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!”

Darkness poster

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.

darkness book launch

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):

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‘Flights From My Terrace: A Treasure Trove Of Memories and Metaphorical Truths

Filled with vivid, veritable expressions, descriptions connoting the joie de vivre of life in its small, yet discerning moments, Santosh Bakaya’s treasure trove of 58 essays in ‘Flights From My terrace’ comes across as a remarkable odyssey of childhood memories, nostalgia, and a vivid internal journey capturing universal human feelings. The journey of these essays combined together in an unforgettable mosaic, in her own words, is “the outcome of my ruminations on my terrace” of her snug, cozy Jaipur home, a home which pulls her away to the other homes and their assorted images, homes and realms she has inhabited with her memories, opening the doors to her idyllic childhood, replete with delight, loss, wonder, and bewilderment cried to be put into words.

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Bakaya, the amazing storyteller, essayist and poet extraordinaire attains catharsis and makes perfect sense of the hubris of her mind and the memory chaos by documenting and depicting a series of diverse complex emotions in the book, starting from the exuberance of flying kites to the reminiscence of the sweet nothings of an idyllic Kashmir of her childhood to being a mother to delving in the other metaphorical truths of her life. Hers is a Bedouwin (nomadic) heart inside which churns the quicksilver flash of memories, and splashes across the zigzag crannies of the terrains she touches now, hungering, wreaking havoc.

In spite of the deeply synesthetic appeal of the flow of her words, never once does her sea of thoughts from Kashmir to Bharatpur feel too exhausting for the readers to handle. She has them always in her stride as she is in complete grip of her narration, whether she is depicting the romancing of sacred whispers, the sweet resonance of birds chirping, the sudden burst of the cacophonous world, or her untiring, persistent interaction with strangers and serendipity. Like a true memoirist and a flawless essayist, she absorbs the readers full on in the immediacy of her subtle life experiences, eclipsing everything else with the earnestness and the lyrical candor of a loving heart.

Yes, undoubtedly memories and their essence form the core and crust of ‘Flights from My Terrace’. The fervor with she describes her journey from Bharatpur to Jaipur in the essay ‘The Persistence of Memory’ as “…a chunk of memory here, a sliver of memory there,” forming “a memory avalanche” is truly remarkable and unforgettable. Also, one cannot help but reminisce the beauty and power Bakaya inscribes to the seemingly inconsequential subjects, like the neem tree of her childhood, the family dog, Nipper, the cat, Lazy, among other things, and all of them are incorporated so endearingly into the narrative that they echo in the minds of the readers like a delightful, richly woven symphony, long after they finish reading the book.

“I did not have to make any conscious effort, these slivers of memory just erupted from the subterranean depths, fitting into the narrative smoothly.” She said in an interview where I had asked her about the effortlessness and ease of her narrative journey in the book. The passages about her scholar father, her loving grandmother and other members of her kith and kin come together as delightful chunks of the unforgettable mosaic of her narration, along with all her other lyrical encounters that form the crux of the book.

The takeaway from ‘Flights of Terrace’ to a discerning lover of literature is the use of language, tender, lyrical yet robust and poignant, the pervasive and spirited voice of Bakaya as the narrator, the crisp, almost meditative beauty of her prose. To all who love powerful stories centered on the meaning and essence of home and one’s memories and nostalgia that spills over, spreads around the idea of home, childhood and the engrossing facets of humanity, this book will remain a cherished, treasured read always.

Spotlight: Princess Of A Whorehouse by Mayank Sharma

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THE PRINCESS OF A WHOREHOUSE: THE STORY OF A 
SWAMP LOTUS
by
Mayank Sharma



Blurb

Aparajita is a tenacious go-getter. Her name means unconquerable in Sanskrit, and she lives up to its meaning. 

Just like any other ambitious girl, she desires to fulfil her dreams and become an independent individual. Far and wide, the shadow of her melancholy past chases her passage. The fact that her widowed mother is a former sex worker irks the community. Nonetheless, she is not ashamed to reveal her mother’s past. 

Will she lose hope, or will she defy an enigma that is centuries-old? Will she ever conquer the hearts of a prestige-obsessed community? 

See the world through Aparajita’s prism in a tale stirred by some real life events.

Grab your copy @

Amazon.com | Amazon.in | Amazon.co.uk | Flipkart

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About the author


Mayank Sharma is a computer engineering graduate with post-graduation in business management. He works with a leading technology multinational in Delhi. He has authored a number of articles and white papers on software technology and processes. For the first time in April 2014, his article was featured in Better Software magazine published in Florida, USA. Writing has become Mayank’s greatest passion when he observed how it can trigger the winds of change. He is gradually transforming from a “left-brained” writer to a “right-brained” writer. Besides writing, he is passionate about sketching, painting, and making sculptures since childhood.

India is the fifth-largest economy in the world with the Gross Domestic Product growth at 7.1 percent. Contrary, India ranks 118 out of 157 countries in the happiness index. The fact seized Mayank’s attention towards social problems affecting social support, freedom of choices, and generosity, to name a few. Having travelled across continents and associated with people with diverse beliefs and values, he became more curious about the social riddles curtailing liberties across societies. He penned his debut novel, The Princess of a Whorehouse, when he came across some real life incidents that quivered his soul.

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The River Dark, The River Deep

The rivulet, the gushing stream bounced and swayed

Like a colicky infant. pic of housewife

Didn’t I love you, sleeping in your banks, pure?

Hiding myself so deftly in your little pockets of silence?

Why then, today, when I ran to touch you, hot, raw, burning,

You ran away instead, fearing my coagulated blood,

my frozen tears, my milk stuck on your door-frame, my breath,

shot up, in spurts, that has known you like the grandma’s old tale,

Like the lone, dazzling truth?

 

Come, enter through my rich brown, derelict doors,

Still open for you. Settle slowly amid the thickets,

Soaking in the smudged, docile light setting in,

The skyline of my wants still eager, firm with primroses,

Brown, yet not dying still, with music, sharp, yet blurry,

The details obscured, yet the pleading, the little lightning

Robust, plump, hammering.

