By Lakshmi Menon
Title: Horizon Afar
Author: Jayanthi Sankar
Trabslated by: P Muralidharan
Publisher: Kitaab International
Price: Rs 299
Horizon Afar is a collection of short stories by Jayanthi Sankar, translated from their original Tamil by P Muralidharan and published by Kitaab International. While it falls neatly into the rapidly growing, ever-fertile genre of diasporic literature, this collection is interesting in the myriad glimpses that it accords us of the Tamil diaspora in Singapore.
The experiences of Tamil immigrants in a multicultural country like Singapore are outlined by the author, herself a member of that very community – this is belied by the intimacy with which she writes about them. “Won’t she crawl anymore?” a despairing father asks of his wife, on learning that his child whose early years he has missed on account of working abroad, has now learned to walk on her own. The average reader can easily feel the wistful, quiet sadness in his question, and a reader who is familiar with the immigrant experience knows the truth behind the emotion, of a parent who has missed their child growing up.
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Short stories? Who writes short stories these days? Aren’t we reminded time and again that publishers are no more interested in this form? But then, isn’t the novel too going to give up its ghost in a couple of hours as grey haired Cassandras predict with the regularity of automatons? Aren’t we advised that narrative nonfiction and its close cousin the diary or even the memoir, is the go-to form for the author who doesn’t want to be put on an artificial respirator? And just when this cumulonimbus of bad news bears down upon you, the fiction author (or the reviewer) you chance upon a book which simply says the “genre” is in safe hands and that this oldest of storytelling arts still has a lot to offer.
The Girl Who Ran Away in a Washing Machine and Other Stories is a collection of stories by Anu Kumar, published by Kitaab. The stories in this slim volume travel the distance from tony upper class neighbourhoods of Singapore to back of beyond villages of India, from futuristic urban settings with robot newsreaders to the ruins of the Indus Valley civilisation, taking the reader on a journey of discoveries that she will cherish for long. But what is definitely the strength of this book is the range of subjects and themes in which Kumar engages, without overburdening her audience.
Here you will find a wonderful story of love lost and found, a magical adventure with a ghost among the ruins of an ancient civilisation, a couple of tales where you chance upon men with weird eyebrows, a sprinkling of magic everywhere, a dash of the absurd sometimes and a wink and a nod towards science fiction. Elsewhere social evils like dowry, corruption, religious intolerance or the crisis of farmer suicides are spun into the narrative with an expert hand, imbuing those tales with a sense of urgency, without being stilted or preachy.
In the eponymous story set in rural Punjab, we meet Neha, newly married to Manjit, finding solace and a hiding place from her in-laws inside the symbolic space of a washing machine that was part of her dowry. “Washing Machine” and indeed a few other stories have an alluring quality that gives the reader the sense of drifting on a calm current as she gets engrossed by the storytelling. Delectable prose coupled with a narrative that slowly circles inwards, curling towards the beating heart of the plot, perhaps imparts this quality to Kumar’s stories. But this is not to say that there are no surprises here, no spindrift or maelstrom, no intrusions of the fantastic or the absurd. In fact, surprises are aplenty and some of these stories wear the edginess on their sleeves.
When Srinanda Gupta was reading stories to her 6-month-old son, little did she know then that this boy would be an author at the age of eight.
Srinanda fondly recalls the day Rishav walked up to her with his drawings and said he wanted a “real” book.
“I clearly remember how happy and confused I was at the same time because I did not quite understand what he meant. After a conversation, Rishav made it clear that he actually wanted to be an author,” says the mother who also teaches at Chatsworth International School in Singapore. She decided to nurture his passion and give him time to become responsible for his own initiative. Rishav named the book The Lion’s Walk. Each page focused on a place and some detail that he observed of that particular place.
“He narrated the story while I documented it. What was unique was how Rishav read books, made connections with his personal experiences and applied his knowledge in his writing. I got the pages printed and stitched together,” shares Srinanda. That was Rishav’s first book!
Now this Grade 2 student of Chatsworth International School, Singapore, has a book to his credit Dreamagination, published by Kitaab International.
The book is a collection of 10 stories written by Rishav between the age of 3 and 7. Dreamagination is more than a book. It is a writing journey of a young boy from doodling, to drawing and then consolidating his ideas in writing.
“This is a big wish come true! You must dream and when the dream becomes bigger, bigger and bigger, it comes true. I want to encourage everyone around the world to write because it helps people to communicate and you can express your heart full of stories. You need dreamagination to live,” says Rishav.
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Published by Kitaab International, Horizon Afar is a collection of Tamil short stories written by Jayanthi Sankar and […]