‘Darkness There But Something More’: Up, Close and Personal With the Two Editors Dr. Santosh Bakaya and Lopa Banerjee

In conversation with the two prolific authors and editors of the ghost story anthology ‘Darkness There But Something More’, Dr. Santosh Bakaya and Lopamudra Banerjee (yours truly). The book has recently been published by The Blue Pencil and is available in Amazon and Flipkart.
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Sharing some excerpts from the interview:

As for me, I always seemed to have a keen interest in the esoteric and the unknown, the mysterious, and my background in literature and also avid interest in films portraying the other world have only fueled this interest. The enigma of the world beneath the mundane flesh-and-blood world has intrigued me to no ends. Be it the dark, murky world of the three witches, Banquo’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Macbeth or the sombre, haunting spirit world of the Mughal times and the captivating, mysterious woman in Tagore’s Ksudhito Pashan (The Hungry Stone), the exploration of the other-worldly has filled me with an insatiable awe and wonder that has been hard to resist since my college days.
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Be it in the Veda or in the scriptures of our ancient culture, it has always been propagated that we are not only flesh and bones and our ‘Atma’, the greater consciousness, that never perishes, is a vital driving force of nature. So as a conscious exercise, I always ask myself what happens to us after we exit the physical world. Though I have known there are quite a few schools of thoughts regarding out of the body experiences, the paranormal and the supernatural, one contradicting the other, the thought that there is a realm engulfed in mystery and speculation and will remain like that for many, many years, gives me goosebumps.

It is this ongoing quest in my mind that resonated with the infectious vigour of Dr. Santosh Bakaya in narrating her own ghost story The Boulder and in curating mind-blowing stories infested with other-worldly beings, and thus, gradually, organically, our book ‘Darkness There But Something More’ took shape. While trudging the road, I also happened to pen my own story in the collection, which came to me rather unexpectedly, as it is actually my first short story written about the spirit world.

Do read the full interview here, friends:

https://learningandcreativity.com/santosh-bakaya-lopa-banerjee-interview-darkness-there-ghost-anthology/

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Guest Post: Interview with De. B. Dubois

“Who is the brown woman? How does she live defined almost solely by her skin colour and all the history it carries? How do we carry racism deep within us even when we think we don’t? These are questions that require deep thought and reflection, and that’s what Otherness encourages us to do. In a world increasingly divided along the lines of colour, despite its apparent modernity, here’s a hard look at the realities that lurk within us, both as individuals and as a society.” Otherness

Thus goes the blurb of the recently released book ‘Othernees: Souls of Brown Women’ by author De. B. Dubois. In a brief chat via email, she explained to me the overarching theme of her book and also the social construct regarding skin color and a woman’s identity.

Lopa Banerjee: What, according to you, is ‘the woman of color’? How would you define it in terms of the societal construct, in terms of the realities we see around us? And most importantly, how did it affect you as the author of this book?

De. B. Dubois: According to me, and for the topic of the book “Otherness”, the (textbook) definition of “Women of color” (singular: woman of colour, sometimes abbreviated as WOC) is a phrase used to describe female persons of colour. The term is used to represent all women of non-white heritage, often with regard to oppression, systemic racism, or racial bias.
In the preface, I have mentioned that “Otherness” is an appropriation of William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois’: The Souls of Black Folk. This book “Otherness” is written from my perspective as a student of sociology, design culture, design research and art, during my Master thesis (research work done on “Perception of Beauty”), where I was examining Eastern and Western print advertisements and how these visuals sub-consciously constructs and constricts our perception of good and evil. For example, if you see a film – any given film – the protagonist is visually represented as someone beautiful compared to the antagonist. Often times, terms such as “ugly”, “dark”, “dirty” and “brown” are associated with either the way the antagonist looks like, or the way the antagonist behaves. Sub-consciously we are allowing visual media to tell us what is to be considered clean (white), dirty (brown), and evil (black). This colour signification is very complex and has been thrown at our sub-conscious through centuries of artwork, literature, religion et al. And the problem of colour is far more devastating in terms of iconoclasm than any other problem – to the point that it white washes any coloured existence. Shockingly, as coloured people, we tend to idolise whiteness at some point.
So, if I have to define the societal construct in terms of the realities we see around us, simply, it would be this: “They don’t like you. They don’t dislike you. You are different. Sooner or later the difference scares people.”

