Friday, April 22, 2016

Short Story #1: A New Day


She is sitting by the open window, the cool evening breeze softly caressing her tear stained face. She is back in her old room, the room she shared with her elder sister. The twin beds are placed in the centre of the room, the heads of the beds pushed towards the central wall. The broad windows are on the same wall, overlooking the home garden.

As always, the seasonal flowers as well as the perennial plants adorn the four sides of the green lawn. It is not even a year since she got married and she is back in her maternal home, perhaps never to go back to her husband again.

Her sister, Preeti, is two years older than her and had got married three years back. Like hers, Preeti’s has been an arranged marriage too. Seeing the love and understanding between Preeti and her husband, she came to believe in arranged marriages. And of course her parents’ marriage was an arranged one too, just like most of the elders in the family. There were only a few exceptions.

The proposal from Arun’s family came when she was at the final phase of completing her doctorate from one of the best universities in the region. She was also teaching in the same university. Her field of study was human psychology. The family seemed really nice and Arun came across like a decent guy. He did not speak much and seemed like an introvert. She was an introvert herself and felt that their personalities matched.

Arun was the only child of his parents and worked in a managerial position in a PSU. He was posted in Gurgaon while his parents stayed in Tezpur, a town in Assam. She and Arun got married after a year of their engagement. After being engaged, they spoke on a regular basis over the telephone and met only once before the wedding. Arun’s shyness appealed to her as she had always admired men of few words. Even her father, whom she adored, spoke very less but his actions spoke volumes.

Two days after the wedding, Arun went back to Gurgaon and she moved to Tezpur to live with the in-laws. Arun’s parents were very loving and kind to her. Surprisingly, Arun did not make any immediate plans to take her to Gurgaon. Even after the wedding, he had not shown any kind of physical interest in her. She was astonished. Since childhood, she was considered to be the prettier of the two sisters. Her beauty had broken many a heart. But Arun did not even look her in the eye. He is too shy, she thought coyly.

After three months Arun came home for the Durga Puja holidays on a week-long leave. She was overjoyed. She was hopeful that this time Arun would make arrangements to take her with him. She was hopeful that they would finally consummate their marriage. She dressed up carefully for him and cooked his favourite dishes. But Arun was indifferent to her. He even snapped at her for no reason. In bed, she felt as if she laid next to a log. She cried in silence wondering what had gone wrong. On the fourth day, she decided to confront Arun.

Shedding her own inhibitions, she asked him straightforwardly whether he found her attractive, whether she had offended him in any way, whether he was unhappy with the marriage and whether something was wrong. Arun was silent for a few minutes. But she didn’t let him go and questioned him again.

This time Arun answered. He told her that she should neither touch him nor come near him. She was taken aback. Composing herself, she asked him slowly if there was someone else in his life. He replied that there was indeed someone back in Gurgaon. And he was not interested in women, he added after a pause. She felt as if the ground had been snatched away from under her feet.

The next morning she spoke to Arun’s parents about the situation. She was shocked to learn that they had already known about Arun’s homosexuality but could not accept it. They thought he would change if he got married. Also, how could they explain it to the society if Arun didn’t get married? She could not stop the tears after the revelation. She told Arun and his parents that they had destroyed her life for their own selfish motives. She decided to leave as there was no point in her staying on in that house. Nobody attempted to stop her.

It was now two months since she had come back to her maternal home. Her parents and her sister were shocked. Was it just a year back that she she been married off with such aplomb? How would they explain it to their family and friends?

They are scared that their child will be ridiculed by society. But what will happen to their child if she is forced to go back to her marital home? No, they can’t kill her with their own hands. She is precious. She needs to regain her life.

It is almost dark. Her mother is preparing the evening tea. She will be summoned soon. Once again, her thoughts drift back to Arun. He didn’t have the courage to face her. He neither called her nor came to meet her. But he did send her an email. He apologized for not being courageous enough to be honest with her or himself, he apologized for cowering under his parents’ pressure. He wrote that he will honour any decision she makes and that he is sorry that he cannot love her the way she deserves.

She laughed at herself silently. What an irony, she thought. She has a doctorate in human psychology and yet she could not comprehend the man she married. Her trust has been broken. Her heart has been scarred for life. She might not be able to trust and love another man again. But she has made her decision. She is not going back for the sake of society. She is going to take the reins of her life in her own hands. She did not hurt anybody, it is not her fault. She will leave Arun for good and start life anew.

Tomorrow is going to be a new day, she thought, as she heard her mother calling her name.

This is my first attempt at writing fiction. This story was first published on Women's Web on 20th January 2015.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review #38: Panorama-A Collection of Short Stories

Name: Panorama-A Collection of Short Stories
Author:
Shilpi Chaklanobis 
No. of Pages: 144
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Notion Press
Price: Rs. 150/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the author.

The blurb of the book says:
A turbulent relationship between a mother and a daughter takes a sudden turn when the daughter stumbles across a past that she never knew.....

The golden period of a professor’s life is tainted by questions about his purpose until one night gives him all the answers he needs........

Desperate times test us all but when hunger drives a girl to do the unthinkable, her life changes forever..........

