I first received this book in 2015 by mail as an eBook from Dr AV Koshy as a prize for writing a roseate sonnet as part of a competition. Even though I started reading the book then, I could not complete it for various reasons. This year when Dr Bakaya announced that the book would be published in print, I was excited. Maybe because I’m old fashioned and like to hold a real book. So when Amazon delivered it on my doorstep I started reading it with gusto. The book went with me everywhere. Whenever I could spare a moment, I read hungrily. It was my constant companion… and as I read I realised why the world needs more people like Dr Santosh Bakaya.
This book of essays published by Authorspress, New Delhi is a 354 pages eye opener. It is dedicated to the author’s daughter, Iha. The foreword is by the writer Lisa D. Ellis and the introduction is by the writer Joyce Yarrow. The book has 3 sections with 58 essays in all. The first section has 7 essays. The second has 4 essays and the third section has 36 essays.
The first section begins with a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem The Swing and takes the reader on a time machine back to the past into Dr Bakaya’s childhood. Poignant, deliciously simple memories that make the reader go back to one’s own past as the warmth of parental love and the carefree days of childhood innocence and mischief beckons and makes these essays a rare treat. One of my personal favourites is the essay The Canine Sponge in which the antics of Nipper, the puppy have been set out in such a humorous way that we love him as our own and end up crying at his tragic end at the hands of a heartless human. The essay on her granny is touchingly honest and endearing. Her memories of her growing years with her mischievous brother, bright sister, her stern but loving father are all a tribute of love to her childhood joys which she shares with the reader.
The second section with an introductory quote from AA Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner is one dedicated to friendship. The four essays in this section are memoirs of her friendship with Joyce Yarrow, Jean Mg Armitage, Dolly Murray and Diana Bird. In the first essay of the section, two days with Joyce in October 2011 at Jaipur and at Birder’s Inn, Bharatpur pass by in a twinkle. Days where the sights and sounds of India were recorded and analysed disarmingly by both the guest and hostess. Days of friendship and love that ended too quickly for both. In the essay, I’m a Good Cooker, Dr Bakaya’s observations of the life around her as she takes her friend, Jean sightseeing are humorous and clear.
“Just in front of the shops stood a bus with the words COLLAGE BUS written across it in bold letters.”
“The moving collage of interesting salesmen had us enthralled. Their salesmanship was at its best, their persuasive skills at their shrillest. But their clever salesmanship failed to hide the wonderful human beings lurking inside.”
“Next time when you come, you will have biriyani at my place; my wife is a wonderful cooker.” The Osama look-alike said, waving warmly to us.’
“We had talked of racism, war mongering, and death penalty, gun control in the USA, Barack Obama and expectations from his second term, intolerance and hatred in the youth, teenagers, gender sensitivity and love.”
Her encounter with her Canadian friend, Dolly Murray is narrated with wit and élan. “Over sips of tea we debated the international scenario, the travails of bringing up a daughter in a male dominated society, but still my loving daughter and the male with her were nowhere in sight.”
Dr Bakaya’s meeting with Diana and David Bird is set out in the essay ‘And The Birds Flew’.
“My daughter is a Facebook addict.” Said Diana, her eyes darting in the same direction.
“So am I”, I said sheepishly.
“But my son uses it sparingly.”
“Are you on Facebook too?”
“I am too old for Facebook.” She said with a smile.
“Age is just a state of mind,” I said, remembering my daughter’s constant refrain, “Why do you not grow up mom?”
“You know what, we are five siblings and my mother says that her heart beats in five different places.” I said while we talked about parenting and motherhood.
“Oh such a nice way of putting it, mothers are the same the world over.” She said with a smile.
