Jinxed Interlude: Short Story

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Tireless, she meandered. The city, a painted whore with her chipped off nail polish, her smudged kohl that seeped into the burst of the echoing calls, her smashed lips, gnawing. The cars cruised their way into the zigzagging highways. The numbness burnt her, as she shrunk, slowly, surreptitiously, into a shadow of dark circles, seething, lingering in columns of smoke, burnt out conversations and the stinking froth of forgotten kisses.

dark rain

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Image Source: imgarcade.com

The mist and the sporadic orphaned tears that stung in Amrita’s eyes, appeared known, all over again. But why? Hadn’t the grief that had birthed it, long been murdered? There, she had emerged under the same flyover, five years later, looking with her intent, yet distant eyes at the people swarming out of tunnels and chaos, sweating, swearing cuss words, waving hands, smoking.

“Was it here that I discovered Joydeep first, in that dainty little coffee shop, where the chaos of unknown voices spiraled out of control?”

“Was it here that my curls went flying with the unrestrained peals of laughter when we celebrated our first year of dating each other?”

“Was it here that we left our entwined skins in a wreck of washed out memories, amputating our existential texts?”

“Was it here that our differences and distances soared, sinister, dark, between the burst of our growing silences?” She asked herself in between the abrupt halts of traffic signals, shuddering, as she tried holding on to the embers, long frozen.

“What was the silk rope that tied me to him and his professed love?” She thought. It did bruise when she wrote her last love letter in a plea before splitting up; it did bruise when their fingers and lips slipped into each other, into the metric lines of the poem of their thwarted union.

Back at home, the relationship wasn’t a secret anymore, where every single soul asked her if she was really ‘committed’ to that wayward, bohemian indie musician guy who refused to have a career apart from his touring rock band.

“Have you ever thought if it is a momentary whim without a sound future for any of you? Have you gone nuts, thinking you can walk out any time with a worthless, aimless boy while you don’t even know if he is capable of providing for you? …Well, so you are going to provide for him, is that the idea? How do you think it can work?”

She gulped in all of it, occasionally creating a havoc, shouting her heart out, occasionally choosing to brush it all aside, till the last day they met at their most frequented park.

“Joy, Can you please return all the letters I had written you in the mad haze of these years? I don’t think you will need those thousand stupid lines anymore. Lines about our future summer rental in a virgin, Gothic island with an ochre pool where kingfishers swim, where granules of strawberry and pink roses swim in the tranquil water. Lines about our future twins, a boy and a girl who appear and vanish with swift switchboard clicks, whose cherubic bodies sway, wax and wane on a leafy swing, the boy and the girl carved in our mashed up images, in our bones, blood and the palette of my primal wants….”

She handed him another letter, this, the last one.

“I do not know what to say if you insist on breaking up today, right now. Only let me take your hand in mine, for one last time before you let me blow away in smithereens.”

“Do let me go.” She had pleaded, her mind scrubbing hard to wipe out their censured years of being together.

At the New Year’s Eve party, in the heady concoction of cocktail drinks and enthused friends lurking in between smudged teardrops that she rubbed off, vigorously, she covered up with fake grins and smiles. Her throat exploded as she gulped the thorny pain. Those were the friends, the faces who had conjoined both their fates, those were the ones who watched them twittering, chirping in the magic spell of the silhouetted evenings. Those were the faces, voices who engaged and disengaged themselves in various phases of their turbulent love song of three years.

“….Ah, look at them, don’t they look snugly fit in each other’s arms, aren’t they just made for each other, a picture-postcard couple?”

“…..A very happy three years’ anniversary of being together, Joy and Amrita, officially, as a couple. When are the marriage bells ringing? When do we get to have the big fat treat?”

“….Look, don’t you think you should take charge of things and move on? When is this guy going to talk to your parents and ask for your hand in marriage? Or, are you guys going to just live together without legal encumbrances?”

“….You know, just cry your heart out, today, for one last time, and leave it all behind you.” The voice of an old friend, a bestie, for that matter, and the pale crimson light of the large, dark room emerged in her eyes, and the words, bulging, buoyant, choked her. Those were the several voices, distant, near, playful, indolent, soppy, withering, swimming across the dark undercurrents of the ocean she plunged into, half-forgotten names, faces fermenting in the restless undulations.