As an Indian Bengali, I am no white person. I might be tall, I might be “paler” than the average Indian, I might even speak three European languages – but visibly I am Brown. Therefore I stand with not just first hand experience of this:“They don’t like you. They don’t dislike you. You are different. Sooner or later the difference scares people.” but also as a witness to other brown-women around me. Especially the ones who were adopted as a baby, and only know the West as their home, and culture; when I get to hear these brown women (my friends who are perfectly integrated within these “white countries” – growing up as a western children with non-coloured parents), phrases such as: “I wish I was fair like you…” – it effects me on a level that simply cannot be expressed in words.

To find out more about author De. B. Dubois and her books, do visit her Goodreads page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16194571.De_B_Dubois

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Darkness There But Something More: An Anthology of Haunting Ghost Stories

Back after a long time to the WordPress blogosphere, with a fresh new update for you all. Do you believe all ghost stories essentially need to have blood-dripping venomous vampires, blood-curdling ghostly shrieks and the deadliest of ghostly fangs? Do you also believe that some ghost stories can be emotionally gripping as well, to keep us at the edge of our seats while reading them? With this mission, me, along with my co-editor Dr. Santosh Bakaya, a prolific author and poet from India have come up with ‘Darkness There But Something More’, an anthology of 30 haunting, emotionally dense tales comprising of other-worldly beings, written by some very talented, seasoned as well as young authors dispersed all over the globe.

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The blurb of the book in Amazon touches upon the essence of the stories in a succinct way.

“Who has not been intrigued and enthralled by the spirit world, ghosts, other-worldly beings, or in other words, the paranormal? Ambiguous presences around us, whether in the form of orally narrated stories by our grandparents, or in the form of haunting, riveting supernatural stories in books and movies have held us in their spell, engaging, alluring us even to this date.

In fact, the prominence of paranormal investigators, ghostbusters and others documenting the other-worldly in today’s age overpowered by science and technology only points to the fact that we crave to push our boundaries as rational beings and delve into the phenomena which we cannot define or explain tangibly.

This anthology of 30 selected ghost stories by authors dispersed all over the globe celebrates the spine-chilling thrills and sense of awe and bewilderment of this very inexplicable world inhabited by the other-worldly beings. Come, experience the cataclysmic, weird, and at times, benevolent spirit world and you will never have a dull moment in this roller-coaster ride!”

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In the editor’s note, Dr. Santosh Bakaya writes:

“Some of us are wary of ghost stories, some are skeptical, scoffing at the very idea, and some prefer to ignore the topic with a supposedly wise shake of the head. Whether ghosts exist or don‘t, whether these spectral illusions are the result of an overworked imagination, whether they reflect our subconscious, the fact is, everyone likes a ghost story. It has never failed to enchant us with its eerie gothic ambience, of hooting owls, of bats hanging from cobwebbed ceilings, of terrifying screams, goose bumps, poltergeist activities, and also vulpine jackals howling, with their snouts raised to the moon! My mind is brimming with those horror stories of childhood, which have left an indelible impression.”

To which, I add, in my turn:

“The paranormal, ghostly, eerie world of spirits, witches, demons and other corporeal beings have been endearing, timeless entities in literature, films and other mediums of human communication ever since one can remember. As for myself, my early memories of encountering ghostly beings have been in the tales of the Arabian Nights, as I clearly remember the jinns and monsters, the impervious souls being invoked, or even coming out of bottles, casting magic spells, granting wishes, while even the seemingly benign narratives would be shaken and stirred by the thunderous gust of their sheer presence. The wondrous supernatural phenomena in Sinbad‘s tales that I read in school still lure me as magical memories with their gripping images; his fantastical adventures of encountering the monsters and other supernatural beings had me under their spell for quite a long time, when an indescribable chill ran down my spine, reading of the giants, monsters and the stories of entrapment during his vicarious voyages.
In my college years, my tryst with Victorian literature was embedded with the first memories of the spine-chilling image of Catherine‘s unquenched spirit roaming within the precincts of Wuthering Heights, the paranormal figure with icy hands that haunted her sadist lover Heathcliff. In fact, Heathcliff was steeped in her ghostly essence, and said: ―I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad.”