The third and final section begins with a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This is the largest section containing forty seven essays on a wide range of topics. The first in the section titled ‘Deepawali is All about Money’ is an apt opening essay in which one can see the human nature of the author which she sets out candidly before us. Like any of us, she too spends money lavishly while at the same time feeling guilty for the less privileged she comes in contact with. She is the woman next door, like you and me, aware of the inequalities and injustices existing in our society. Like us she makes small gestures to pacify her conscience. What makes her special is that she won’t let that voice die down. As she places these thoughts on paper and preserves these for posterity she ensures that her reader too introspects and finds his/her own voice of conscience. In ‘Fear’, she narrates an episode where kindness wins over religious hatred. ‘Morning Blues’ are her observations on life during her walks. Humour is her weapon as she talks of corruption in the essays ‘The Power of the Baton’, ‘Handicraft Status’. Dr Bakaya’s keen wit and observations lace her essays and give them a refreshing appeal. ‘A Journey: A Home Coming, Nay, A Heart-Coming’, one of the finest pieces in the book, is a poignant and fresh write about her return to her native home in Kashmir. In the penultimate, title essay, ‘The Boy in Yellow Knickers’, as she shares her experiences at Accra, Ghana where she had gone to receive the Inspirational Poet Award jointly instituted by Pentasi B World Friendship Poetry and the Ghana Government. In this she asks, “If each of us made it a habit of saying, “I love you” to each other, won’t the world become a better place? This fleeting thought crept into my mind as we went inside the airport gates, I turned back to wave to my friends.” In the final essay, ‘Why I Wield the Pen’, Dr Santosh Bakaya speaks of her native land nestling in her heart and this Kashmiriyat is the reason for this beautiful book. Dr Santosh Bakaya’s book is an embodiment of this indigenous secularism of Kashmir which has its roots in the land and it is this oneness with all of creation that is seen throughout the book. That is why I repeat that the world needs more people like her and books like these.
POETRY BY Suzette Portes San Jose
“POETRY… speaks of many things,
about everything we hold on and stepped upon in life,
… in dreams
… in visions
… and imaginations
maybe blindly with eyes but not from the inner self
…the ACCEPTANCE of not what only eyes and mind understands
…but what’s BEYOND the unseen
… and BEYOND the unspoken
…the PASSION of poetry may not be understood by many
but UNDERSTOOD by silent heart and soul…
usually, it is a poet passion left unheard
BETWEEN LIFE’S…..DREAMS…REALITY AND FANTASY
POEMS are poet’s own self
… visions and sight, feelings and every emotion
… it is not a mere printed word that defies concern and consideration…poetry has its own life too
it is the connection that binds the words and the writer
… its forms, style, and construction create the wholeness of its being,
… its life in itself… this brings the readers embrace your world …immerse and emerge deep within the core of the poet’s thoughts…touch every sense that adheres the visualization to conceal the profoundness in every meaning of the poem…
THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE POET.
WORDS IN POETRY AND ARTS
… are the reality unseen
…embedded into some to feel and realize the meaning
…prompted in visions
…thoughts commune through the essence and spark
… of one’s heart to another heart
…from one’s soul to another soul
FROM ME TO YOU
in an acrylic painting SURREALISM ART… by suzette portes san jose
Home- a state of dynamic stability
After travelling through the metric contraptions,
deftly balancing the empirical needs,
buoyed by the very emotions she strings together,
the musical cycle comes home to a point called ‘Sam’.
There she embarks as the next cycle.
In how many dimensions do we experience home?
Is it the globe that one is connected with through air, water, imagination or internet?
Is it the country that lends the socio-political context?
The community that sets parameters on the super-ego?
The family-house that sets the boundaries of security?
Or just the body that reflects all that is mentioned above while being privy to the unsaid… the most subtle and timid of emotions?
Home is perhaps not just a place or an environment. It is a state of being.
It is the embodiment of one’s self that swaddles the conscious awareness to a strategic point between sleep and wakefulness; the one that offers the essential point of anchorage from where every journey can safely take off, a point of immaculate balance between stability and mobility.
Home is that state where the ‘past’s consolidate into a ‘present’ and ‘present’s get redefined to create the future…. much like the ‘Sam’ of a classical musical cycle.
The first place that housed me was not made up of concrete or glass. It was a simple swing that contained me and rocked me to a sense of rhythm, a sense of predictability, a sense of security. In this safe haven that was my mother’s womb was another, more intimate space that I learned to inhabit. This was the place that belonged to me alone and which defined my worldly existence in its atavistic rawness. This place was my own body… a medium that served as a tool for embodiment of who I primarily was… a place I slowly woke up to and warmed up to. It was within the context of this first space that became the substance of my experience and perhaps sneaked into my imagination that I dared to explore the outer space…. the subsequent homes.