 

Will you burn it, like the rest of my thwarted dreams galore,

The pregnant ashes of my sighs

that once I had closed your palms with?

Like the stubborn, wailing infant, eyes rolling, fingers tossed,

You had wanted small tufts of the dried, golden grass

Growing mammoth, fleshy, in a mountainous pile.

Today, between my calloused palms, the ashes dwindle,

And let out an air, musky, choking, yet again.

 

The verdant spring, the primroses, the half-baked love songs

Burn me like the old, bloody embers, the fungi strong, shadowy

Smeared all over like a beauty in continuum.

Come over, do not run, what is there to hide?

Lie down, flat, on my back, as I float on your scalding waters,

Doused with the dark grey of our self-same songs.

His Drunken Wife: Novel by Sundari Venkatraman

HIS DRUNKEN WIFE

(Marriages Made in India Book #2)

by

Sundari Venkatraman

 

Blurb

 

The badass Shikha is startled when the nerdy Abhimanyu proposes marriage. She loves… herself, and Abhimanyu doesn’t figure on her list anywhere. For Abhimanyu, however, it was love at first sight when Shikha walked into RS Software, where the two of them work. 

 

When Abhimanyu shows her that he just might be rich enough for her, a pleasantly surprised Shikha accepts his marriage proposal and moves into his swanky apartment. 

 

But it looks like the love is all from only Abhi’s side as Shikha continues to drink herself crazy. Yeah, even at their wedding party. 

 

And then Abhi sets out on a honeymoon to Thailand with His Drunken Wife… 

 

*MARRIAGES MADE IN INDIA is a five-novella series that revolves around the characters you have met in The Runaway Bridegroom.

 

Read an excerpt from #HDW

 

It was at least another half an hour before Shikha returned to the party. She directly walked up to her husband and kissed him on his masculine lips. “Forgive me?” 

 

Abhi pulled her close, kissing her deeply. “Always.”

 

“Did I tell you that you’re the best thing that’s happened to me?” she whispered in his ear, nipping at his earlobe. 

 

“Shikha,” growled Abhi, “Are you even aware of what you’re doing to me? Position yourself in front of me till I gain control or I won’t be responsible for the consequences.”

 

Shikha gave a tinkling laugh, her hand on his fly, tracing his shape delightedly. “How did I ever imagine you were a staid guy?”

 

Abhi groaned. “Take your hand off, woman. Please!”

 

Shikha laughed again, kissing him. “How I love to hear you beg.” She winked at him. 

 

She turned right around and got a waiter to get her another drink, much to Abhi’s chagrin. “Will you lay off the drink, Shikha?” he frowned. 

 

“Why? You can’t afford it or what?” she challenged him, a shapely eyebrow up in query, sherry brown eyes dancing. 

 

“You’ve already had four large pegs.”

 

“You’ve been counting.” The smile left her face.

 

“Do you plan to get drunk?”

 

“Arre yaar, Abhi! It’s our wedding, a once-in-a-lifetime event. I’m only celebrating. Give me a break,” she protested. 

“The way you’ve been knocking down the drinks, anyone would think that you’re in pain rather than celebrating.”

 

About the author

Sundari Venkatraman

 

His Drunken Wife is the ninth book authored by Sundari Venkatraman. This is a hot romance and is Book #2 of the 5-novella series titled Marriages Made in India; Book #1 being The Smitten Husband. Other published novels by the author are The Malhotra Bride, Meghna, The Runaway Bridegroom, The Madras Affair and An Autograph for Anjali—all romances. She also has a collection of romantic short stories called Matches Made in Heaven; and a collection of human interest stories called Tales of Sunshine. All of Sundari Venkatraman’s books are on Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers in India, USA, UK, Canada & Australia under both #romance & #drama categories.


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My New Baby, ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’

Hello friends, you might be wondering about my long (yes, somewhat) absence from this blog. Let me apologize for being away from you for these few months and make a happy announcement! My new baby, ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’, partly autobiographical novel, partly memoir, has recently been published by Authorspress India and launched with my literary friends in Delhi, the capital of India and in Kolkata, the cultural epicenter of India. A personal journey of seeking the essence and meaning of HOME, the book is characterized by my quest for my self-identity as a woman, a mother and a daughter, while being ten thousand miles away from my Bengali hometown.

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The book cover of ‘Thwarted Escape’

The book, which had first started taking shape as a diary entry addressed to my unborn daughter during the third trimester of my first pregnancy, later gained momentum as an autobiographical narrative journey of a wistful immigrant woman as I gradually found my moorings in Omaha, Nebraska, a Midwestern city in the United States. The seed of this book was first sown in a Graduate writing program in a university based in the city where two of my creative nonfiction mentors Dr. Lisa Knopp and Dr. John T. Price egged me on to explore this beautiful, volatile, passionate journey.

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Thwarted Escape Quotes

In essence, it is a subtle, complex and organic journey of my transformation from a small town girl in India to a woman who reconnects with her ancestral home, her emotionally fraught childhood and puberty. In her emotional, spiritual journey, she looks back, releasing her pent up thunder as she recounts her first tryst with death of a loved one, her first encounter with sexual abuse during a Diwali night, her first brush with her ancestral Hindu rituals, with love, procreation and motherhood.

With the lens of a time-traveler, she also looks back at the aromas and fragrances of her native Kolkata with wistfulness and nostalgia while trying to find her feet and strike roots in her adopted home. Moreover, she also tries to deconstruct the meaning and essence of Home, of Diaspora, of migration, realizing in the end that her physical attempt to break free of her ancestral roots and filial ties in an adopted home is, after all, thwarted.

In this roller-coaster emotional journey, mostly written in poetic prose, I attempt to uncover the slices of my soul while looking back at my roots in Kolkata and Barrackpore, my ancestral home, and my cultural traditions.  I attempt to unravel the inner core of my identity and my epiphanies derived as a daughter, a woman and a mother.  In the latter half of the book, there are travel memoirs in different parts of US and India, including Niagara falls, Seattle, Minnesota, Puri, Bhuvaneshwar and Konark, Orissa where my inward and outward journey forms an integral part of my self-analysis.