The cumulative passion of Dr. Santosh Bakaya to attempt to unravel this ambiguous terrain of the human experience has resulted in this anthology of fiction.

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Do check it in Amazon Kindle:

Amazon India (paperback):

https://www.amazon.in/Darkness-There-Something-Stories-Anthology/dp/1635359503/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1506311534&sr=8-2&keywords=darkness+there+but+something+more

Amazon India (Kindle):

Los Angeles Book Festival 2017: An Intimate Journey

Feature Story: Lopamudra Banerjee

In the thriving, bustling LA Live complex in downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Book Festival 2017, a division of JM Northern Media honored some deserving books representing world publishing of contemporary times and their authors in an informal award ceremony at Fleming’s restaurant on Saturday, April 1, 2017. The award ceremony, titled ‘The East Meets West’, was described as ‘an evening of creative excellence’, while some of the awardees of the Los Angeles Book Festival, Great Southeast, Great Southwest and also Great Northwest Book Festivals congregated at the award venue and talked about their books and the inspiration behind writing their books in front of the audience.
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Steven Manchester’s “Ashes: A Novel” (The Story Plant) had been declared the Grand Prize Winner of the LA Book Festival, and there were also celebrated names like Neal Hall, the poet laureate whose poetry book ‘Where Do I Sit’ was a winner (category: poetry). Hence, the first thought that came to my mind when I was invited to the award ceremony in Los Angeles for my book ‘Thwarted Escape’ (Honorable Mention: memoir/autobiography) was that I would be a minuscule voice lost in a sea of illustrious voices.

However, when I found myself inside Fleming’s, it was rather a cozy, homely gathering of authors and some of the award committee members chatting over scrumptious dinner, drinks and mouth-watering desserts.
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“So you came all the way from Texas to LA to receive your award certificate?” A couple of fellow authors whom I befriended right away asked.

“I had to come. How could I possibly ignore the allure of the Pacific ocean?” I joked, and then told them that the award ceremony was too good an opportunity for me to showcase my book to a greater, wider, appreciative audience.

A Table of Honor was prepared for the authors, a wonderful display of the books in a quiet corner with candles lit, honoring the authors, their publishing journey and their success, following years of hard work, motivation and perseverance. Being the only south-Asian present to take the Honorable Mention certificate for my book in this very close-knit and cozy gathering of authors was indeed a special moment for me. I had been expecting to see another South Asian, Niraj Srivastava to come for the event and receive Honorable Mention for his fiction ‘Daggers of Treason’. However, only a handful of the winners, runners-up and honorable mention candidates were present to take the awards physically. Overall, the experience was tremendously rewarding.
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“Tonight’s winners truly represent the best of what current book publishing has to offer.” The blue, sparkling brochure of the event ‘The East Meets West’ specified, also reiterating the fact that with a discerning committee of judges including authors, publishers, journalists, agents, directors, such hard-earned recognition would greatly inspire the authors to keep up the momentum of their writing journey and certainly create greater impact in the already crowded publishing marketplace. Bruce Haring of J M Northern Media in his opening speech, emphasized on the relevance of publishing in today’s fast-paced world of technology, adding that despite the other overwhelming forms of entertainment, writing and publishing books continues to thrive because there is still a hungry audience who are constantly in search of content that is timeless and out of the ordinary.

“Without books there would be no movies…” he says, citing several instances where a number of memoirs and nonfiction books have been made into award-winning movies in recent times, a fact that deeply inspired many authors like myself present on the occasion, authors who have been told time and again that in today’s competitive marketplace, fiction and only fiction rules the roost.