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

To be continued…

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The Broken Home: Translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s Novella ‘Nastanirh’ in Amazon

Hello dear friends, it is my pleasure to let you know that my first solo book of translation, ‘The Broken Home’, the English translation of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s magnum-opus novella ‘Nastanirh’ made its debut in Amazon today, published by FinalDraft Editing & Publishing Services. The novella had been made into an award-winning film ‘Charulata’ by none other than the Oscar-winner filmmaker of India, Satyajit Ray.

Glad to share with you the link to the book (Kindle edition) and the details regarding the book.

Cover Design: Aneesh Chatterjee. Acknowlegments: Kaberi Dutta Chatterjee, Mosarrap Hossain Khan and Bhaswati Ghosh (editing)

Wish me luck with this journey of mine, friends!The Broken Home_Cover

The Amazon links to buy the book:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FWMBGN0

https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01FWMBGN0

The Goodreads.com page of the book:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30240285-the-broken-home?search_version=service

Nastanirh, the 1901 Bengali novella by Rabindranath Tagore, takes place in late 19th-century Bengal and explores the lives of the “Bhadralok”, Bengalis of wealth who were part of the Bengal Renaissance and highly influenced by the Brahmo Samaj. Despite his liberal ideas, Bhupati is blind to the loneliness and dissatisfaction of his wife, Charu. It is only with the appearance of his cousin, Amal, who incites passionate feelings in Charu, that Bhupati realizes what he has lost.
It is the basis for the noted 1964 film Charulata, by Satyajit Ray.
Lopamudra Banerjee, the noted writer, takes on the responsibility to translate the novella in English for the benefit of the Tagore-hungry world.

Hope you would enjoy reading the book!

DeJa Vu

FOR # NAPOWRIMO #
 
You and me have traveled that tattered soil before,
Look how its nameless rocks beckon us.
The streets, like molten lava, the harvest moon
Bleeding, the chipped edges calling out our names.
 
You and me have drifted, swallowed our distances
of several different births. Had this land devoured us
When we dipped our rusty nails in waxy sands?
Look how we resurface, our unfinished story ablaze in the land.
 
Look, how the lamp still burns, I encase your warmth, flickering.
I track your musky breath in the city’s labyrinth.
The sepia temple echoes my grief in crushed ashes.
The vermilion, smudged, straining, awaits our hushed voices.
 
Look how the sand stones carve our last, intertwined breaths.
Look how the ruptured skins of our memories
dance, splutter around the wet, rainy fields.
Do you see those kohl-rimmed teardrops, pirouetting in the rain?
 
Do you see the jagged edges of the river banks where we slept?
Your silver touch, licking my dark spots, my sun-kissed orchard?
Look how the river song seeks us again, surreptitious, vicarious,
Come, let us hold hands and plunge, nude, surrendering.

Don’t Fret

[Inspired by the award-winning Bengali film ‘Nirbashito’ (The Exiled), a directorial debut by Churni Ganguly, based on the exile of the fiery feminist writer/poet of Bangladesh, Taslima Nasreen, followed by a riot in Bangladesh resulting in the banning of her radical literary works.]

She doesn’t fret her jagged journey, not anymore now. She had questioned who the intruders were, once, when they pounced in her den, but she knew her voice and her dissent were cursed; she was walking, threadbare, on thorns.

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image source: Wallpaperup.com

She kissed the silken weaves of her verses, her blasphemous words, when servants of bureaucracy shoved her in a black, indefinite pit. The route to her exile was preordained– they blindfolded her in a black scarf and off she went, peeled and chipping away, to a faraway land, an exile where she didn’t know if her runny ink would scribble those fiery words anymore.

In the cold land, sheathed in her exile, she froze, imagining loose papers in her bedspread and craving to burst open in verse, her fearless lover who would never cease to make love to her, his masculine musk lingering in her thirsty lips, her navel, her abdomen.

The aroma and the sting of the words, tugging, tucked in her, had come out like froth, in shameless confessions of a girl in puberty, seduced by her uncle, tainted by her own kith and kin. The words wandered in the pages, wayward, dangling in the crimson, auburn, blue, green scattered splotches, scraping, tearing her chastity to pieces as her voice shone in them, unfolding her life.

The tags had come along, hurling in quick succession: “What a bitch! What a shameless zenana who talks about desires, unzips femininity, abuses the holy Quran, befriends, sleeps around with men, and more vicious, pens them with such deft brazenness!”