With every new experience that is physically realised or imagined there is a new moment claimed. This moment is a new temporo-spatial co-ordinate that is now owned by the person. A new home is experienced thus and the ‘being’ is newly enriched. The boundaries of security expand not only in terms of physical movement but also in terms of imagination and the realm of possibility gets redefined. This expanding home can never be a static structure but an evolutionary process that is grounded (never the less) in something primordial and yet elusive. The spaces that befriended me, the sensory experiences I sought and still seek are not just objects of ephemeral value but a transformed reflection of the love I experienced in an intangible way while enjoying the early moments of inhabiting my first home.
The desire to stay and the urge to move on are intricately linked. The state of being at home and feeling at home is interestingly a feeling of moving with a sense of partial predictability that must be a gift of those moments of intrauterine rhythm and an unsettling curiosity created by what is imagined and not yet physically realised. As a corollary, any feeling of being tethered to any place, status, thought is in contravention to the very concept of being ‘at home’.
A musical composition with its cycles inextricably linked on to each other is the best epitome of the state of being at home. Every single cycle is a journey that remains connected to the source and after having travelled within the parameters set by a Taal comes back to where it belongs. Though disciplined by the “taal’ in terms of its conceit, it takes liberties in bringing to the fore untold stories and untapped emotions. Its connectedness with its source and a sense of assurance about being able to connect back to it do not tether it down but allow it to be specific while being in a state of abandon and to be grounded even while being delivered. Fortunate are those who experience the splendour of music and learn to live and thrive within the dynamic stability of its womb.
At times one feels unsettled, disconnected or jaded. Life feels either too fast to cope up with, too incomprehensible or too mundane to respond too. A lot of us have experienced the cryptic feeling of home-sickness irrespective of where we physical exist. This may not be as strictly associated with being away from one’s home as is associated with not being squared with the basic human need…. the need to stay connected while moving on.
The sense of ownership, freedom and independence we so consistently seek through our lives mandate being in touch with this basic need for dynamic stability that the human mind and body are potentially capable of.
I (at times) so strongly wish to go back home…. to my own body and mind.
The gift of Abstractness
He sees a branch and imagines the space within his own hand. The branch transforms into a fulcrum on which is balanced his arboreal leap…. a leap into the future. He is an ape.
A few millennia later, she holds her baby in the circle of her hands and re-experiences the warm comfort of being in her own mother’s arc of security.
A child wakes up to the bigness of the world and the relative smallness of his own body. He works through this phase of being delightfully overwhelmed by assuming roles ranging from that of a father, a teacher, a dragon, a doctor, a superman and so on. He ‘becomes’ the very ‘monster’ that he thought could overpower him.
A woman loses her daughter to the implacable monster commonly called the urban traffic. She works gradually through her grief by volunteering as a traffic police woman. She not only becomes a sentinel to the hundreds of children, their mothers and their loves but at a much deeper level, a mother to her own bewildered, grieving self.
Some place else, one sees two women grieving together latching on to each other. The individual self systems are challenged, threatened…. almost upended at both ends. But holding on to each other in an unconditional embrace becomes first a desperate step and later a reconciliatory move towards borrowing the fragments of one’s chequered existences from each other to restore the semblance of one’s integrated self. ……. much like a co-valent bond.
A deity is worshipped in its resplendent form and every feature of that dynamic dance is imbibed by the seeker as an essential tenet of virtuous living.
Well …… is there anything that strikes as common between these apparently disparate vignettes spread across time and space?
Across the span of evolution of mankind, there is one trait that has emerged as enduring and has expressed itself in innumerable ways. It is the human abstractness.
Human mind and its functioning are based on symbols and metaphors. To begin with humans evolved via the discovery of tools. This was primarily to deal with the Nature that was way bigger than the physical human presence. Thus a cup was created because a hand couldn’t perpetually serve as a container. An axe or a dragger was a compensation for the lack of claws and elaborate canines. Every need inspired a sense of inadequacy that compelled humans to externalise the need to some object and have in transformed in a way that makes one complete. This would then be extrapolated to the fulfilment of the need in other ways and to the fulfilment of other needs.
Does this quality make us superior to the other species? Does it make us complete?
May be not.