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The book launch in Delhi with eminent authors, poets and the publisher of Authorspress

In this seamless journey, I also look at the ever-flowing cascade of life from the vantage point of death and despair, ultimately surrendering to the oscillation between the binary feelings of alienation and attachment between two different worlds of my existence.

The title ‘Thwarted Escape’ touches upon the metaphor of home and the act of sub-consciously embracing the physical and emotional landscape of our birthplace, however much we evade it. Quite early on, the protagonist of the book discovers the feminist literary worlds of Taslima Nasrin, Virginia Woolf, and later, Sylvia Plath, and a rebellious streak inside her persona compels her to delve into the roots of her ancestral Hindu traditions, question them, at times, even break free of them. However, in her self-chosen exile in the US, she discovers that deep within; her ancestral roots are also the wellspring of her psychological, spiritual existence. In the process, she keeps on oscillating between assimilating and disintegrating, which forms the core of her journey.

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The Kolkata book launch of Thwarted Escape,with eminent poet and academician Sharmila Ray, Art Rickshaw, Hindustan Park, Kolkata.

The book is available in Amazon worldwide now, and in Flipkart, an online e-retailing store in India.

Amazon links:

https://www.amazon.com/Thwarted-Escape-Immigrants-Wayward-Journey/dp/9352074254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480621429&sr=8-1&keywords=Thwarted+Escape

http://www.amazon.in/Thwarted-Escape-Immigrants-Wayward-Journey/dp/9352074254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478420969&sr=8-1&keywords=Thwarted+Escape+Lopamudra+Banerjee

Flipkart link(for readers in India):

https://www.flipkart.com/thwarted-escape-immigrants-wayward-journey/p/itmenxzywcgtt549?pid=9789352074259&srno=s_1_1&otracker=search&lid=LSTBOK9789352074259QJJJJT&qH=485274c1f834c173

Goodreads page:

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

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thwartedescapethebook/?fref=ts

 

Interview with Usha Narayanan, Author Of ‘The Secret of God’s Son’

Usha Narayanan had a successful career in advertising, radio and corporate communications before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of several books including The Madras Mangler, a suspense thriller and Love, Lies and Layoffs, a lighthearted office romance. The Secret of God’s Son is the sequel to her bestselling book Pradyumna: Son of Krishna which was published in 2015.

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The cover of ‘The Secret Of God’s Sun’

In this heart-to-heart conversation with the author, we talk about the protagonist Pradyumna, the son of Lord Krishna in her novels, ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ and ‘The Secret of God’s Son’, and other fascinating details about the theme, characterization and juxtaposition of the human and the divine that characterizes her literary work.

Lopa Banerjee: The title of the novel itself appears very intriguing to me. I would love to know what compelled you to make Pradyumna the protagonist of both your novels ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ and ‘The Secret of God’s Son’ and what came to your mind when you took up the task of writing this entire series based on his life choices?

Usha Narayanan: What inspired me was the thrill of discovering an unknown hero and the excitement of unearthing colourful tales woven around a son of Krishna. While the Mahabharata and the Harivamsa both have Krishna as the focal point, there is a wide difference in their tone and manner. The first focuses almost entirely on the human story, specifically the war between the Kurus and the Pandavas. But the puranas roam unhindered through heaven, earth and the netherworld, bringing us vivid stories of gods and demons, asuras and gandharvas. Pradyumna and his wife Maya are depicted as belonging more to this fantastical world and their lives provide more vibrant material for a fantasy. The paradox of his being both human and divine engaged my attention, as well as the possibility of exploring whether these two levels can ever meet.
Lopa Banerjee:  Your novel ‘Pradyumna’ is the mythic tale of the protagonist who endured much pain in love, which is not highlighted or mentioned much in the epic Mahabharata. When you wrote the sequel, did this same pursuit of delving into the mystery of a minor character of the epic haunt you? Can you share some of your feelings regarding this?

Usha Narayanan: The greatest love stories are tragic, often ending with the death of the protagonist and his beloved. Their path is strewn with obstacles that defy every attempt to surmount them. In the case of Pradyumna and Maya too, I could perceive many hurdles and decided to write their story using my own imagination. Maya, who is Rati reborn, awaits the rebirth of her beloved Kama, burned to ashes by Shiva for executing his duty. Rati prays ceaselessly to the gods and finally wrests a promise that Kama will be reborn as the son of Rukmini and Krishna. When Pradyumna is born, he is snatched by an asura and brought up by the asura’s wife Maya who plays the role of his foster mother. He is unaware of his original form or that he is the son of the Blue God. She frets and fumes as she tries to mould the dissolute prince into a warrior. When the truth is revealed, Pradyumna refuses to accept her as he still looks upon her as his mother. She is older than him too and the wife of the asura emperor. How this love story would develop was something that intrigued me and set my creative juices flowing.

As for the sequel, much of it is fictionalized. I followed what seemed to me the natural trajectory of their lives and their love. Now, when I read the initial reviews coming in, I am happy to see that my readers are just as thrilled with their story as I was.

Lopa Banerjee: What role did the epic Mahabharata play when you embarked on the journey of this novel? How much of the depiction is sourced from the epic and how much of it is fictionalized?

Usha Narayanan: As far as I know, Pradyumna is mentioned only a couple of times in the Mahabharata and Maya not at all. So there was not much that I could take from the epic, except for using the Kurukshetra War as a backdrop. ‘The Secret of God’s Son’ has a little more from the Mahabharata, specifically Draupadi’s vastraharan and the story of Duryodhana’s noble brother Vikarna. Of course Gandhari, the Kuru queen, plays a major role in my book as it is her curse that goads Pradyumna to undertake his  journey to Kailasa and Yamaloka. My challenge was to make the fictional sections appear to be a natural extension of our epics.

Lopa Banerjee: Does the novel also focus on the father-son dynamics between Lord Krishna and Pradyumna and their collective journey in the terrifying realm where the protagonist Pradyumna finds himself? What would you say is the foundation of this epic depiction?