“We want her head! Burn her printed hell, choke her voice, strip her naked!” The rulers of a fanatic Bangladesh howled, ablaze, its flames catching up fast, relentless, in the sweltering Kolkata air. The docile young girls, brides, rubbing fairness creams in their tensed, taut faces, looked at the Television screens, eyes transfixed, gauging the fire, and the castigation of a woman, a human from their own ilk who dared to spit fire, the fire burning her rebellion to ashes.

In the icy, ghostly exile where she survived, amid foreign friends, she stumbled upon the looming sky, the strange, asymmetric beauty of alien tongues and the river’s foaming rush. Her furtive mind wandered in the quicksand of her dissolved childhood days at the banks of the river Padma, her feet itched to bleed again, burst in a naïve rhapsody in the cracked tiles of her childhood home in Mymensingh.

They had usurped her pen, her writing tools, but the rush of words pressed against her pounding breasts, in the dead hush of the night. Words tiptoed and wrote themselves in surreptitious caverns of the mind. “Do you weep for my red sari, my girly grins? Does your turmeric-stained kitchen seek me still? Do you miss my salty breath, tied around you like a fish bait?” She asked her old house, touching its blood and bones with her unwritten words.

“Don’t fret, if words fail you.” She told herself. “They will be rewritten; even if the fingers are battered, twisted. They will come back to you in splurges of want; lick your fingers and your sari like the lone cat you had nursed.”

She had gulped them all, the crisscrossing traffic, the haywire sky, the wild flowers and the alphonso mangoes of Bengal. The umbilical cord could never be severed; amid indefinite injunctions, the earthy soil of its being spilled over her, in spurts.

“I will come back to you; even if not in glitters of famed sunlight, I will come back to the pleats and braids of my girlhood. Even if in dark fringes of my solitude, I will come back to you. If not as a softly humming maid, I will come back to you as a hummingbird, or a night owl, and together we will scrub our wounds.”

The pale, dusky clouds in the European sky took in the vapor of her furtive words. She knew, they had to rain; they had to churn a teary cauldron in another part of the world, a motherland that had banished her unruly daughter.

Review of Defiant Dreams: by Jean Spraker

Hello friends, it is a pleasure to share a wonderfully written, intensive and thought-provoking review of Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas, a collection of stories about woman protagonists that I have the privilege of co-editing with my friend Rhiti Bose. The review, written by Jean Spraker, our friend from a thriving writing community in Facebook, For Writers By Authors, started out with wonderfully engaging twitter posts about each individual story in the collection and what, according to her, makes them linger in her psyche. The way she dissected each story with her sensitive, powerfully analytic lens was commendable, to say the least, and here she follows it up with a brilliant overview of the book, analyzing its strengths and also its flaws. WE the editors and authors of Defiant Dreams are grateful to you, Jean, for your masterful observation and analysis.

Defiant Dreams_book

The cover of Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas, published Readomania. 

Sharing excerpts of the review here:

About the book

Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas is a short story collection from Incredible Women of India, an online magazine that features life stories of everyday women. In 2015, Incredible Women conducted a short story contest called Stree. The contest had more than 100 entries from across India and beyond. 24 authors were chosen to contribute to Defiant Dreams.

To read the entire review, do visit this page in Jean Spraker’s website:

Review: Defiant Dreams

Do grab a copy of the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Defiant-Dreams-Tales-Everyday-Divas/dp/9385854046/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1451409685&sr=8-3&keywords=Defiant+Dreams

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Short Story, first published in my blog in B’Khush, dated January 5, 2015

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She was a new bride, draped in the vermilion light of the day.  The crimson red scattered in  shreds in her hair, locked in a bun, all the way to her forehead and nose, breathed of a newly forged, sanctioned communion of love. Love was solidified by the family priest with the burning embers of fire and the rigorously uttered Hindu wedding mantras. Her hands, holding on to the grains of the puffed rice shivered as they were held by the groom’s, standing erect, eager, behind her.

marriage_love

Image source:

tribune.com.pk 

Aguner poroshmoni chh(n)owaao praaney

E jeebon punyo koro, e jeebon punyo koro dohon daane

(Let the flames of the holy fire touch our souls/Let us be sacred in the fire, let us be beautiful, complete in burning).

She breathed, shallow, forlorn, trying to chase the intangible bubbles that she could see, sprouting out of time’s indelible conspiracy. Her hands, tied around the groom’s hands with a sacred red thread were squeezed, grabbed by a pair of arduous male hands inside the transient dark of the movie theaters; the snug comfort of the cabs after dusk sheathed the city and its desperate lovers in its silhouetted beauty. Her hands grasped his and spoke volumes to him while she would board the train back home, the whistle blowing as the young lovers would take in the dense breeze of departure. “Wish you a safe journey. Call me once you reach home”.