We certainly cannot claim to be superior because the members of other species, be it arthropods, reptiles or mammals seem to be acutely aware of most of their needs to the degree of precision that we cannot match. We can obviously not claim to be complete as the collective human presence of any given moment is but an epoch in the process that is splendidly enigmatic.
But it essentially makes us ‘Human’.
Humans by way of their abstractness can experience more than what is tangible. Humans can go beyond the first hand; they can project the past into the present and the present into the future. Humans smile, laugh as they expect the world to be overwhelmingly huge but can draw from their experiences enough to realise the innocuousness of its bigness. What is it that gives humans the ability to smile despite being battered by life? It is the ability to compare the past with the present, the expectation with the experience, the role one had gravitated into with the role one has now switched into. When the situation is inexorable and beyond comprehension, it is the ability to become someone more than one’s parochial self that builds up the required fortitude.
Smile, again a privileged human attribute is more than a facial expression. It means to enjoy beyond sorrow, to accept beyond reservations and to love beyond hatred. It is almost the basic substance of the integrated human experience.
What happens to you is ephemeral and diminutive in comparison to what happens through you. This means that the physical senses serve as the momentary conduits for the conscious to be ignited. Humans have the neurological attribute to encode an experience acquired in one form and to conduct it into the future as a widely applicable semantic essence. The concrete cannot be latched on to as it is changeable. It is the semantic essence that finds its semblance in novel ways through the course of life. This is realised by a human being and the intensity and profundity of this realisation itself are perhaps the sole measure of one’s ability to be human.
Abstractness certainly is fraught with its inherent challenges.
One sees someone else struggle to achieve something of salience and almost feels the struggle physically building up within oneself. But then…. a few minutes of precise, purposeful endeavour concluding in a splendid moment of sublime success feel like a new, personal state of being. Humans enrich their lives through moments, years and ages of such adopted pains, borrowed struggles and appropriated successes. Our ability to ‘empathise’ makes our conscious awareness an ever sprawling temporo-spatial continuum expanding in an infinite way.
Are we, as humans then endowed with the ability to be complete, to be one with eternity, to be the ‘supreme conscious’?
When I pray for forgiveness, for mercy and express gratitude, is it actually to this possibility of a ‘Supreme Conscious’ that I pray?
And do I choose to give it names because it is unsettling to be trying to own up to someone/something so huge?
The hint of one’s ability to be more creates a maternal regard for not just the beings outside the realm of one’s physical existence, but also towards one’s own hidden beings that constantly run the risk of being alienated.
We somehow know this and hence, notwithstanding the shortcomings which we perhaps overestimate, we are in an incessant process of praying to something bigger, something incomprehensible, something abstract and we actually go a pretty long way in the process.
So could this mean that we are, not through some stroke of selective fortune, but neuro-biologically by virtue of this gift of abstractness, designed to be enlightened?
………………… Amruta Nerurkar
Dr. Koshy AV is an author, critic, poet and academician. His book “Scream and other Urbane Legends” is a doorway to classic literature. While reading, one can realize how aptly he has taken references from classic literature to stitch up the seducing stories or one can see a heavy reliance on allusions and intertextuality. In the words of the author, “A study of classic literature has helped me tremendously. Everywhere the reader will find a heavy reliance on allusions and intertextuality used consciously, including many classics and great writers in its sweep, and these add a rich dimension to my writing for those who get the significance and referentiality in its full measure.” Very few authors are able to do this and that too successfully. The author has made a successful attempt in carefully penning down short stories that are poetic in nature. As already mentioned above, every story shall take you back in time in the realm of classic literature and even classic music. So one can say that every story is like a time machine that takes your brain train into the stations of legendary writers, artists, musicians and much more and keeps you utterly engrossed in Koshy’s creativeness and wittiness. Every story has been written with great dedication and it shows the boundless wisdom that the author possesses.
