji and Papaji are also supporting her in their own ways. But Mummyji doesn't leave any chance to rebuke her regarding her working status. A few marks less scored by Ayush than in the previous test is enough to set off Mummyji's bullet in her direction. Similar is the scene in case of a 'notch below' perfect parantha for breakfast.

But she is happy. She is enjoying her work and learning fast. With time she has become an indispensable member of her team. Her performance is being applauded as well as rewarded. She has become a confident independent woman. She is now able to fulfill her material needs without being dependent on Sameer. She is able to take care of her parents' need in small ways too. She is no longer a naive young daughter-in-law. She is surprised to hear stories from her married women colleagues, far worse than Mummyji's case. Well, there are some positive stories too. They all have a laugh together, as well as help each other in tricky situations.

But she has finally accepted Mummyji, with all her shortcomings. And Mummyji has reciprocated it seems. She now looks out for the small acts of kindness Mummyji does for her. It is Mummyji's birthday today. She had gifted her a beautiful orange silk saree. In the morning, she took Mummyji to the temple and so she was running late. But the joy on Mummyji's face was worth being late today.
It is definitely a big win for a small loss.

This story was first published on Women's Web on 11th May 2016.

Book Review #44: Kanhu & Other Stories

Name: Kanhu & Other Stories
Author: Various (Translated from Odiya by Saroj Mishra)
No. of Pages: 109
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Publisher: Platinum Press (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 149/-
Published in: 2015

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
This book contains eleven short stories in Odiya translated into English. The original authors are all well-known writers, some of them winners of the Kendriya Sahitya Akademi awards and others honoured with several state-level awards.

The stories in this anthology reflect the rich and divergent cultural heritage of Odisha and the current thinking in Odiya society – varying from focus on the plight of the underprivileged to the struggles of different sections of society in dealing with moral dilemmas. The stories have been selected carefully to promote the Odiya language, with its colourful idiom, the heritage and the social ambience of Odisha, to a wider audience so that the readers can learn about its rich literature and the glorious history of Odisha.
I took up this exercise of translating into English short stories written by popular authors in Odiya, so as to bring them to a wider sphere, where it could be read by those who love stories. These stories depict the lifestyle and culture of people native to the great state of Odisha. I hope this will be appreciated by readers. This book is dedicated to my mother, Smt. Urbashi Mishra, who taught me moral values and love of humanity. 

The book consists of ten short stories written by popular authors in Odiya. The stories are off-beat and give a glimpse of Odiya lives. The only story which was not in line with the spirit of the other nine stories was written by the translator himself.
  1. Kanhu's Home: Kanhu is made to leave his home and oversee the construction of a house.
  2. Mystery of the Closed Iron Chest: An old man zealously guards his iron chest making his family curious.
  3. Last opportunity: An old couple staying separately with their children, see each other afters five years.
  4. Inauguration of the Electric Crematorium: A corpse is needed for the inaugural function of an electric crematorium.
  5. The Wound: A selfless village couple who takes in orphans come into the limelight after an TV interview. And their lives are changed forever.
  6. Mission Heart: A wife engages a young man to win her husband back.
  7. Gagan Majhi and His Kin: An exposed case of corruption makes the wife of an police officer paranoid.
  8. Drowning: A man's daylong infatuation turns into a mystery.
  9. Travel and Shoes: Tales from the lives of daily commuters.
  10. The Goalkeeper: An honest and loyal goalkeeper faces a moral dilemma.
Some stories like "The Last Opportunity" and "The Wound" seemed like incomplete. I enjoyed "Kanhu's Home",  "Mystery of the Closed Iron Chest" and "Inauguration of the Electric Crematorium".

I give "Kanhu & Other Stories" 3 stars on a scale of 5.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Review #43: Six Degrees

Name: Six Degrees
Author: Various
No. of Pages: 422
Genre: Fiction
Price: Rs. 349/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From

The blurb of the book says:
“As part of their #CelebrateBlogging initiative,, ran the first edition of Game of Blogs in September 2014. Five characters and their descriptions were provided. The objective was to write a fictional story revolving around these characters. Bloggers came together as teams and after three rounds filled with its own set of twists and turns, three stories made it to the end.

The three stories in this book are a fascinating example of how one set of characters can have interesting lives with completely different dimensions. is a result of how collaboration can truly breed creativity in the modern day world of connected living.”

Six Degrees, is the first book co-authored by 3 teams, consisting of 25 bloggers across India. For the first time in the history of Indian blogging, bloggers collaborated and worked to write a story based on the characters and twists given by BlogAdda, periodically.

The backdrop city is Mumbai. A common quote, "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."  The 5 common characters:
  1. Shekhar Dutta-- An unsuccessful/out-of-work writer, stay-at-home husband/father
  2. Tara Dutta-- Shekhar's wife, a successful career woman
  3. Roohi Dutta-- Shekhar and Tara's 9 year old daughter
  4. Aryan Ahuja-- Neighbour of the Dutta's
  5. Cyrus Daruwala-- A law student from Delhi, comes to Mumbai and enters the lives of the Dutta's with a purpose
  6. Jennifer Joseph-- A professional photographer, a young and beautiful Malayali girl, who gets connected to the story of the Dutta's
Plot: Shekhar, Tara and Roohi form a close-knit happy and loving family. Cyrus enters their home and things get disturbed. Shekhar's manuscript is getting destroyed on its own. Jennifer, the childhood friend of Shekhar, gives him groundbreaking news. Mysteries surface and the entire world is at stake.