Together with the groom, she melted in the fire and the cacophony of the Vedic chants, as her uncle offered the bride to the groom in the ritual of Sampradan. “Bor khub shundor dekhte, Sukanya (The groom is really handsome, Sukanya). Lucky you, and see, the sindoor spilled over your nose too.” An elderly aunt, holding in her arms a truant toddler boy, came close to her, trying to fix her tilted topor (crown).

She watched the noisy children, the guests gathered in clusters, the austerity of the priest and the earnestness of the groom, a stealthy drop of tear or two pushing past her rouged cheekbones. Sukanya Bakshi chewed on the last slices of her maiden identity, her first real date in the old, nameless alleys of College Street, the fruitlessness of nibbling on the secretly scribbled pages of her life with Aniruddha, the notes of togetherness, intimate, unguarded moments, promises wincing at her in the solemnity of the rituals.

“Ki korchhish ki? (What are you doing, you crazy girl?) Don’t rub it off your nose! You know it’s the testimony to long-lasting love!”

Ayan, the groom, gave her stealthy glances of unbridled desire, an anxious, yet rehearsed one filled with a sense of urgency and a surge of newfound love, admiration and promises of a conjugal life that he had waited for, all these months of this neatly arranged, telephonic courtship. The marriage registrar was there in time, the affidavit and the legalities solemnized with immediate, extended family members, an array of people of various ages and sizes, munching on delectable food, the aroma and festivities of the night.

(2)

Across the crowded room of Ayan Mitra’s ancestral north Kolkata house, her fate stumbled. Sukanya Mitra, a brighter moon with the aanchal of her pink Benarasi sari tangled with her new husband’s wedding attire, scurried through the unfamiliar faces, the claustrophobic walls, the alleys, the forlorn shrubs and the narrow verandah. Her kohl-laden eyes, taking in the pandemonium, the nascent constellation of relatives, neighbors, acquaintances, settled in the ground beneath her feet, where the women of the house prepared a rectangular wooden ‘jalchauki’. Her alta-clad, crimson feet followed every minute gesture, every miniscule ritual they were immersed in, as they welcomed her to the house with paddy, durba and a pan of simmering, boiling milk. She watched the night in its dancing shadows, the whirlpool of revelries, the series of the rituals performed on her, while Ayan pried over her, died to hold her, touch her amidst the strictures and the never-ending customary occurrences.

“Just one more night, and you will, fully, completely be mine”, he had whispered in Sukanya’s ears, aching with the weight of the heavy, vintage gold earrings.

“Do you think, I will ever be able to completely belong to Ayan?” She had asked her best friend Soma over a cup of coffee, the day they went to shop for her wedding.

“Well, you know, you can’t absolutely belong to anybody, no matter how close you are in the relationship.” Soma smiled, looking at her furtive, questioning eyes. “But you will surely bond, over time. Just give that much time to him, to yourself and you will be fine.”

“You know, I’ve asked myself the same questions about Ani. Was he ever mine? If any part of me truly belongs to him, how could he let me go?”

“May be, yes, may be a part of him really belongs to you, Sukanya.” Soma replied, as both friends walked hand-in-hand amid the din and clatter, the evening rush of the Gariahat market. Soma had seen the lovers ebb and flow in their five years of togetherness. She had seen it all happen as both of them met, for a beat, a fleeting thought, a happenstance, a chained turn of events spurred on by serendipity, which looked like a lifetime of dreams.

They knew all along, this had to happen. Somewhere, down the line, he didn’t think marriage would necessarily solidify the belonging. She had cursed him for months, refused to speak to him, discarded him as a bohemian, as a coward, got herself strips of sleeping pills, promised herself their paths would never cross again, but none of that worked to ease her pain one bit. For some journeys, like this, she knew the cessation may remain undefined.

Years back, on a gleaming Diwali evening, Sukanya had fluttered in her pink chiffon salwar suit, her hands sweated as they held Ani’s in an act of complete, unquestioned surrender inside the cozy confines of his two bedroom apartment in Ballygunge. The smell of the house and its walls, the indoor plants, the aroma of food and of Ani’s lips, thrusting within hers, the world of Paulo Coelho, Neruda, Marquez, Che Guevara, Ravi Shankar, Jimmy Hendrix, which inhabited her dream for days before she set her first footsteps in the house, were all hers. The moments, at once spare and lush, the faint promise of rain inside her, were all hers.

