The first time Arun and I go out after I lose my voice is to Niti and Kevin’s house. The evening of December tenth, their wedding anniversary. Eight years they’ve been married, eight years we’ve been friends. If I skip their party, they won’t hold it against me. Our friendship is stronger than that, but Arun won’t let me test it.
“You’ve got to get out of the house” —his answer to everything I say.
When the argument tires me out, I give in. The other guests have already filled up their lawn when we arrive. I peer at the crowd from inside the car. Panic pins me to my seat. I can’t breathe, can’t stretch my arm out and reach for the door. An avalanche of sympathy is about to hit me. Condolences are the last thing I want, but condolences will bury me alive when I go out there.
Vineetha Mokkil is a fiction writer based in New Delhi, India. Her short stories have been published in Santa Fe Writers Project Journal and Why We Don’t Talk, an anthology of contemporary Indian short fiction (Rupa and Co, New Delhi, August 2010) and in the Asia Writes Project. Poems translated by her have appeared in Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Everyman’s Library, 2005). A Happy Place (HarperCollins India, 2014) is her first collection of short stories (read the Kitaab review of this book here).
Here is an interview with the author:
A Happy Place and Other Stories is your debut collection of short stories. How did you conceive of this collection? Did you have a theme in mind?
These stories were written at different points of time and not specifically with a collection in mind. I would send out a story at a time to literary journals and magazines once I finished work on them. Some got published. Every time I got an acceptance letter, it felt like a small victory. It made me work harder on my writing. It made me consider the possibility of a collection. I am grateful to all the good souls out there who devote their time to bringing out small publications which value quality writing and edgy themes. They do it for the love of literature, not to rake in revenue. I owe a great deal to them as a writer.
The stories in “A Happy Place” are not interlinked in the strict sense of the term. But the backdrop of all of them (except for one which is set in Kashmir) is Delhi. The city is as much a character as the people whose lives the stories trace. The larger theme that binds all the stories together is the complexity of urban life and our search for an ideal “happy” place.
Dr. Usha Bande reviews Vineetha Mokkil’s A Happy Place and Other Stories (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2014. Pp. 202. Rs. 275)
Two things about Vineetha Mokkil’s book under review attracted me at the outset: the title, A Happy Place and the cover design – a rich and pleasant mix of browns and yellows and grayish-blue. Both are evocative. The cover has a faint facsimile of a car on the move, the street is deserted and the high-rising buildings are upside down, may be reflecting the mood of the era or just symbolic of the life that is lived in them. The title A Happy Place exudes joie de vivre but then, the stories are about life and life does not offer happiness on a platter. Mokkil is a careful artist who would not diminish the value of her literary work by presenting self-improvement book-like facile solutions. The stories have plots and sub-plots, convincing characters and denouements that are twisted but not dismal. Each story offers a kind of release and hope. And herein lies the success of the writer, a novice in the field, as she likes to call herself.