The winners, previously been announced in their website http://www.losangelesbookfestival.com, were an eclectic mix of authors in diverse categories including, but not limited to general non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography, children’s books, young adult, poetry, romance, and regional literature published on or after January 1, 2012. These also included books published by major publisher, independent publisher and self-published works, so the scope and range of the award event was understandably quite huge. What also inspired me was the presence of other nonfiction authors in the award ceremony, authors whose memoirs, spiritual nonfiction works and other autobiographical narratives being awarded gave me a chance to know them, as I had been intrigued to know more about the subject matter of the books.
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My recently published book ‘Thwarted Escape’, a poetic memoir about my inner sojourns as a woman, a mother, a writer and a wistful immigrant woman from Kolkata, India has been chosen/placed as Honorable Mention (category: memoir/autobiography). Undoubtedly, while it gave me goosebumps to stand in the podium and say a few words about how the book was conceived and how I trailed along in its arduous yet fulfilling journey, it was also tremendously satisfying to listen to my fellow authors Kevin Foster, Dr. Sam Alibrando, T.M. Morris, Madeline Morehouse and others whose memoirs/nonfiction were placed as winners and Honorable Mention. Their journeys with their books, shared in the podium resonated with my own, as we all were celebrating a worthwhile moment in our lives with our books bridging gaps, forging new friendships and pushing our boundaries as writers and artistes.
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As the festivities ended and we, the authors lined up together to pose for group pictures with our individual award certificates, a special moment in our lives was born, a moment that whispered to us in unison that the journey with our books must never stop, that it is the journey and not the destination that would remain of utmost importance, always.

Review Of My Book THWARTED ESCAPE in Cafe Dissensus Journal

“Distance and memory are uneasy twins. As one advances, the other gallops in an interminable contest of catch up. This fraught relationship is at the heart of Lopamudra Banerjee’s memoir. The tension begins with the book’s title itself – Thwarted Escape – an oxymoron if you will, yet one that makes sense as the reader starts journeying through its pages.

The book’s four sections – on childhood, womanhood, motherhood, and life and death – reminded me of flower arrangements – of their evanescence, their beauty. Banerjee, the florist, crafts delicate narratives as she pulls them towards a theme bunch. She uses the present tense to a delicious effect, pulling the reader into the immediacy, and hence, the momentariness of her experiences. The beauty results from her love of language – the carefree abandon with which words spill onto the page. Then there’s the fragrance running through the sections – the author’s constant introspection, a memoirist’s greatest tool. And often her biggest risk.”

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It is my pleasure to share an overwhelming review of my book ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’ written by the brilliant writer/translator Bhaswati Ghosh, published at Cafe Dissensus journal, New York. Do read the full review here, friends.

Book Review: Lopamudra Banerjee’s ‘Thwarted Escape’

Book Review: Knitted Tales by Rubina Ramesh

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The cover of ‘Knitted Tales: A collection of emotions’

When I first browsed through the pages of Rubina Ramesh’s maiden short story collection ‘Knitted Tales: A Collection of Emotions’, the blurb of the book gave me the impression that the stories would unfold the dark, grim and intriguing side of the human mind and the harsh truths that spill out as the inevitable consequences. But as page after page unfolded the subtle nuances of every story in the collection, I realized that the book was much, much more than a collection of dark, intriguing tales and the twists and turns and emotions that define each one of them. It was, in reality, a journey, a revelation of the quintessential human saga which spoke of the fragility, the vulnerability of the human soul, on one hand, and on the other, the strong, feisty, spirited flow of human life as well. Keeping this in mind, I would say that all the stories are defined by the sheer fiber of pathos and the captivating secrets evoked by the storyteller in Rubina, be it the unfolding of an eerie past rearing its head out of the closet in ‘A Secret in Their Closet’, the unfolding of the raw emotions of anguish, betrayal and thwarted trust in ‘Lolita’, or the unleashing of the stark, heart-wrenching tragedy in ‘Suvarnarekha’.