“What’s your name again?” Aniruddha’s mother had asked her, curtly, as they both raced up the stairs leading to the terrace.

“Sukanya Bakshi.”  She had answered, coyly.

“It’s a crazy night outside, Sukanya. It won’t be safe for you to stay here for long. Babu will go with you and see you off at the station.” His mother replied.

“What happened to you, Su? Why such a sorry face? Didn’t you like our house much?”

“Ki pagol-er moton bokchhish (You talk crazy, man)!” She had retorted, her face buried in Aniruddha’s chest in a secret nook of their terrace. “I was thinking if your mom even liked me one bit. She didn’t seem to talk to me much.”

“Who? My Ma? Don’t you bother about that. Ma is bindaas, she likes all my friends, tokeo bhalobashbe (will love you too).”

“But am I only a ‘friend’, Ani? Can’t I even think of a future, of a life with you, in this house?”

“Of course you can, Su, but if I would ever have to build a nest with us anywhere, it would be in the hills. I had told you before too.”

“But I want to get real now, Ani. I would want to ask you today, after almost three years of seeing you, when will you be prepared to take me in your life?”

“But you are there in my life, in every possible way, aren’t you?”

“I am asking you to really take me in your life, to marry me, damn it! I can’t get clearer than that,

can I?”

“You can surely ask that, the way you all are conditioned and brainwashed to think of a relation culminated in the institution of marriage. I have told you over and over again that my love for you is greater than these pre-conceived ideas of conformity.”

“It is finally going to be over between us, then. From now, from today. I’ve tried to call it a day so many time before, Ani, but couldn’t. In all these years, I couldn’t”….In between incessant tears, her voice muffled. “It’s useless now Ani. All these years I’ve fooled myself to think, maybe you’ll change, but you won’t!”

“Listen, don’t do this to me, Su. It pains me as much as it does you, believe me if you can.” His hands usurped her, took her in the pulsating warmth of his chest, as she tried, vainly, to move away. “Now, listen to me. You know I have been working freelance for a couple of non-profits in the North East. I will be off and on, shuttling between both places for some time now. And you’ve got to believe that your love will be the anchor, wherever I will sail.”

“In a way, it will be good for both of us. This distance will teach me to yearn less for you, to live my life without you.”

“Do you really think it is that easy? Is it all conditioned?”

“Listen, Su. I understand what you are going through, every day. It is not easy for you to tolerate your parents’ abuse every time we try to meet, or talk over the phone. But I know I can’t be acceptable, by their standards.”

Once again, under the asphalt sky, amid the fire crackers and the lit-up houses, love breathed, wrenching and restoring, the pulsating heartbeats in sync, in tune with the cryptic music of the night. “I want you to remember that ours is a sacred journey, whether or not we continue to walk, hand-in-hand, through it.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It was not the forbidden apple that Eve had tasted when her world changed forever. There, in the soiree of fragrant flowers meticulously decorated in their nuptial bed, she was weightless, surrendering. “There’s a sense of salvation in this sanctioned intimacy, no heartbreak, no obligation”, Sukanya thought to herself in between the relentless, smothering lovemaking. Ayan had a past of his own, his girlfriend at IIT had ditched him for another batch mate. “We will work together as man and wife to get over our losses”, he promised, the day they became formally engaged. “Who was Aniruddha?” She asked herself that day. A non-conformist, confused writer, photographer, crusader who never got himself a regular job, never really ‘left’ her, an impatient beau who really never wanted anything permanent with her, an old scar she unconsciously kept scratching, a dark fog of memories, threatening to cover her? In all these months leading up to this marriage, she knew everything she believed about love, everything that really mattered, was falling apart. And yet, in the complete faith and surrender in the pitch dark of the room, something was building up inside her. Something constant, palpable, ineffable.

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The years rolled by. Sukanya and Ayan, trapped in the perpetual calling of domesticity, forgot to  sit together, smile back at old times and ponder about pining and loss, about existential questions of desire and yearning. The young girl who had once dreamed of a love nest with her unconventional lover had happily traded the old, mossy North Kolkata house cluttered with conservative in-laws’ with a new furnished flat in a greener neighborhood in Salt Lake. She cooked, hosted parties for family and friends, smiled coyly when they said it was high time for the couple to have a child now.

