Fragments of RiversongWhen I read the stories in Fragments of Riversong, a collection of 12 short stories by Bangladeshi author Farah Ghuznavi, I was very happy to see lively descriptions of old properties and sprawling houses. Having grown up in two sprawling bungalows in my hometown, Ghatsila, in the state of Jharkhand in India, a description—or even a mere mention—of old bungalows fills me with a certain thrill. I begin to connect with the setting and I have this feeling that the author is speaking/writing of something that I have known and experienced. Reading Fragments of Riversong was a bonus, for there were not only old properties and sprawling bungalows, but also a lot of village life in its stories. A part of my family still lives in our ancestral village that I visit regularly, and, at present, I am working in a rural setting. The stories in Fragments of Riversong were more familiar than I had expected them to be. Also, another remarkable thing I noticed in these stories were children. There are children—young girls, young boys—in nearly all the stories. Most stories are either about children or have—despite the third person narrative—a child guiding the reader through the narrative.

In “Escaping the Mirror”, her parents’ big house becomes a sort of a jail for seven-year-old Dia as she tries to escape the advances made by their driver, Minhas. The feeling of frustration of the little child upon realising that her parents trust that abusive man more than they trust their own daughter has been brought out in harrowing detail.

Farah-GhuznaviIn 2010, I was amazed and delighted when my flash fiction piece ‘Judgement Day’ won Highly Commended in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. At the time, entries to the competition consisted of no more than 600 words; and while those words could in theory be written on any topic, the organisers did provide a theme each year to assist the undecided writer.

In 2010, the theme was ‘Science, Technology and Society’. When I heard about it, my heart sank. I knew very little about writing flash fiction, and even less about science and technology! By default, my focus would have to be on the ‘society’ part of that equation. Anyway, I’m not quite sure where the original idea came from, but I ended up writing a piece exploring how the institution of marriage might change in the future as a result of advances in science and technology, and what might remain disturbingly familiar to us today – a kind of futuristic fable.