Keeping in mind the colossal trend of theme-based anthologies in today’s times, categorized in easy, water-tight genres of romance, thriller, supernatural, horror, feminist stories or children’s literature, here is an anthology that captivates even more because the myriad themes it represents makes it a massive, yet delectable canvas. For me, as I read it, each story filled in the gap of the earlier story, though they were not technically interconnected stories. However, the undercurrent of loneliness, deceit, agony and the fragility of being a human shines so strong in most of the stories that often times, while reading, I felt one story feeding into the emotions of the other. The narration, sometimes pacy, dramatic and sharp, sometimes lyrical and full of cadence, compels the readers to get at the heart of the emotions of the protagonist of every story. So be it the immigrant mother and her daughter who confront racism in ‘Chicklet’, the fiercely introvert filmmaker Abhijit who wronged his wife and the lady-love of his growing up years in ‘Forgive Me, For I Have Sinned’, the tremendously intriguing wife Raima with a clandestine online friend in ‘No Regrets’, or the vulnerable Jyothi in ‘The Other Woman’, somewhere the storyteller makes them all splinters and shards of our own unacknowledged selves, and we cannot help but get drawn into their fractured walls.

The element of the dark and supernatural is yet another strand which makes this assortment of stories of elemental human emotions so delectable and engrossing. Right in the first story of the collection, ‘The Secrets in Their Closets’, I had been startled with the stark revelation of long-buried crimes and the way the narrator revealed it in astonishing, shocking spurts. In ‘Betrayal’, the ghost of a dead husband presents a riveting, shocking tale of a conjugal life gone awry, a tale of domestic violence where the festering stench of morbidity seeps through the senses of a sensitive reader. In both ‘The Missing Staircase’, and ‘Cliff Notes’, the last story of the collection, though the themes are diverse, the narrators in both the tales take the element of the supernatural in its most elemental form and build it up to a crescendo where the readers are transported to a world, sinister yet irresistible, a world which we are compelled to explore, tearing apart our comfort zones. In the final analysis, I would say it is an extremely courageous and compelling book by Rubina where she has shown that the true power of a storyteller lies not only in writing intelligently crafted tales, but churning a world of tantalizing, memorable emotions out of the tales. ‘Knitted Tales’ is mostly successful in accomplishing that, where the last page makes the readers yearn for more.

Definitely a recommended read for lovers of short fiction.

Know more about the book and read all the reviews here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32446826-knitted-tales?from_search=true

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Author: Rubina Ramesh

My Mother: An Obituary

For My Mother, Rama Bhattacharya, on her 3rd birthday in heaven

By Lopa Banerjee

 First published in Incredible Women of India, dated February 25, 2016.

“Jokhon porbe na more payer chinho ei baante

Ami baibo na, ami baibo na more kheya toree ei ghaate go…”

(When you won’t be able to trace my footprints, imprinted on the roads, you won’t see me then, in the jetties, I won’t be then to row my boat.)

Rabindranath Tagore, Geetabitan.

Dear Ma,

A picture of you stands unassumingly, along with old and new DVDs and books, in the top-most shelf of one of our old glass showcases that have traveled with us from one home to another. I see you today, as I see you every day, in the blissful sheen of smile with my first born tucked blissfully in your arms, surrounded by your erratic husband, my father, who loved you in his own queer, idiosyncratic ways, surrounded by me, your only child and my husband. “A complete family portrait, I will keep it snugly in my heart always!” You had expressed in unbridled joy that day, almost seven years ago on the New Year’s Eve, while returning with a bunch of family pictures that we had taken together at Portrait Studio, Omaha, Nebraska, where you had come to visit us.

Seven years after, a copy of the same picture lies, along with a stack of other pictures and memorabilia in a damp nook of your Barrackpore home from where they took your lifeless body away, but where the imprints of your being still lurk, crawl at the old, chipped walls, the unkempt furniture, the dusty staircases. A home, its bricks and roof and floors that you had built with your sweat, your diligence and utmost resolve, a home where your words, your silence and your fatigued breath still echoes, calling out my name.