Thoughts of Ani became an occasional remembrance of her first massive adrenaline rush, her blood racing at the strumming of his guitar, at his recitations of Pablo Neruda’s poems. She stumbled, paused, took in the gusty wind, nestling in her frosted breaths. Five winters passed since the last time she let him know, they would never meet again. Five winters since her wayward mind, desperate to settle down, let the self-pitying dribble slip over her, implored on her to court and marry in haste. In a foggy December morning, precisely five years after their last meeting, Sukanya, weary from the strain of the first trimester of her pregnancy, opened her old email folder in an attempt to get rid of old, forgotten exchanges between Ani and her, no longer worth saving. An unread message, four years back in time, waited for her in the inbox, a blip in her brain, a lump in her throat.

She opened the message, lines hanging in the opaque stillness of the desktop screen, as she read on:

Dearest Su, it’s been a year that we last met, my happiness dwindling in the evening you bade adieu. Did we fight that day? 

In our university days, when we came together, our worlds collided perfectly in symphony, like the dance of swans. I know you wanted a home with me, to be with me in the most traditional of bonds, that of a man and his wife. You know how I had evaded it. I know with my life, marriage would be a man-made necessity germinating in barren soil, nothing would have grown out of us. 

I had seen marriage stink in crumpled bed sheets and slaps, in shadows lurking in dark corners of 5’ by 7’ rooms. I had told you how my mother succumbed to this necessity twice, ending up in two biological baggages, me and my half-sister from Ma’s previous marriage, for her lifetime. Ki dorkar chhilo, bol (What was the need, tell me)? I have given it a thought for a number of times. 

For me, mutual love was enough to sustain me, and even if I would succumb to tradition, would I remain true to my own complete foundation, my own being? Could you gift me a life free of slavery in the name of a secured, routine job? Could you gift me a life, a bliss, even a child, freed from this vicious cycle of traditions?

And then I met her, months after your last meeting, in one of my sudden, unplanned North East trips, a child of Mother Earth, grazing the hills with her numinous silence. A girl of six or seven, biting her nails frantically, shuddering as I tried to touch her, gazing at me blankly, as I asked her name, where she came from and who accompanied her. Her speechless mouth, her quiet presence and intent eyes hovered around me for days, and then I took her to an expert counsellor. 

Severe violence and sexual abuse resulting in a trauma was confirmed. I named her Flora. Flora inhabited my room, my backpacking trips, my world with wordless love. Back in Kolkata with her, I had tried to accommodate her in institutions, but her hands, tangled in mine, refused to let go. Can you tell me if not here in this nameless bounty of love, where else can I find beauty and purity, which will fill my soul, make me whole? 

Till the last day we had met, you had wanted to know if I could marry you. In my mind, I was split, harrowed, and had only one answer, our favorite sonnet, which I used to recite to you often, back then: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments. Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds/ Or bends with the remover to remove”. I wanted us to come together in an act of union, not in an institution.  

Today, every moment I am reliving my life with Flora, my old thoughts, questions burning to their finishing embers. I am craving your presence, a mundane life, together with you and her, back in the hills, like I would vainly dream with you in our university days. A life you had once craved with me, that was too ordinary, too brittle for my thinking, back then. Will you come back to me, be a part of this world? 

 P.S. Because I have loved you so, will you reply? 

Yours truly, 

Ani. 

She checked the date of the e-mail, drafted four years back, uninvited and unanswered, on the day she was celebrating her first wedding anniversary with Ayan.  She drafted a reply.

Dearest Ani,

Your letter reached me today, in the hushed fog of the years of our distance. I know, with the green pasture of your soul, you are beautiful, whole and free now, and Flora is with you, a part of your heart’s melody, liberation and dream, a dream that I cannot own now. But do remember that whenever I will return to our unfinished story, I will seek you and Flora, be a part of your pure, unbound selves, and be in love with ‘love’, yet again. 

Yours’ ever, Su.”

It was a reply that she couldn’t send her long-lost love, a reply that she saved in a folder, in the recesses of her mind, a letter that she would now bury in the slippery sands of time.

————————————————————————–

 

Peace Reads, Read Elephant Foundation reviews Defiant Dreams

Wonderful news on the International Women’s Day 2016!

