On paper clouds Cotton candy winds Dreams dance On wishful wings Of caramel sunsets Melting sherbets Berrylicious stains On azure vistas Silken summons From opal skies With fluid colors In bone china plates A painted sunrise
She wore feathers in her hair The fairest plume, the trendiest air She walked amidst the cheering crowd Her head held high, her stride so proud Beneath the glitter and glamor, hidden Colors, bleak and gray, like the rain Filling her heart, choking her voice Her wings clipped, she had no choice!
Author Sumedha Dogra brings to life tales of nostalgia in an anthology of short stories – I Thought The Adventure Would Never End. The first two stories have female characters – strong and independent. Sanju masi and Sujata, the protagonists in the two stories, are leading lives on their terms. The writer draws up charming imagery of elegant old houses, amidst nature, filled with memories, where her leading ladies indulge in their interests – nurturing plants or writing.
Are they blissful or “bored”; “jaded by pragmatism” or jubilant in a suitable existence that women in their thirties seek? Is it true that “Life stops getting better than it is” for these women? In two tender stories, Sumedha brings forth some existential questions that make us ponder.
When a television-casting agent meets the interesting Ms. Angie, does his life turn upside down? The writer weaves a captivating story in Current Affairs, wherein what seems unconventional may be the practical way to accept life’s truths. A mishap in Goa helps a young mathematics teacher discover shades of his personality. In this catching story, To Integers and beyond, the writer experiments with themes of nostalgia and narrates stories from a school in Goa.
The Last Day of the Burger starts on an enterprising and humorous note, but does it stay that way till the end? As is the penchant with most people, their lives eventually are more ironic and their destinies more tyrannical than they can bear. In childhood play, a young, athletic girl tries hard to find a place in the team of her three brothers and gives Sumedha an energetic tale to tell. The last story in the book, Goodbye, has a line that lyrically sums up the spirit of this collection – “The yellow-colored memories of languorous afternoons spent on the lap of a lover.”
The writer has crafted humane stories with love, and they reflect her power of observation and imagination. The characters are relatable and they charm us, even when we can see where the story is headed. A weak element in this book is the editing. Some stories could have fewer words and the narration could have been better. If we can look past this, then Sumedha’s work is creative and entertaining, and a worthy attempt at storytelling about ordinary people.
The stars manipulate destiny, passion is borderless, and longing is as deep as the sea, in Shalini Mullick’s book of three short stories. Shalini creates stories out of the mundane lives of men and women as they navigate the treacherous shenanigans of their hearts and nagging doubts in their minds. It’s the language of love that strings together the stories of youthful affection maturing into words that can only be contained in handwritten letters.
The stories are built on the vast premise of typical Indian households. The background of all of them is the dramatic transformation of an Independent India, with its still prevalent economic divide and enterprising people. Aroma of dal tadka and saccharine masala chai in a college canteen is juxtaposed against cold coffee and sandwiches in the first two stories. Red chilly pickle and mathris seem to represent the heat of resentment and saltiness in a newly married couple’s life in the third story. Such simple and vibrant details fill the spaces and instill the stories with life. Newspapers feature in each story, giving them a hint of nostalgia.
Shalini’s stories are well-written and have an emotional appeal. They endearingly elaborate on many aspects of life in India. The first story is well-researched in aspects of the Armed forces and the Rajwadas in post-independent India. There is a lyrical quality, a tenderness in the narration that stories of that era inherently possess. The kaleidoscope offers a peek into the many colors and flavors of our rich culture and society.
The second story has a more modern approach. It packs in a lot of elements, as it navigates the emotions of a successful couple and secrets that keep them distant through the years. The third is also centered on a modern working couple. I felt some of the narration was added to bulk up the word count. However, the writing is impeccable and it does not weigh you down.
The plotlines are predictable but generally most romantic stories have a common texture and theme, such is the nature of love. It’s the narration and the style that keeps one engaged. The author successfully keeps the reader involved. This is a good weekend read and will appeal to audiences who want to know more about Indian culture and those who want to read stories closer to home.