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My mother and my firstborn, my elder daughter Mithi

In a different home now, inside the quiet confines of a nondescript apartment building in Irving, Texas, pictures of you, in various phases of your life peep from our laptop screen, which I, your only daughter randomly saved in digital formats from old, tattered, sepia picture albums. They were my last desperate, painstaking attempts to hold on to you with my parched heart; in all the sights, smells, noises and touch and their smooth, velvety feel in which love was formed since the day I was born, till the day I gave birth. The sensations and their impact seized to be physical, yet whenever I touch the framed pictures, printed and gleaming, whenever I run my fingers through the elusive screen that freezes those sepia and coloured moments of you and me, the sensations gush through my veins, real, lingering.

“Ma-r shob jinish shonge kore niye ja, ekhane kichhu fele rakhish na” (Take away all belongings of your mother with you, do not leave anything in this house)…relatives, neighbours had commented on the day of my return to the US, following the rituals of your first death anniversary in our Barrackpore home. They had quite obviously referred to the more valuable worldly stuff that you had left in the house, but do they all know what else you had left inside the rooms, interspersed with moments of love and beauty, with which the mundane glittered, glorious? There, in the eerie silence of the old steel almirah of your bedroom, lay a stack of your saris, starched, folded, nourished with unconditioned love. In the middle rack of the almirah, old, almost archaic bank documents, question papers from the school where you taught, handwritten notes and old, tattered inland letters of your old students, old papers, souvenirs from my father’s office rested inside files piled up against one another. Inside the drawers of our old dressing table in Barrackpore, a gift from your parents for your wedding, my old report cards, the first, raw sketches of my preschooler days cough up the blood and phlegm of my washed out childhood days. You had wrapped them all in the blanketed warmth of the rooms, your old tanpura which you had brought from your parents’ home, your rusty vermilion cases, your combs that still carry thin, curly strands of your hair. You had shielded them from the ever-changing world outside that was unaffected by your sedate, solitary life.

In the kitchen of our new home in Texas, I am chopping bottle-gourd and potatoes in much the same way you had told me to, while sharing your signature recipes that you wanted me to acquire skills in. “Never ever tell me to cook. I am not born to cook. I am only born to read and write poetry”, I would boastfully tell you on your face in my carefree student days. You would laugh it off, convey my immature statements to other women you knew, who all told you it was just a temporary phase, a perspective that would never hold good once I would marry and enter domesticity. I had your genes, after all. The genes that carry poetic veins, the genes that know how the fish and vegetables dance in a geometric swirl and traipse across the aromatic blend, inside the mouths of the oiled, heated pots and pans. Cooking in my later life, came to me in the ether waves of the long-distance phone calls and long, descriptive e-mails from you, wooed me and overtook me as yet another sacred journey solidifying our bond, much in the same way as your poetry, your rhymes and recitations did.

“Lau-te kokhono ada dibi na, panch foron, hould, nun, dudh ar narkel dibi, amrit er moton lagbe khete.” (Never add ginger to bottle-gourd curry, a concoction of the five whole spices, turmeric, coconut and milk will do wonders to the dish, believe me, it will make it taste heavenly)…I smile, my eyes misting over, the tinkle bell of your bangles, the conch shells in your hands still reverberating in the damp, molten kitchen of our Barrackpore home, sprinkling salt and turmeric in the giant fish pieces in smudged utensils.

“Pooja kori more rakhibe urdhe, shey nohee ami/Hela kori morey rakhibe pichhe, shey nohee ami./ Jodi parshe rakho more shonkote sampad-e,/ Sammati dao Jodi kothin brote shohay hote,/ Pabe tobe tumi chinite morey.” (I am not the one you hail in the alter, worshipping, nor am I the one you keep behind you, in negligence. Recognize my essence while you keep me beside you always, in your bounty and amid deep hours of crisis, allowing me to be a true partner in your life’s journey, a true accomplice in your missions)…I can still hear you mumbling the lines of Tagore’s ‘Ami Chitrangada’ (I am Chitrangada) to yourself, in the ethereal twilight of your everyday kitchen songs.