Usha Narayanan: Imagine the delight and the terror you would experience if you suddenly discovered that you were the son of Vishnu’s avatar! When Pradyumna finds out this truth, he defeats and kills the tyrannical asura in whose kingdom he lives and makes his way to Dwaraka to meet his godly parents. He strives to make himself worthy of Krishna, spending every moment that he can at his feet, partaking of his wisdom. Even when he is elsewhere or in later years when Krishna leaves the earth, his father still remains his focus and his inspiration. We see Krishna too sharing deep truths with his son, knowing well that his son must continue his mission after him. The avatar shapes Pradyumna into the ultimate warrior in the cause of righteousness and an ideal purusha. We see the human side of Krishna in his interactions with his sons, his grandsons Aniruddha and Ajaya and his great grandson Vajra.

There is no foundation as such for my depiction of these relationships. I have merely followed the tradition of bards handing down stories to the next generation, along with their own flourishes!
Lopa Banerjee: The mythology sub-genre in Indian Writing in English is making major headway in the fiction publishing world. What do you think makes a mythological fiction enduring and remarkable to readers?

Usha Narayanan: Myths have a universal appeal that is not limited to India. Rick Riordan says, ‘They’ve got everything you could possibly want…mystery, treachery, murder, loyalty, romance, magic, monsters.’ The gods experience the same emotions that we do. They are jealous or greedy and do foolish things due to lust and anger. We see ourselves in them and wonder how we can attain their lofty world. Myths also bring us eternal truths wrapped up in exciting tales brimming with action, romance and divinity.

In India, we have a rich treasury of puranas that we have lost touch with, as we can no longer read them in the original Sanskrit. The old system of joint families where grandmothers told children tales of devas and asuras over dinner has become rare. When we extol superheroes like Batman or Superman, why not discover our own heroes ― be it Krishna or Pradyumna, Rama or Hanuman, Draupadi or Maya? As long as the telling is fresh and interesting, the characters are unfamiliar or looked at from a different angle, these stories will continue to charm readers aged eight to eighty.
Lopa: Wish you all success with the book, Usha Narayanan jee!

Usha Narayanan: Thank you so much, Lopa, for your original and imaginative questions. It was a delightful experience answering them. I look forward to more such interactions with you and with readers of your blog.

The ‘The Secret of God’s Son’ is available on Amazon.com:

https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Gods-Son-Usha-Narayanan/dp/0143424173/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473379617&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Secret+of+god%27s+son

Park Street

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How can my love hold him when all I have is my ebony morning,

bruised, breathing like a wrecked car? Didn’t I smell like

pungent rain when my poems scratched old wounds, and I

swirled and swirled, stumbling down into our own emaciated shadows?

My voice, the storm of heat, spinning, and spinning into spirals of words

and songs, songs that seep into the cutting edge of me, choke him.

My man, the voice dangling in my furtive black sky, the nameless,

sacred scar I wrap around my asphalt neck, bruises me.

I find him under my crushed ribs, my blood, heart

and scarlet light, waving at the splintered ME.

(Inspired by “A Losing Battle” by the phenomenal poet Kamala Das)

In between the neon lights that burn, fade and resound, in between the petal dance of footsteps and the wildflower kisses of Moulin Rouge, I trudge, forlorn, lost, unveiled. Ah yes, the perfumed streets that house the metronome beats smile at me, like a coquettish woman. The euphoria and the gluttonous poetry of Peter Cat, Flury’s, the dazzling vignettes of the hotels, bars and the VIBGYOR of the shining cafes seep into me.

“Hey, Raai, where are you off too? And when did you come to the city? Wow, one month back? Where have you put up? Didn’t even know you are here!” An old face, a flicker of a few trivial moments, an exchange of a few fading words and a slithering repartee. There, our wandering feet disperse in different routes. Do these faces emerging out of the routine crowd startle me anymore? I wonder. I flash an unaffected smile stamped on my cheeks for a few fleeting moments, babble a couple of inconsequential sentences and move on. An old intoxicating drug works on my mind’s reflexes, as I burst through the haphazard crowd of the sprawling, the innocuous, the nostalgic Park Street.

I make my trail, clogged, blocked, bursting open, in spurts. Lovers chase each other frantically, running restless, stumbling over the silvery labyrinths of the bars, nightclubs, and those unloved, chasing their mocking mirages.

Which is more sweet? The chill running down my spine as I gulp down a few more sips of the frothy margarita, the voice of the vocalist performing inside Trinca’s, the fanatic rain of the acoustic guitar he is strumming, or the taste of the kisses that that assail the lovers’ slippery mouths?

“This is a cocktail mix of a bit of gin, a few ounces of vodka, a few trickles of the juices of my fragrant love, and some more. Taste it, and don’t forget to enjoy it with a handful of cashews. Sheer bliss, you know.”

“I…I don’t think I can handle this…I never boozed ever, in my life.” A young feminine voice mutters, under her raging breath.

“Ah, you never know the magic unless you are under its spell. It’s the New Year’s Eve, my darling, don’t chain your free spirit, not today at least!”

Their trembling hands clasp each other, their breaths press heavy against each other, their ardent mouths and lips smudged in a hot lava of a lingering want, their bodies intertwined, melting in the dim, seductive silhouette of the evening. This evening, the musing of the hour when she becomes a wildflower, is mine too. This frenzied evening, she reclines in the voluptuous embrace of the first love of her life. Her womanly desires start pirouetting, surrendering to his testosterone urges. I see, I set my feet in the old, forgotten hills, valleys and creases of my own self, more ‘girlie’, more light, breezy, unblemished, years younger, with a hazel-eyed, bearded lover guy…it is just the gnashed, resurrected language of memory, where the giggling and the steam of seduction, the brushing against each other come alive, like glasses clinking with ice.