Peace Reads, Red Elephant Foundation writes a glowing review for our book ‘Defiant Defiant Dreams_bookDreams: Tales of Everyday Divas’, and places the book among stellar works of literature including William Dalrymple’s ‘Return of a King’, the phenomenal ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and the likes!! A BIG THANK YOU to Readomania, my soul sis Rhiti Bose, all our brilliant storytellers and Indrani Ganguly who have been the pillars of support for an endeavor we had so humbly started, but gathering momentum slowly and steadily. The Red Elephant Foundation also tweets the book as an important book to read on ‪#‎IWD‬ 2016!!

Also, our heartiest congratulations to Kirthi Jayakumar for her book ‘The Dove’s Lament’ that also makes its place in this esteemed literary list!

 

To read the review, do visit:

http://peacereads.redelephantfoundation.org/2016/03/defiant-dreams.html

To visit the home page of Peacereads, do visit:

http://peacereads.redelephantfoundation.org/

 

 

For My Mother, Rama Bhattacharya, On Her 3rd Birthday in Heaven

Ma and me

Many moons back, when life was a bliss in my mother’s arms, when her hands held mine and the world stood still.

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, translated from the original Bengali song ‘Jokhon porbe na more payer chinho ei baante”, Geetabitan).

Meet my mother Rama Bhattacharjee, the source of inspiration and creative energy in my life, my first guru, my first teacher. Discover the unsung travails of her life as I, her only child, pay her a tribute to her on her 3rd birthday in heaven today.

Thanks a lot Rhiti Bose, my co-editor for giving me the wonderful platform of Incredible Women of India to feature this incredible woman, my dear Ma. I am sure she is seeing this from up above.

Read the story of love, loss and legacy here:

 

https://incrediblewomenofindia.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/rama-bhattacharya/comment-page-1/#comment-524

Book Review of ‘The Madras Affair’ by Sundari Venkatraman

The Madras Affair_cover

Cover page of The Madras Affair, published by Readomania

In the novel ‘The Madras Affair’, published by Readomania, the author Sundari Venkatraman transports the readers to a world of romance that blossoms, flourishes, then dwindles and again rises in the denouement, much like the mills and boon series we had been addicted to in our teenage years, only here the romance hovers much to the chagrin, the turmoil and haplessness of the world where the lovers find themselves in. And instead of the carefree western characters of the M&B romance, here the lovers, especially the heroine, the young widow Sangita and her family carry the baggage of Indian traditional sensibilities, threatening to nip the romance in the bud, right when it comes to sweep her off her feet.

This tug and pull of mindless orthodoxy versus sensuous, unhindered expression of love continues almost till the end of the novel. Also, this conflict constitutes much of the dramatic tension that almost overpowers the romance at places, as the heroine Sangita braces herself for an uphill battle not only against archaic societal norms, but also against the demons at play in her own psyche.

Through the pages, we are led to the mysterious, wayward trajectories of Sangita’s mind, oscillating between traditions and sensuous expressions, between her harrowing past and the glittering promises and sweet seduction of love that beckons her. On one hand, the tormenting memories of her dead husband Giridhar and his abuses, both sexual, physical and verbal, make her yearn for the fulfilment of passionate love she finds in the arms of Gautam, the hero. On the other hand,  she seems to be at the receiving end of false, preconceived notions of her own self-assessed frigidity, which, at the end, is proven to be false, baseless in the arms of Gautam. The frigidity and apathy towards sexual attraction, which Sangita embraces as her inherent attributes, works mostly to thwart the passionate demeanor of Gautam, but as the romance wins over, the readers realize passion lies at the core of Sangita’s own being too, only the memories of the loathsome groping of her body by her dead husband Giridhar haunts her and conditions her to believe that she is incapable of expressing her love physically.

The transformation of Sangita from the tormented, docile widow and mother of a young kid, always at the receiving end of her apathetic parents’ whims and patriarchal diktats to the dynamic, confident woman spearheading an NGO for battered woman, is traced in the narrative through flashbacks. The narrative shuttling between the past and the present,  dissects the issue of widow remarriage and also indulges in the sizzling romance destined to throw away prevalent social customs. The depiction of the scenes and settings serve to present the emotional world of Sangita and Gautam, smitten by love, lust, spice and charm, yet fraught with questions, indictments and startling revelations that only bring them closer to each other in the long run.