In your young, struggling days, when you and Baba (father) came together in the same music school where the numinous beauty of Rabindranath Tagore’s songs made both of you create your own universe of love, you had held his hand tight, learning to love yourself more with each passing day, for his sake. You had come to his ancestral home as a new, demure bride amid 25 odd, unyielding members who never understood your true worth; you had embraced his handsomeness and youth, his strengths as well as all his quirky ways, his occasional bouts of temper, and took upon yourself the mammoth task of supporting his demanding family, financially, emotionally, even while draining yourself excruciatingly. “What was the purpose of all your sacrifices for them, tell me, when all they did was to exploit whatever resources you had? They made you give up your music, stopped your recitation classes. They didn’t even let you eat properly when you were expecting me, years back. Do you expect them to change and love you unconditionally in return?” I would ask you quite often, when I grew older and wiser, unable to come to terms with what you had faced, while you covered up with a smile when it hurt you the most. I never got a concrete reply, but your silent resolve spoke volumes. You had loved my father till your last blood drop, and his entire realm, both in its pleasantness and its disagreeable mess, was your own. Right from the moment you discovered him as your young husband in your first nuptial night, to the last evening before your fatal stroke many years later, when you were washing his soiled clothes in the bathroom.

My mornings would never be the same, Ma, without your little love-notes inscribed in our Barrackpore home, swaying with the lilting tunes of your Sanskrit chanting at the wake of dawn when with eyes shut and hands folded in a gesture of pranaam, you would utter the divine “Om jabakusuma sankasang kashyapeyang mahadyuting”, invoking the Sun-God. A sliver, a chunk of my childhood and adolescent days, with lines of Rabindranath and Jibanananda Das, and most prominently, the lines of a poem, “Bhoraai”, by your favourite poet Satyendranath Dutta dangles in the rusted, dusty corners of the rooms, the verandah and the terrace of the house, trying to reach me every day, crisscrossing the haywire traffic of the continents. The lines that you had recited with flawless diction and the inimitable prowess of your elocution, the lines and their literary essence that you had taught me with utmost care, lines which had then, unknowingly, laid the foundation of my love for the scribes.

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the bliss of a child: me and my parents, many moons back

“Oi meye amader moton-I hobe, angul fule ki ar kola gachh hobe?” (Your daughter will be one of us, nothing greater, who has ever seen a grape growing to be a banana tree?) You had silently listened to one of my elder cousin sisters predicting an inconsequential future for me, while I sat in your lap, reading out my favourite books to you one day. In your silent resolve, you had held me closer to you, whenever the uncertainties in my life spiraled out of control, for you knew, in your heart of hearts, that I will rise and shine, and find my own little firmament in the vast galaxy of voices, visions and expressions.

Today, I dedicate each and every small or big publication to your loving memory, to your simple, yet profound teachings. I cook the recipes that you had taught me across the miles of our distance, I prepare boxed lunches for my daughters and watch them grow with starry eyes every day, much in the same way that you did while I was growing up, knowing that perhaps my own words, thoughts and actions, my own aspirations would find their way in posterity. Perhaps, many moons later, when my bare form will meet yours, suspended in time and space, trying to gauge the vacuum in between, our words and the silences, the pauses in between will resurrect us. Till then, let your clumsy, messy, soppy remembrances tell me your stories, every day.

I will remain your daughter in this life, whichever domain you may have crossed over to.

Happy birthday, Ma.

Yours’, Papai.

Spotlight at ‘Grab The Book’ blog: Thwarted Escape

Spotlight: Thwarted Escape by Lopamudra Banerjee

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How far can one truly go away from his/her ancestral roots, filial ties and the claustrophobic grip of traditions and the reminiscence of an emotionally fraught childhood and puberty? The book begins with this particular quest, and it is this quest which gains momentum as a woman seeks the essence of herself-identity ten thousand miles away from her Bengali hometown. With the lens of a time-traveler, her narrative journey encompasses her first sexual abuse, her first tryst with death, austerity, the strangeness of rituals, the inexplicable feelings of puberty and also her surrendering to love, procreation, motherhood. In herself-chosen exile in the US, she discovers that deep within; her ancestral roots a real soothe well spring of her psychological, spiritual existence. In the process, she keeps on oscillating between assimilating and disintegrating, which forms the core of her journey.
To know more about the book, visit the link:

Knitted Tales: by Rubina Ramesh

 

KNITTED TALES:

A Collection of Emotions

by

 

 

 

Blurb

What forces an innocent girl to become a sex symbol? Her desires? Or cruel fate? 