I know them all, I have seen, felt, played with them all in another life–the scented petrichor, the cocoon of the translucent light where I had deflowered myself, the fierceness of virgin passion pouring over the kohl lined eyes of the night. I have known the crescent moon spilling her ivory blood over the gushing hearts wandering, lingering in the mad mob of the New Year’s Eve. Yes, the new year it is, the ushering of yet another series of sunrises and sundown, a ritual of the joie de vivre of a broken-winged world. A world, festering, yet looking over the vicissitudes of life, today, grinning ear-to-ear, taking selfies while kissing, nibbling, limping in its dazzling light.

“Oh, well, wait a minute….who is that tall, dusky, light-feathered girl, smoking in that extreme left corner of the bar?” I move, in awkward steps, a few yards closer. She looks obtusely at the psychedelic lights and the mad, conceited footsteps and voices that surround her. A bulky, bespectacled middle-aged man seated across her in that cozy booth, tickles her feet, her knuckles, the soft mounds of her thighs peeking from the slit edges of her silken skirt.

“Isn’t she a known face, the ebony hair, the faint sparkle in those eyes spelling out old acquaintance of a familiar train route, amid the din and bustle of the Sealdah station? Putul, her nick name, and Reena, her school name that she despised?”

My fervent soul sought the petite, spirited schoolgirl I knew a decade back, tracing the curves of her eyebrows, her soft, sylvan smile which often escaped her lips when her friends surrounding her grinned and giggled, her dark, brooding eyes stirring something in my inner core.

“Do call me Putul, Raai didi, I am like your younger sister.”

“But why not Reena? It is a lovely name too. Isn’t it?” I would ask, in an irresistible bid to tease her, as we plunged our bodies and made our way amid the sweaty jostle of co-passengers in the hard, wooden seats.

I had seen her red, flustered face, the animated laughter of her school friends inside the train compartment and the irked, pissed off tone of her voice when they would tease her with a refrain in Hindi:

“Tere bin kyaa jeena/Reena, haseena, de de dil, dil de mujhko Reena.”

I remember her sharp, juvenile face glittering with an inexplicable sadness that lurked, like a sour reality rolling over and settling in the lumps of her throat. Her school friends sang medleys of Hindi songs in the antakshari game which we all played inside the train, indulgently, and she sometimes joined in the sessions, humming a few lines, albeit hesitatingly.

“Who calls you Putul at home?” I had asked her once.

“My father, my Babu. You know didi, he works in a toy manufacturing company in Howrah, and named me Putul the day I was born, the day he completed one year of his employment there.”

“And your mother? What does she call you?”

“Reena was the name my mother gave me the day she admitted me in school, rhyming with her own name, Meena. I hate both, Meena and Reena.” Her lips trembled in an unknown rage.

“But why?” I had asked, my voice awkward, trying to make sense of the looming clouds brewing inside her.

“There are boys, younger boys, men, older men who step in our house, time and again, whistling, calling out to her as ‘Meena Kumari.’ My father, Babu and she fight like cats and dogs in those dark nights, the old bed of our tiny bedroom creaks and their shouting voices tear apart my peaceful sleep. I feel like running far, far away…I cling to Babu late at night and try to fall asleep, my mother trembling, weeping…. forget it, didi. Which station is it, by the way?”

Day after day, she would emerge in the same compartment, with the same old braid, the same wrinkled, pale school uniform, the same old tattered schoolbag sitting heavy on her slender shoulders. She would drift away, slowly, unassumingly as the train came to a screeching halt in her destination.

Aren’t those the same brooding eyes, coated with layers of eye make-up and kohl, staring nonchalant, at the dim, phony surroundings? Aren’t those the same soft, feminine cheeks and pouted lips, resting beneath the cheap, lousy make-up, faintly spelling out an untold story which might never come out of her closet, unguarded?

“Putul, is it you? How are you?” I almost shout, my vain voice stumbling over the mad mirth and revelry of the evening, trying to walk a few more steps closer to where she sat. “Putul!” I wave at her and try to come even more close, as I watch her look around, following the cues of my voice, and giving me a cold, barren stare for once before looking away. The man accompanying her flirts with her nimble fingers, her torso bent against him in an unabashed surrender.

A minute or two. I keep staring at her as she dwindles in his broad arms, I suspect, under the spell of a strong alcoholic beverage. My eyes sting, as I follow them, surreptitiously, like a creepy apparition. The man shoves her body with inordinate care and takes her along, away from the cozy booth where they sat and frolicked, away from the bustling bar and walks out with her, staggering, in the neon-lit by lanes.

“Yes, yes, I will be done within a couple of hours. Give me a call back when you reach the hotel and then you can pick us up.” The man flashes a nuanced smile, attending a call on his cell phone, while with another hand, he grabs the young woman’s arms, inhaling deeply into the creases and folds of her tight, body-hugging shirt.

“Reena, hey, wake up now, baby, we are nearing the hotel, you see!” I sense him utter in her smudged ears.

I forget where I should have been by now, I forget where I am headed to, and in a frenzied zeal of discovery, I start following their trail, as the man leads her surrendering body to the dim lights of the plaza that ends at the nearby Park Hotel. Within minutes, they get lost in the labyrinths leading to the lounge and then, I know, to the forbidden, paid, momentary pleasures of the plush hotel room that the man must have booked to nibble, chew on her, suck her dry.

I run, run and run, the color and the euphoria around fading in my eyes, dangling in front of me like a monochrome landscape. I falter a number of times, trampling over the droning voices of fleshless street urchins and ebony beggar kids, torn, unbuttoned. There, in the ground that I tread now, teardrops have trickled down the cheeks of cheap, phony prostitutes whose meandering ways have been too easy to condemn, whose sultry tales have been too hard to gulp down. My palms wipe my truant tears, a frail moment of surrendering to the volatile tides of homecoming. Five years, it has been, five truant, yet cajoling new year’s eves since my old flame Bhaskar, that tall, lanky guitarist had spurred me on to my surrendering in that same booth inside Trinca’s where another Putul, another Reena smolders and burns today. Is it the same way how I had burnt years back, in hope of a heady, adventurous voyage of love, in hope of a home and a pure, glorious bed some day?