Woven around the lives of the people around us – the shy girl on the metro, your domestic help, your neighbors and perhaps even you – this collection of short stories will take you on a bittersweet journey that explores the spectrum that is part of any human relationship and all the complexity and chaos that secretly dwell within the homes and hearts of India.

Often laced with an element of introspection, the stories are sure to change the way you see the world around you…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shilpi Chaklanobis hails from the beautiful city of Kanpur and has spent the majority of her adult life in Delhi. She currently heads the Digital Marketing division at an MNC. The amalgamation of her years spent amongst the quiet, calm streets of a small city and the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan like Delhi has lent her a unique perspective towards life. She aims to translate her experiences and understanding of human relationships into stories that not only move people but also resonate with them. She believes that the beauty of a story lies within its ability to be interpreted by the reader in the way they desire as is evident from her writing. Apart from writing, she spends her time devouring books by the dozen. This is her first endeavor as a writer and her writing not only shows promise, but also has a sense of sensitivity that compels you to think about the lives you touch every day.

MY THOUGHTS:
The book is a collection of fifteen short stories. The writing style is plain and at times repetitive. I enjoy reading short stories. But frankly, I was not impressed by the book. Although the plots of the stories were good and had potential, I felt they didn't mature out with proper pace. A few stories were hastened to the end and lacked insight. A few glimpses:

Wok: It is the first of the collection and the only one which I liked. It is about a little girl who couldn't eat curries because her mother couldn't afford to buy a wok.

Bribe: I found the character and thoughts of the protagonist very confusing. He loves his daughter but preferred his newspaper rather than sitting by his sick daughter. He is happy when his tired wife brings him a cup of tea but is fussy when she couldn't cook a dish he likes for dinner.

Forever: I liked this one somewhat too. A pair of young lovers who parted ways due to different goals but their paths cross ways in a unexpected manner.

Mirage: I couldn't comprehend at all how a grown-up girl, who completed her studies and started working, behave in a silly manner. She thinks winning a lottery will bring her father who left her and her mother many years back. And she hates her mother who brought her up single-handed and dotes on her.

I give "Panorama-A Collection of Short Stories" 2 stars on a scale of 5.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Book Review #37: The Great Indian wedding Conspiracy

Name: The Great Indian wedding Conspiracy
Author: Sreeju Sudhakaran
No. of Pages: 351
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Jufic Books (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 299/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
The Puyickal family, a reputed Mallu clan based in Mumbai, is going through a huge crisis.One of their younger scions, Neeraja wants to marry her Punjabi boyfriend.Her father wants to hear none of it. Her aunts would rather die than allow it.

Her uncles don’t care a damn about it.
And her poor cousin, idyllic existence is screwed by it…

Arjun never wanted to have anything to do with his distant and more successful cousin; Neeraja. However, her decision to marry a non-Mallu, an unheard-of scandal in her family, changes his life forever. Forced to take part in the family ‘discussions’ by his mother, he tries to devise ways to get out of this mess, when he finds out Neeraja’s beau’s sister is his college crush. Desiring to win her back, he realizes it can only happen if Neeraja gets married to her boyfriend. With no option left, he forms an uneasy alliance with his hateful cousin, as they work in tandem to emotionally manipulate the elders into making this marriage happen…until one day, a dark secret gets revealed that threatens to unravel all their efforts…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sreeju Sudhakaran is a hotel management graduate, who never managed to show any affinity to the concept of hospitality for money. Career-wise, he has been a proverbial jack of all trades – right from working in a fast food chain, teaching, writing soothing emails to disgruntled British Airways passengers, appeasing hard-hearted insurance clients, dabbling in short film-making to finally attaining Nirvana in the blogosphere. Currently, he has set up a small production company with the help of similarly cuckolded friends, where they are working on a TV series for a renowned Malayalam channel. He is also a huge movie and book aficionado, and has a site dedicated to his love for movies (http://theunseenticketpayer.com). In between all this, the little time that he has is spent on his first passion - writing. His first book ‘Love and That Bitch Called Life…’, an unconventional romantic drama, hit the stands in 2012. Presently, he stays in Dombivli with his family. For any praises or abuses with regards his work and otherwise, you can connect with him via his personal blog - https://theconstantblabberer.wordpress.com, Or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sreeju.sudhakaran.84. His twitter handle is @sree_thru_me.  

MY THOUGHTS:
Cover: It depicts a bride's henna-patterned hands symbolizing a wedding.

Writing: The writing style is engaging and laced with humour.

Plot: A romantic relationship between a Malayali girl and a Punjabi boy becomes a huge family drama as immediate relatives are dragged into it. Due to personal interests, the protagonist, Arjun takes part in a conspiracy to make the wedding happen but another conspiracy slowly unfolds.

I loved the humour. It is sassy and the punches leave you chuckling. The story is also well-paced and entertaining. It has included all the ingredients pertaining to any inter-cultural marriage scenario like how parents react, how relatives react, the people who enjoy the situation from the sidelines, the opportunists in it, the usual prejudices and concerns we all uphold regarding caste and creed, the open-minded advisors and so on. The climax is quite dramatic. Whatever be the obstacles, love finally triumphs.

The only letdown I feel are a few typographical errors here and there. Overall it is an enjoyable and entertaining read.

I give "The Great Indian wedding Conspiracy" 4 stars on a scale of 5.