 

Is a lifetime enough—for avenging a betrayal? How do you hide secrets that never stopped haunting you? 

 

Can vengeance and secrets of your past devastate your present? How can long-buried crimes of yours suddenly raise their head? Can sinning be saving?

 

Is your spouse your soulmate? What if they never understood your feelings? Can you still live with them?

 

Lastly, does life give only two options? Live or die? What if there is a third?

 

In her debut anthology, Rubina Ramesh tries to find answers to these questions that are often from the heart and yet makes the mind ponder over the solution. Or is it the other way round? Either way, Knitted Tales is a bouquet of emotions that is bound to touch both your head and your heart.

About the author

Rubina Ramesh is an avid reader, writer, blogger, book reviewer and marketer. She is the founder of The Book Club, an online book publicity group. Her first literary work was published in her school magazine. It gave her immense pride to see her own name at the bottom of the article. She was about 8 years old at that time.  She then went to complete her MBA and after her marriage to her childhood friend, her travel saga started. From The Netherlands to the British Isles she lived her life like an adventure. After a short stint in Malaysia, she finally settled down in the desert state of USA, Arizona.  Living with her DH and two human kids and one doggie kid, Rubina has finally started living the life she had always dreamed about – that of a writer. 

Her other published works include:

 

‘Home is where Love is’ a short story in the anthology Writings from the Heart. Ed. by Beth Ann Masarik. 

‘You Stole My Heart’ and ‘Let me Go’. Short stories as a part of the anthology Long and Short of It by Indireads.

‘Wake Me Up’ as a part of the anthology Marijuana Diaries by Fablery Publishers.

You can stalk her @

 

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A stirring and powerful narrative of love and loss: Book Review of’Thwarted Escape’

 

“Depending on which chapter you’re reading, you could say Banerjee is a memoirist, a creative writer, an essayist or a journalist. But no matter what label you choose for her writing, you will see Banerjee has major writing talent – the culmination of a passion that was borne at an early age when she considered words her playmates.

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“I have been in love with these moments of restlessness and release as these clusters have formed a pattern called words. I watched this written world of prose and verse, as with my hands, my body, I absorbed these nuances of creation,” she writes.

Through the pages, Banerjee transitions from a small town girl in India who makes her way to the United States. She has traveled to many places throughout the US and in one chapter where she derives the book’s title, “Thwarted Escape,” she talks about her departure to Omaha, Nebraska, as in this stirring passage: “I am an ordinary, commonplace refugee in North America, and like many others of my ilk, have embedded myself in a family, far flung from what is called ‘original home.’ Like many others, I am striving to gain the status of the coveted Non-resident Indian, a legitimate work permit to survive in a distant land while my heart continues to ache with the desire to be rocked in the bosom of my mother and to revisit the havens of my childhood.”

With the power of narrative in her life, Banerjee lives with the secret ambition to “get published” and to let the world read her stories. Thankfully, she has fulfilled her dream of compiling such a book and sharing with us her engaging and well-written stories of grief, death in her family, motherhood, and femininity.”

By J O’Reilly

Sharing an endorsement for my book ‘THWARTED ESCAPE: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey” from J O Reilley, an award-winning journalist from the Chanticleer Reviews and Media team, which she also shares in Goodreads and Amazon:

 

http://www.chantireviews.com/2016/12/01/thwarted-escape-an-immigrants-wayward-journey-by-lopamudra-banerjee-a-stirring-narrative/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33021719-thwarted-escape

https://www.amazon.com/review/R3O53I941IYM25/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=9352074254