Do my tears have the same salt that have made theirs? Do my yearnings have the same wrinkles, the same stretch marks, the same glory, the same sin that have conjured theirs?

 

***********************************************************************

Young, gleeful, make-up laden faces giggle, peer over each other in the lush comforting zone of Flury’s, gorging on the buttery cakes and chocolate pastries. The warm embrace of the posh bakery adorns their saliva, and they lose themselves the wintry fog of their smudged conversations. I sit, hunched in a corner, burning in those familiar tunes, yet a few light years away from the idyllic cacophony. The bus-stop, the burst and cackle of bodies waves at me from a few yards away. I know I have a destination for now, a towering hospital building at the farthest end where these deceptive, silken lights melt and drown, a general cabin where a once noisy father stares, wordless now, lying prostrate in an overused patient bed, benumbed into a dysfunctional reality.

The dark, chocolatey crumbs of the black forest cake of Flury’s melt in my hungry mouth, and a freshly lit incense of a guileless childhood returns. A childhood when the father brought in our suburban home heavenly slices of the same cake, culinary delights from the same bakery shop and wove stories of the opulence of the New Years’ Eve party in Park Hotel where he would join his colleagues, get a bit drunk, forcefully, and return home with a hangover he would be unwilling to admit.

“How are you feeling today, Baba? Any better?”

I enter the room he is in, overlooking the window, from which he stares at the silhouettes of the vast expanse outside. He nods, in half-acceptance, half-denial, as always, since he has been on the rehab session of the neurology unit, hanging vicariously in the thin rope of a diminishing memory.

“Do you remember the date? It is the 31st December, the New Year’s Eve, you should have seen the lights of park street today, such a sight!” I see the glimmering streaks of a faint remembrance pushing the boundaries of his dementia-affected brain. He smiles, and winks at me.

“Now, now….be a good boy and eat a slice of this cake I bought for you…remember Flury’s? How does it taste like?” I gaze at his moist eyes, and wipe off his tear-laden cheeks, and while I do all the talking in the somber hospital room, I fill his mouth with small crumbs of the cake, one little spoon at a time, and wait for his brain to convey its aroma, its essence, the fleeting atoms of its memories.

“See…how you smile! You do remember having it before, right? Now can you say ‘Happy new year’ loud and clear?”

“Happy new year…” his feeble, jittery voice reverberates in the room, cutting through the raw wounds, the rough-hewn edges of a frail, long lost childhood, swaying in the arid air between us. “Happy new year” is the only coherent phrase he can utter, for now, while swaying his head in the warm, monitored confines of the hospital room. I can feel him silently questioning the year, the happenings around, the years that have passed in between. The grey clouds of anger, making up, the losses and the revival that he had chased for all those years have dispersed, and what remains is a tiny blob of a moment in time.

“Seven more days, I think, and you can take him back home with some medicines and don’t forget to continue the restorative therapies, though dementia is an incurable ailment. Try treating him as you treat a young toddler, and take one day at a time….and yes, happy new year! Go and celebrate.” Dr. Abir Roy, the young, muscular neuro-therapist squeezes my hands as we stand close to the elevator, and share meaningful glances, those of empathy and the hint of a reassuring love, waiting to eclipse me if I ever respond to it, willingly.

“You have my number, Raai. Hope you will keep in touch once you take him back home. I will wait.” His parting words slice through the cold silence of the hospital and linger in my head while I meander in the streets, looking for a cab that will drive me back, further north, to an empty, hollow home.

……“Raai didi, it is me, please take me in, I am Ree…ummm, Putul. I am stranded alone here; ekta taxi-o jete raji hochchhe na (no taxi is willing to give me a ride).”

I am startled for seconds, shaken out of my pendant thoughts. My heart thumps loud in my chest, not the least bit prepared for this unforeseen finale to the evening. I give a silent nod to the driver, as he opens the door to the cab’s back seat where I sit, huddled in a corner, my face, my nose perched on the open window, inhaling the evening revelry of my festive city. She sits next to me in the backseat, just as she would sit in the train compartment years back, the shy, hesitant schoolgirl, and we both remain silent, our minds fumbling with the proper words to start any exchange, whatsoever.

“Didi, should I take you via B.T. Road, or do you want another route?

She was the one to speak first. “B.T. Road dhoro, bhai. I will get down at Dunlop.” And then, for the first time in the car, she grabbed my hands.

“You are angry on me, na? You called me, back there in Trinca’s, and I couldn’t…. kotodin pore dekha bolo to? (Imagine how long it’s been that we met?)”….she paused, and gulped the choking silence between us. “How are you, Raai didi?”, she enquired, with an ineffable warmth that has evaded me for long.

“What about that man you were with, in Trinca’s, who escorted you to the hotel? Wasn’t he supposed to give you a ride back home?” The spineless jerk! I mutter, wordless, under my breath.

She paused, let out a sigh, and suddenly broke open in peals of laughter. “Oh, that old ox, Mr. Bajaj? His wife called him back home… there has been a family emergency, with his mother-in-law having a sudden massive stroke! He quickly ran back home. You should have seen his face, didi, right at the moment when he was having the fun of his life!”

I gulped down a big lump and it settled in my throat, awkward, painful. When had she initiated herself in this murky adult world, this point of no return?

She added, as if reading my thoughts instantly.“He used to come to my mother some time back, until his eyes caught a fancy for me a couple of years back, and Ma relented…chharo didi, they are all the same, but their papered notes smell fresh and tempting, and those are what truly matter….

She looks out at the window of the cab, forlorn, lost. “I will go to visit Babu tomorrow, let’s see if I can surprise him on the first day of the new year.” She suddenly says.

“Where is he? Don’t you stay together anymore?” The feeling of disbelief tickles my throat.

“No didi, not any more, since our old house was pawned, following his lay-off from the toy factory. Ma had arranged for a small flat in the Dunlop area from Mr. Bajaj, and we stay there now….you won’t really mind if I take a couple of dregs, will you? She takes out a pack of cigarettes from her bag. “Babu is in a rehabilitation center near Nimta since the last five years, his deranged brain driving him to substance abuse and what not!” The cab speeds past the mad, dizzy streets and trudges along the busy highways. “Shaala haraami!” She cusses, looking disdainfully at the huge traffic ahead of us.