The desperate, despondent romantic in me started reading the novel in the month of February, which happens to be the month celebrating romance, trying to get some fodder for writing breezy romantic stuff of my own. However, towards the end, I found myself curled up in an orthodox south Indian woman’s struggles to get rid of her own inhibitions. I also found myself cursing the ridiculously regressive cultural traditions and the dreadful objectification that Sangita is trapped into, not only by her husband’s sick sexual advances, but also by her own family who thrusts the label of a sexless, celibate, frigid widowhood on her, trying to push her in a bottomless pit of self-destruction. In the end, with the union of Sangita and Gautam as a couple in body and spirits, especially in the bold, steamy lovemaking scene, it all came full circle, in a complex, intriguing and alluring tapestry of human emotions where love became the all-consuming and omnipotent force, sweeping everything else away.

As a reader, I would recommend the book to lovers of breezy, whirlwind romances, who are also looking for a gripping, tight storyline and an underlying social message.

About the Author:

Sundari

Sundari Venkatraman

Growing up on a heavy dose of fairy tales and comic books, Sundari fell in love with the ‘lived happily ever after’ syndrome. It was always about good triumphing over evil and a happy end. 
     
Soon, into her teens, Sundari graduated to Mills & Boon romances. And that got her thinking – how about such breezy romances in Indian settings? Her imagination took flight and she always lived in a rosy cocoon of romance over the years. 
     
Then came the writing – a true bolt out of the blue! Sundari had just quit her job as a school admin and was taking a break. She was saturated with reading books. That’s when she returned home one evening after her walk, took some sheets of paper and began writing. It was like watching a movie that was running in her head – all those years of visualising a perfect Indian romance had to be put into words. The dormant romantic storyteller in her finally found its calling and The Malhotra Bride was born. While she felt disheartened when publishing didn’t happen, it was her husband who encouraged her to keep writing. 
   
 In the meanwhile, she landed a job as copy editor with Mumbai Mirror. After working there for two years, she moved to the Network 18 Group and worked with two of their websites over the next six years, as content editor. 
    
 Despite her work schedule, she continued writing novels and short stories and had them published in her blogs. She also started blogging voraciously, writing on many different topics – travel, book reviews, film reviews, restaurant reviews, spirituality, alternative health and more. 
    
Her first eBook Double Jeopardy – a romance novella – was published by Indireads and has been very well received by readers of romance.  
    
In 2014, Sundari published The Malhotra Bride (2nd Edition); Meghna; The Runaway Bridegroom; Flaming Sun Collection 1: Happily Ever Afters From India (Box Set) and Matches Made In Heaven (a collection of romantic short stories) in form of ebooks.
The Madras Affair is available in Amazon and Goodreads.

 

 

Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas

Hello friends, sharing with you all the birth of a very special child of me and Rhiti Bose, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Incredible Women of India, which we have named ‘Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas‘. The book, published by Readomania in collaboration with Incredible Women of India, is a collaborative dream of Rhiti and mine which originated from a nationwide short story contest in India, ‘STREE’, which focused on articulating the extraordinary journeys of everyday women.

Defiant Dreams_book

Sharing a few lines from the blurb of the book:

Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas is a collection of twenty-four stories handpicked through a nationwide contest.  It is a collage of love and patience, courage and determination. Between the covers is a chronicle of love that refuse to be crushed by life’s injustices. The tales are portrayals of everyday women rising to extraordinary challenges, women who transformed themselves into mistresses of their own destinies. From the lanes of Banaras to the hills of Assam, from the high rises of Delhi to the household courtyards down south, across urban landscapes and rural settings, these incredible women are here to inspire.”

To know more about the book, do visit:

http://www.readomania.com/events/defiant-dreams-tales-of-everyday-divas

To buy the book in Amazon.com, go to:

http://www.amazon.com/Defiant-Dreams-Tales-Everyday-Divas/dp/9385854046/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1451409685&sr=8-3&keywords=Defiant+Dreams

To buy the book in Amazon India, go to:

http://www.amazon.in/dp/9385854046

 

DD_amazon ranking

DEFIANT DREAMS debuts in Amazon India as number 5 under Fiction/Anthologies (image courtesy: Defiant Dreams Facebook page)

 

Our Goodreads page:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28257467-defiant-dreams—tales-of-everyday-divas

Also, sharing the opening speech and the introduction to Defiant Dreams, by Mona Sen Gupta, Ahava Communications, during the official launch of the book at Weavers Studio Centre for the Arts, 94, Ballygunj Place, Kolkata.

Enjoy Part 1 of the video:

 

 

Defiant Dreams sits pretty on a shelf at the World Book Fair in Delhi.

All Readomania Books are now available in World Book Fair 2016
Hall No. 6 – IBH and Amar Chitra Katha Stall!
Readers, Go grab your copies
Authors, Go take a Selfie…