The author is successful in creating twists and turns in a few stories that leave an indelible effect upon the minds and hearts of the readers. For example, in the story ‘Aouda: The Confluence’, one transcends from the road to the industrial city to a mesmerizing and mysterious world etched down by the author’s splendid imagery and as one reaches the climax he/she is astonished as to ‘What the hell just happened. Did I just wake up from a dream?’ The story, ‘The Junction’ reminds me of a quote from the classic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. “Things have a life of their own. It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.” The author has portrayed the junction as an observer who silently beholds the happenings of a day that arrives and departs in front of its vision and when the night emerges how it ponders upon the untold stories that lie deep down its memory lane. Creation Myths on Poetry: A Trialogue is a masterpiece where the author has beautifully crafted the essence of pure poetry in the first two myths and in the third one he criticizes as to how that essence has been lost by providing an example of plagiarism. Apart from the above mentioned stories, the following ones left an incredible impact on me, namely ‘The Sculptor’, ‘The Gran’dad and the Little Boy who wanted to be a Poet – a tribute to Isaac Babel’, ‘The Poor Poet’, ‘The Writer Who Lost it at the Edge of the World’, ‘The Last Scarecrow’, ‘The Tenth Muse’, ‘Not Dark… Yet’ (after Beckett), ‘Written on the Body’, ‘Scream,’ ‘Lady Nina’ (Impressed as to how the author has forged a short story out of a song. Commendable work.), ‘Sandhya’, ‘Lalita’ and Raktha Rakshas’.
Quoting from Anamika – “When love and hate collide. Poems explode. In the interim of the internecine interstice where the interface lies.” The novella, Anamika deals with the sufferings a poet goes through in love and hate. With some brilliant references from classic literature, the author has worked wonders in scripting this story. The poems within the story are excellent. Thus, if I have to sum it up, “Scream and other Urbane Legends” is a classic book in itself that shall seduce your introspection leaving you intoxicated with the beauty and creativity that the author has successfully applied.
You can buy the book on amazon.in or Flipkart at the following links:
In my previous post I had promised to give the links to the book on amazon. in and flipkart so anyone who wants can buy it. Only a few copies are available! 🙂 Thanks to all who bought are and are reading and enjoying it.
Here are the links and my first review which is a five star one and what Reena Prasad has to say on it.
This collection of short stories will take you by surprise. Each one is unique, experimental, minimalist and together they explore a range of themes. The stories become an explosive deconstruction of sorts or an erudite construction as you read them yet sometimes are neither. From obsessed sculptors, lyrical relationships that refuse to go anywhere and self- exploratory narratives to silhouettes looming from deep green ponds, the writing offers a fresh look at the genre itself.
Top Customer Reviews
By Amazon Customer on 25 January 2017
One wants to read them again and again for their wonderful prose, poetic often in its grace.
- Dr Koshy AV is an author, critic, poet and academician who has been involved with thirteen books as editor, co-author, anthologist, compiler, contributor and writer including the famous Art of Poetry, Wake up India: Essays for our Times, The Significant Anthology and his own poetry collection Allusions to Simplicity. He has won many writing awards, has many diplomas and certificates, and is a poetry nominee for Pushcart Prize 2012, works for autism and is an educationist.
I am happy to announce the publication of my new and first collection of short stories- (my thirteenth book with my name on the cover in different capacities) – by Lifi Publications on January tenth at New Delhi World Book Fair. The launch was done by my wife Anna Gabriel Koshy as I could not be present, I thank Rakesh Sharma and Ramesh Mittal and the Lifi team as well as Drs Bina Biswas and Santosh Bakaya and Archna Pant and Reena Prasad, all famous writers, for all help in writing forewords, blurbs and encouragement.
Here is what I (and they) have to say on the book:
Stories. Not in chronological order. Spanning many years in its unfolding and unmaking. These are stories written by a poet and hence drenched in the splendour of poetry. The attempt was to write short stories that are poetic, and so they often deal with the theme of poetry or in two instances include poems as well as have characters in them who are poets. This is a uniting strand in and running through many of my stories. Another one is a restless inventiveness and experimentation. My stories are rooted attempts, structurally, to go beyond narration and description into a kind of meta-understanding of what the short story itself as a form is about now, in our times, with an undertow of metafiction that often makes them short deconstructed versions of stories. A study of classical literature has helped me tremendously. Everywhere the reader will see a heavy reliance on allusions and inter-textuality used consciously, including many classics and great writers in its sweep, and these add a rich dimension to my writing for those who get the significance and referentiality in its full measure. What I mean by stories that exist in a deconstructed form is that the stories may resemble fragments in some cases and only concentrate on one of its elements like plot or characters or point of view or theme or setting alone or just one of the stages of the plot. This may make people think that they are not stories but that is not it, they are consciously, experimentally post-modern in form at least, if not in content, being very south Indian and Keralite and twentieth century in a sense in its cultural ethos, and Judaeo- Christian in its ethics
My stories reflect my abiding concern with women and sexuality that is more often than not stamped under the carpet in our societies. My women are both the oppressed, in stories like ‘Sandhya’, and the oppressor as in ‘The Yakshi who lived by the Periyar’. But the stories deal with these two facets of women only as an inset and have a much wider spectrum of themes. Some of the others follow a more or less traditional pattern, the settings alone changing at times to what some may think exotic locales that I lived in, to hold the reader’s interest, though the settings are not made exotic.