“But what about you, Raai didi? Didn’t you leave Kolkata with a job quite some years back, the last time I heard about you? So, you are back, finally? And did you marry yet?” She gazed at me intently, her unbridled curiosity killing me, one stroke at a time.

“Yes, I left, five years ago, but I have just been back…” I sigh, and flash an inconsequential smile, then pat her back as my parting gesture. “Bhai, please stop me right here.” I instruct the driver to halt in the bumpy lanes, leading to my new North Kolkata home. “And do drop her safely in Dunlop, please.” I pay him the taxi fare, and wave at her for one last time, looking into her questioning eyes throwing darts at me, as I cross the street and keep walking towards my empty nest.

How would it have been if I had lifted the fog of secrets hovering over my life in suburban Mumbai where I had been lured by Bhaskar, my first love, to the slippery quagmire of a bar singer’s life? How would it have been if I would tell her of the endless evenings and nights when my voice had rained songs, one after the other? Did anyone know back then, that none of the ears listening to them felt how I kept burning, while offering them a plastic, unreal slice of myself.

“Listen, Raai, you have to abort the baby, we really have no choice than to wipe out this ‘mistake’ we committed….just give both of us a few more years to make more money; then, we might marry and have a family. OK? Happy, baby?” His calculated words, his sly, manipulative stances had carried sparklers, illuminating my pensive soul, while both of us tried in our own, unique ways to climb the tight rope that leads to a glitzy, yet thorny musical life. How would it have been if Putul knew the storm, the deluge that ripped apart the love nest I had built with him in the evening when I had to succumb in a stranger’s arms inside a dingy, half-lit studio?  Ah well, an agent in the music industry, promising to give us both our first big breaks must have his own rightful share, isn’t it so?

“It’s really not a big issue, you know, certainly not worth crying and whining, if you want this deal to be struck.” Bhaskar had grabbed me from behind, kissing the nape of my neck that night, begging of me to let go. And yes, I did let go, for quite a long time, I did believe a home with him would be possible at the end of this crooked journey, once we both would find our moorings in the music industry. I did believe, till the day I found him burying himself in the quagmire, choosing the easy route of an agent supplying pretty females to his co-called ‘musical’ clients.

“It is not easy for any of us, Putul, it has not been easy, being on this fiery trip, scalding from scalp to toes, yet never giving up on the chance to find the closures of our journey. I came back to find a closure to mine, and I am sure in a few years, you will find yours’, as well.” I knew the tracks of our lives were forged together, by the battles that we had lost, the battles we might win some day.

Interviewing Varsha Dixit: author of ‘Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right’

Artwork_Editable

Varsha Dixit is the bestselling author of contemporary romance. ‘Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right’ her latest book released in August 2016. To find out more about Varsha and her books visit her website http://www.varshadixit.com.

Twitter: @Varsha20

It was a pleasure and honor to interview her as a new member of The Book Club, hosted by the prolific blogger and author Rubina Ramesh. To know more about TBC, log on to: http://www.tbcblogtours.com/

Lopa Banerjee: Hello Varsha, very nice to know about your upcoming book ‘Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right’. It would be my pleasure to ask you a few questions regarding the theme, title and other aspects of this novel.

The title of the book “Rightfully Wrong, Wrongfully Right” appears to be very intriguing and smells of quite a bit of suspense too. What made you choose this one, and what can the readers expect from the novel?
Varsha Dixit: Thank you Lopa for asking an interesting question. The title is apt for the protagonists, Gayatri Dutta and Viraj Dheer.  They both sometimes have right reasons for committing wrong acts but somehow their wrongs make them so right for each other. The book is a love story but this time the love is steamy, bold and manipulative.
Lopa Banerjee: How would you define the two protagonists of the novel, Viraj and Gayatri? Is this book a journey of their exploration of each other, and the conflicting realities they face on the way?

Varsha Dixit: Gayatri Dutta and Viraj Dheer, are feisty, strong headed and very determined. Gayatri Dutta, a rich, spoiled diva, is fighting to establish herself even as her tyrant father pushes her into a life not of her choice. Viraj is a genius and a con who shuns society and its hypocrisies. Gayatri sees Viraj only as a means to an end. For Viraj, Gayatri is the epitome of all that he despises. So when their paths cross, it is a battle of wills, desire and sparks shoot off.
Lopa Banerjee: What do you think about contemporary romance novels, romantic thrillers, and the sexy, haunting variety of romantic tales? Do you think your book RWWR conveys a strong tale, pertaining to these categories of fiction? If yes, what would you say is the USP of the book?

Varsha Dixit: My stories probably vary from others books in the romance genre for my stories are not only about romance. They are about friendships, about families and about society. My stories are a genuine effort, on my part, to provide the milieu of readers, young and old, with a humorous read, without overlooking the intelligence and thinking quotient of our personalities. The USP of Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right are the protagonists. They are not sweet, simpering or wholly good. Often they come on the wrong side of right. J
Lopa Banerjee: How is the story/the narrative journey in your latest book different from your two earlier bestsellers, Right Fit Wrong Shoe and Wrong Means Right End? How do you think you have evolved in your storytelling, post the publications of these two books, and how would you describe your writing journey keeping in mind these bestsellers?

Varsha Dixit: Friendships have always played a very important role in my life and continue to do so. Friends are the family we choose and I have to say I chose well. My ‘Right and Wrong’ series is about three friends, three different women in three different phases of their lives. ‘Right Fit Wrong Shoe’ was about a small town simple girl, ‘Wrong Means Right End’ was about a divorced young mom and ‘Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right’ is about Gayatri Dutta, the woman who has gone out of her way to mess up other people’s life. Now it is the reader’s turn to know the ‘how’ and ‘why’ about Gayatri and the mad scientist, Viraj Dheer.
Lopa Banerjee: Do you believe in happy endings when you pen romance novels, or would you be ready to experiment with a more shady, somber finale for your novels? Why do you think happy endings work most with the audience, and are you comfortable with the trend?