I loved this story. The central characters , as well as the supporting characters were well-formed and pieces were connected very well. The plot is that of a sci-fi mystery and seemed like a rendition of popular sci-fi movies involving aliens. What Shekhar was seeking was right there in front of him, and later selfishness takes hold of him. With the help of Roohi and Cyrus, Tara finally re-discovers herself, and they all come together to save the world. Aryan shows that there is still hope in the human race. But their lives are no longer the way they knew it.

Plot: Tara is successful, while Shekhar is not. Roohi loves her dad as he is always around while Tara has no time for her. Naina, the full-time maid enjoys dressing up in Tara's stuff. Cyrus comes to Mumbai with vengeance on his mind. Jennifer is desperate  to be successful. And then there is a murder.

I enjoyed this story as well. Again, the dots were connected beautifully and the characters well defined. Java, the investigating officer, was an interesting character too. But the two devils in his mind bickered too much at times. I loved the malicious poems echoing the killer's emotions from time to time. I had one doubt though. The fingerprints of the person who gets punished for the murder, were not on the weapon. So why was that point not used to oppose the arrest? But overall, it was a well-written piece.

Plot: Roohi goes missing after school. Cyrus flees Delhi and comes to Mumbai. Jennifer plays a role in the search of Roohi. Shekhar and Tara rekindles their love when faced with adversities.

I didn't like this one. The blurb of the story at the start was very misleading. The central characters, except Cyrus, were not well-formed. There were many gaps in the story-line too. Cyrus's height was mentioned at two places and both were different. Cyrus heard a line about Roohi at Delhi and meets her almost immediately on reaching Mumbai; but it seems he doesn't realize it's the same girl. What he had scribbled on the back of a visiting card, was not explained properly. Why did Aryan behave in a suspicious manner when Jennifer asked him if he knew Cyrus? What had Jennifer misunderstood about him? Why people were knocking at the neighbour's door instead of Aryan when they clearly had the address.

Overall: It is really a remarkable effort and result, given that the stories were co-written by 8/9 authors. It is also interesting how a given set of characters have been used in entirely different directions. Since it is not the work of a single author, the style of writing was not entirely similar throughout a single story. Also, there were many, many typos; and typos really irritate me as a reader. ' were typed as > in most places and letters were missing from words.

As already mentioned, I loved the first two stories. They reflected that the whole assignments were well-executed. But I can't say the same about the last story.

I give "Six Degrees" 3.5 stars on a scale of 5.

6 Degrees is India's first book published through collaborative blogging, written completely by bloggers for the Game of Blogs activity at BlogAdda. Know more about Game of Blogs here. You can buy 6 Degrees: Game of Blogs if you liked the review. :)

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Book Review #42: A Darling in your Fifties

Name: A Darling in your Fifties
Author: Ashmi
No. of Pages: 270
Genre: Fiction
Price: Rs. 300/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
Arjun has disowned his wife, Neema. She has grown to hate her tormentor, her husband, yet knows a divorced woman in India is a scandal and she is trapped. With a malicious mother on the other end, she has nowhere to go. When Arjun, aided and abetted by his mother in law, escalates his attempts to eliminate Neema, she holds her peace, sinks into the fantasy of Bollywood movies, and later empowered by the return of her long-lost friends finds the strength to go in search of a new life.

Nagalakshmi M G., also known as Ashmi is a writer, educator, and counselor. After having worked as a lecturer in English for over twenty five years in Bangalore, she took voluntary retirement in the year 2001 to pursue her passion for writing. She did her Bachelor of Arts from Kerala University and pursued a Master’s degree in English language and Literature at Jnana Bharathi (Bangalore University). Additionally, she has a Degree in M.Phil, and also went on to fulfil her dream of getting a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism and in ‘Proficiency in Counselling’ from Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and The Theological College respectively. She has published light reads in Femina and The Indian Express. ‘A Darling in Your fifties’ is her first work of fiction. Although a staunch Bangalorean, she currently lives in Pune with her family.

Cover: It depicts a pretty middle-aged woman, super-imposed by an image of devilish man.

Writing: The language was poetic and soothing. The way the author has played with words is beautiful.

Plot: A pretty young woman, Neema, is trapped in a loveless marriage. Unable to walk out of it thinking of her young daughter. Sadly, she had been pushed into this unfortunate situation by her own mother.

The story reflects the belief of our society that a woman without a husband cannot survive; that the value of a father's name attached to a child, even if his existence is meaningless, is priceless compared to a hardworking and selfless mother. It reflects the fears of women trapped in loveless and abusive marriages and why they are unable to walk away.

A jealous mother who goes to lengths to ensure the unhappiness of her own daughter. Neema spends her life wondering why her husband doesn't care for her. Both her mother and husband were confident that she would walk out of the marriage, but Neema could not do it for the sake of her daughter, Goldie. When Goldie is all grown up, Neema's friends return to her life unexpectedly. By then, her husband was planning to eliminate her for good.

I liked the plot but a little disappointed that Goldie did not act in a matured way, helping her mother to gain confidence to walk out of a unhappy marriage and leave her life on her own terms. Another surprising point was that Neema and Goldie never seemed to have dinner. Neema would come back from work, have coffee and go to sleep. Goldie would come back from school and later college, and it would be bedtime.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the writing and overall story.

I give "A Darling in your Fifties" 3 stars on a scale of 5.