I also write of men and women in dialogue and in opposition. A trio of creation myths or origin stories on women and poetry pushes the envelope of what Indian story writing in English tries so far, or so I feel.
Examining masculinities and gender in men, trying to define what being a man is; makes for some of the shortest pieces here that are not any less literary thereby in its efforts. In fact, in my opinion, they contain some of my best bursts of short story writing, bursts that veer more towards ‘short shorts,’ micro and mini fiction and flash fiction and is therefore concentrated and intense. A kaleidoscope of forms, including sci-fi, the parable, the exemplum and the fable illuminate the collection. The themes too multiply to include friendship, religion and spirituality, satire of the literary world, autism, different kinds of relationships between males and women and men and females, and other sexualities etc.
My stories pay tribute not only to Beckett’s minimalism but also to Isaac Babel, and many others like Chekhov and Nabokov, and one veers to Joyce and is left incomplete on purpose…!!! They are also influenced heavily by iconic classic rock music, musicians and songs.
Some of these stories have appeared elsewhere, as earlier, rougher drafts. An interesting point noticed while publishing those rough drafts about the creative process was the total illusoriness of fiction whereby if there is an autobiographical element in it it is considered pure fiction and vice versa by the readers, meaning if it is pure fiction it is often considered purely autobiographical! This can give rise to much incidental humour and dangerous speculation and that brings me to make another point, my writing is humorous in a very subtle, whimsical and wry way, though essentially it is tragic in its substratum and in its intensity,
My graphomania is vintage and meant to be enjoyed like slow, exquisite love making or like eating a lovingly cooked meal or as one enjoys travelling to exotic lands, times and places to meet with new cultures and people purely for the uniqueness of the experience. None of the stories herein are anything but extremely painstaking attempts to write great literature, but for those of you who love savouring reading and researching over and over again they will open up a world of delights, rich repasts and vistas of the imagination in miniature – as I am a minimalist – that you will come to cherish, till the next round of my story telling.
Dr Koshy A.V.
A teaser to my book Scream and Other Urbane Legends by Dr Koshy AV
While waiting for the links to give to you to get your own copies.
This book of short stories is purely experimental in that it spans a lot of forms. To start with, it tries its hand at straight, traditional story-telling, as well as short pieces of prose that can be called short stories only by those really aware of the developments in the genre, influenced by writers as diverse as Samuel Beckett and Gertrude Stein. One story shows the influence of Isaac Babel and another of Coelho. However, the originality of some of these stories probably appears more in their Indianness, their take on being an Indian from the south or a Keralite Malayali Syrian Christian by birth and upbringing, a cross between CSI and Marthomite, and in their exploration of taboo themes as well as their efforts to match the best in world literature. They are very fine specimens of writing but their success depends on a lot of Barthesian ‘writerly’ participation from their readers, which is one of their strengths and not weaknesses. One insistent theme is anger against the oppression of women, another of male-female relationships and a third, the exploration of masculinity. If one is ready to set aside qualms about new writing’s supposedly amoral nature, the book is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
To start with, my stories try their hand at straight, traditional story-telling, as well as short pieces of prose that can be called short stories only by a stretch of theory, the imagination or application, by those really aware of the developments in the genre, as they are influenced by writers as diverse as Italo Calvino and Sadat Hasan Manto. However, the originality of some of these stories probably appears more in their straddling two centuries and being written in English, in different or lesser known places in India or abroad – hence diapsoric- and in their exploration of sometimes taboo themes as well as their efforts to match the best in world literature.