Varsha Dixit: I like happy endings for my characters. If I were to describe myself, I would say I have a pretty sunny disposition so that makes it even harder for me to write bleak plots. In my second book, Xcess Baggage , I kept the ending a cliffhanger – the gal and the guy did not meet. To this day, six years later, my readers write to me extremely upset and sad that Meghna and Byron did not meet. How could I leave them separated? It was cruel on my part etec. So I think post that I just find it easier to sleep if my characters have a HEA (happily every after).

Also, for romance genre happy endings usually work for they bring a positive closure to the readers. They are like comfort food, they make the readers feel good from inside.

Thank you Lopa for hosting me on your blog and for asking such interesting questions.

 

 

Book Review: The Haunting and Other Stories by Dr. Sunil Sharma

Published by: Authorspress. 2016

ISBN-10: 9352072723

ISBN-13: 978-9352072729

168 Pages Haunting_Cover image 

‘The Haunting and Other Stories’, a collection of short stories by Dr. Sunil Sharma, an extremely erudite professor of English, author, poet and editor starts off in an almost fable-like manner, weaving a story within a story narrated by a nine-year-old child, combining the elements of fantasy, folklore, adventure and the stark, seething world of our everyday realities. The reality of the daily ignominies of a struggling labor class family slaps us hard on the face, with the deep, haunting narrative of human trafficking that takes us to a grueling voyage to the city’s vicious underbellies. A widespread, crude, vicious world is woven with the author’s dexterous use of images that cement the apparently disparate worlds of Laxmi and Tanya, the burgeoning, sedate upper class and the trampled, anguished working class, and at the end of the story, their worlds collide in the subtly symbolic, allegorical way of storytelling.

In the stories that follow, including ‘A Teen Daughter’ and ‘An Indian Police Station: A Philosophical Thought’, ‘At The Party And After’, we see the subtle and timeless manifestations of various multi-faced urban voices that coalesce as a collective consciousness. The voices, that of the anguished daughter missing her mother in a critical, apathetic parochial family, the harrowed woman trapped inside the police station, looking into the inherent doom and catastrophe of humanity inside the surroundings, the bespectacled bald loner trapped as an odd display amid a vain, wealthy social gathering are pitted against each other as emblems of diminishing humanity, of a skeptic and brutal moral world where essential human values are dead and replaced by a sinister, decaying reality. The collective psyche of the protagonists of each individual story embraces a subtle, essential suffering, the suffering of a burdened human existence. The burden of the mutilation of a world of emotions, a world of deep-rooted human values lies heavy on their shoulders.

The protagonist of the story ‘At The Party And After’ mutters to himself over phone: “I am unwanted everywhere…In my family, by my brothers and sisters. In my office, in my neighborhood…..” In an interior monologue that follows, the author sums up his plight. “He knew he was trapped inside a hopeless social situation….he felt he was neither inside or outside. He did not belong…. felt like a permanent outsider.” With deft strokes, here the author highlights the pain, the alienation and the internal crisis of the ones living on the fringes of an emerging Indian society, a merciless, ruthless and banal society.

In the story ‘Borderless’, the fluid, multi-faceted visages of humans intersect with each other in a surreal, almost seductive journey into the Alphs, where each of the travelers, including the protagonist discovers his self-identity in an uncharted territory miles and miles away from their ancestral moorings. In the process, he, along with his co-travelers, rediscovers the true meaning and essence of ‘home’. “Janaab, home is where you truly get a feeling of belonging. Where you are able to do what you want to do. Where you feel respected, wanted and loved. Not a place, even if it is one’s home country, where there is always a sense of dread amongst the people and in the streets.” The introspective lines from Sahil, the immigrant from Pakistan sums up the human need for looking into the essence of our self-identities as integral parts of a country, a race or in terms of an overarching humanitarian landscape that defies spatial boundaries. Also, as humans, we are trapped into a lot of human-constructed parameters, and the evils of those parameters keep lurking from the nooks and crannies, the fissures and crevices of our mundane urban existence, which is evident in the immensely sad, dichotomous depiction of the urban India he portrays in this rich, dynamic collection of stories.

For me, personally, some of the most haunting depictions of the collection include the fictitious young waiter at the wayside hotel, who later is transformed into a ruthless hunter, the vulnerable, emotionally fraught parents of the little girl Smita in ‘Change’ who disguises herself as a boy in a desperate bid to earn acceptance and love from her gender-biased parents, the ruthless male chauvinist tormentor Sukumaran and his coy, timid wife Sudha in the story ‘Dream’, the guileless Ram Babu and his vain wife who had to pay an extreme price for her frailties and life choices in ‘Second Chance’. The author’s touching, gripping vision of suffering of the urban characters takes us readers on an unforgettable voyage, where he explores the dwindling emotional fabric of humanity. In the entire short story collection, the characters, images and their subtle representations are born out of the inimitable passion and instinct of the author/storyteller consumed in their complex, emotionally fraught microcosm. These are the stories that draw us to our own dark pits, where the author weaves the urbane human journeys of getting lured and sucked into common human frailties.

While the emotional journeys of the characters and their subtle epiphanies are riveting and profound, the author’s depiction of those journeys are unique and remarkable, as he leads us to some quintessential universal truths through those journeys, with his deft, inimitable use of images and metaphors. The images and metaphors are mostly the nucleus of these poignant narratives, and through them, Dr. Sunil Sharma, the academic and the author weaves his open-ended, deep, visually rich stories with a highly discerning emotional lens. Through this lens, he reflects on the decomposing fabric of a contemporary India, pitted against the relentless struggles of a socially conscious author.

The book is highly recommended for lovers of literary fiction, for those who love the presence of a subtle intertextuality running through seemingly benign narratives, also for those who love layered, canonical reproductions of literary classics with a subtle and unthinkable twist.

 

The Amazon link to buy the book:

http://www.amazon.in/Haunting-Other-Stories-Sunil-Sharma/dp/9352072723