Going home in the rain & other stories, a collection of short stories written by Monideepa Sahu is a thin book that did not look inviting. A collection of fourteen stories each showing a slice of life that we may have experienced at some point.
+ + + – – – & . . .
It starts with “A Royal Tour” – a sensitive portrayal of a mother and son visiting Mysore, where the mother used to work in her early life. The son is on the threshold of a new phase in his life, ready to go to medical school. The pangs of impending separation, the hesitation of a mother when she shares anecdotes, information and advice with a teenager son, the choice of words made it an interesting read. In particular, I found myself revisiting “belch” here.
“…This island is named Srirangapatna…”
“I know, Mom.” Siddhartha’s deep voice has an unusual, impatient edge.
I check myself from belching out more information.
“Road Kill” is a slightly gloomy read. It is short and ironical. The building of a hospital meant for saving lives, leads to the loss of a life. What amused me most in this story is the point of view – that of a monkey. Have you heard of Man-nests? The author does seem to have a way with words.
“Hoshi’s Bombay” is an event in the life of Hoshi, who could have been anyone in the city of Bombay after the Babri Masjid demolition. Hoshi is a middle class Parsi man, living a happy married life, despite his eccentricity of collecting newspapers from the day he lost his friend. The story portrays his helplessness when he sees violence outside his home. Eventually, he and his family become the victim, and that helps him finally get a closure for his loss.
“Monsoon” is the musings of a young woman, a paying guest at Mrs. Britto’s house. She imagines that the thin fellow passenger and she are caught in the Mumbai deluge – fantasies that are interrupted by the arrival of the bus.
“Going Home in the Rain” is an incident that I could easily identify with. All of us would have had one of those days, when the circumstances force us to take risks and go through an ordeal, with our hearts in our mouth, till the ordeal is over and a happy ending embraces us. The young woman of the previous story, on a rainy day in Mumbai, takes a ride in an auto. The auto driver is an eccentric who screams Bollywood songs and takes her through by-lanes and gullies. There is even a turn into a dead-end road and a fallen waste-bin which forces him to stop the auto. Isn’t this setting sufficient to set up an equivalent anxiety in us? What a relief when the auto fellow eventually takes her to her accommodation, and the added bonus to have someone concerned waiting, not to mention the hot samosas. Mentally, I pictured myself wringing my clothes and towelling my hair. I had a 3D movie experience.
“Bus stop” seems to be an extension of “Monsoon”, another first person narrative of the young woman in the previous two stories. As she waits along with the thin man and another woman in the bus stop, they see a stranger fall down with convulsions. Finally, this incident forces the young woman and the thin man to interact. They decide to share a taxi to work to compensate for the delay and she finds some surprises at the end of the ride. Another slice of life!
“Mother” is the story of a new mother – her anticipation, her changes in physical and mental state until eventually the baby is born. With a sleight of hand, both the author and the mother give a twist to the tale that left me gaping. Monideepa Sahu arrives in style in this story.
“Breakfast” is a scene that we may witness in many households. A typical morning scene where a concerned mother insists on a heavy, healthy breakfast and the overfed appetite-less child struggles. How the child finds relief from her condition is also commonplace. What is striking in the story is the way the author has captured the trail of emotions that run through the child during the ordeal.
“Dhatura” is a detour from the realistic settings in the stories afore. A retelling of a slice of Ramayana from the point of view of Soorpanaka. The princess, chewing on a Dhatura gets into a playful mood, the cost is the fate that she is pushed to and the rest of the Ramayana. When she saves a monkey soldier from the battlefield after the war is over, and they feel a relationship building between them, ties unforeseen. She foresees her sweet revenge against the human world.
“Flowers and Paper Boats“, a first person narrative of a programmer heading to the US, his story about his survival in the US and his return to unite with his sweetheart. At every point, his expectations seem to fall flat, yet how does he cope with these situations? Mr. Poe, the friendly crow is always at his side.
When an old man and his wife revisit and reminisce “On the Spot” where he had proposed to his wife, love takes forefront, notwithstanding hidden sorrows.
“Hot Chilies” is the probably my most favourite in the collection. When Meera’s much-older brother Shankar comes to India to mourn their sister Lakshmi’s passing away, can they resume their relationship that was suspended long back? Much as I loved the story, I loved the metaphorical reference to the crushed fallen gulmohar flowers and fresh ones replacing them. Isn’t that the philosophy of life?
“Pishi’s Room” is the story of a teenager visiting her extended family in Kolkata. When she reluctantly leaves her cousin’s company at the place where they stay to visit an old aunt, Pishi, she does not know that she would find a hidden side of herself at the end of the day. In Pishi’s ramshackle home in congested surroundings, adults turn to delicacies and chatter. Children tend to annoy the teenager and she takes recourse under the high bed, which Pishi has turned into her room. It is here that she discovers Pishi, as a person, a woman with a personality and her own interests. A warm story that shows a teenager’s new sense of understanding.
“The Tainted Canvas” is the story of the talented artist Gopal, based in Puri, who has his pure and pious principles with regards to painting. For a man who considers his art as his dharma, it comes as a shock when he understands the reality behind his sale of a painting to a London-based art dealer through a middleman.
Monideepa Sahu is brilliant and evocative as a short story writer. The ease with which she is able to capture a wide gamut of emotions into words, build scenes that are oh-so familiar and handle variations in style is her strength. It is a collection of predominantly sad stories and leaves one with a heavy heart at the end of it. I would have preferred some joyous stories as well to be thrown into the collection. The cover page, which again has a gloomy feel, could have been more appealing.
|Title||Going Home in the Rain & other stories