The short story, for those who know its history as well as I do, is often looked at in terms of periods, writers, important landmarks of stories or structures like its five or six elements or the Freytag’s pyramid etc. So I have written mine in such a way that I show readers that I can both fulfill all these obligations of prior knowledge thrust on me by my literary background if need be, and break (with) them totally as well and work completely outside (them), when I want to. My stories are thus traditional, modern or post-modern, depending on which mode I am working in, and I can use, destroy or just stay away from things like plot, characterization, setting, point of view, conflict, theme, or exposition, rising action, complication, climax, falling action or resolution adroitly. Moving from presence to absence, from evolution to devolution and from construction to deconstruction, the stories often remain minimalist but important aspects and landmarks of my progress as a writer for me, as one who is conscious of all aspects of his craft, including forms, style, language, structure, genre etc., while writing prose and short fiction.
In it there is a novella called “Anamika.” It brought forth diametrically opposite views from two writers/readers when they read it in rough. I love the story though. It has a solid flight to it with a pattern of lulls and ever rising crescendos leading to the climax that is like the troughs and crests of waves thumping against a sea-shore with each one becoming bigger till the last big one that splashes against the rocks and deluges you completely – a pattern that I particularly love as it is not found in any of my other stories.
It has been a long journey to my first book of short stories actually seeing the light of day. A book like what Dubliners may have meant to James Joyce.
Its significance is simple – in all the books in Indian English that I have read – starting from its beginning maybe right up to 2017 I have never seen such a heavy dose or overdose of experimentation in every aspect of writing fiction before, meaning in the genres of short short fiction, short stories and the novella – in plots, structures, forms, genres, styles, voices, points of view, themes, characterization, plot structures (meaning expositions, rising actions, conflicts, confrontations,complications, twists, hooks, turns, anti-climaxes, detours, digressions, climaxes, falling actions, denouments or resolutions), characters, techniques, playing around with moods, atmospheres, tones, ambiences and settings – as I have experimented with except in the case of a very few writers like G V Desani in All About H Hatterr, Raja Rao in his Kanthapura, Nakulan in his novel Words to the Wind in the Pappa Mia section, Salman Rushdie and maybe Jeet Thayyil.
It was even more experimental but had to be toned down several degrees to be at least a little bit on the edges or fringes of the mainstream!
It may be the first attempt at a quasi- Indian, quasi- post-modernist, quasi- modernist, quasi- diasporic, primarily deconstructionist, quasi- urban(e), anti-formalist, anti-structuralist collection of short stories in India.
Yet it reads well, on the whole. For those into hardcore literature as some are into hardcore pornography.
Paddle! Paddle!! Paddle!!!
Paddle your pirogue down the valley
Even when your moment seems heavy
Spring to life in tasteless tingling time
Only the gritty nibbles with the rhythm of time.
I’m a nocturnal creature myself because I don’t sleep well at night. I live between town and country and so am visited by different species of wildlife on occasion, mostly nocturnal also. Such creatures as possum, rabbits, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes visit my back yard from time to time. Occasionally a bobcat can be heard in the distance along with the clattering of a rail switching yard which is just across the street.
I love sitting on the back porch with a cup of coffee watching the sunrise. It gives me time to reflect on God’s blessing in giving me my veggie garden to grow. I watch my cows and calves kicking up their heels. It’s like living in the country, but it’s really town.
I spend a lot of time during the night outside when the weather is nice, even during the winter. All us creatures of the night usually leave each other to our own devices. We manage to live together pretty well. Only occasionally does something go wrong and that’s where the story really begins. The skunk is probably one animal that lives both in town and country especially where there are woody areas. . I call my skunks Pepe LePew after the cartoon characters of long ago. Pepe don’t usually bother me cause I try to let them know I am around. I turn on an outside light or cough or even talk. . But you know that sometimes things go wrong, and leave you wishing you were anywhere other than just where you are at the time.
One night I was sittin’ outside in a chair just enjoying the evening when out of the corner of my left eye, I spotted some kind of movement. I wasn’t too concerned just figuring it was one of my outdoor cats. But as I sat there, some animal came walking right under my legs. I took a good look and saw that big bushy tail sticking up in the air. It was about a half second later when I noticed the white stripe down the back. It was not a small skunk either. It was obviously hungry as it went straight for the cat food bowl which was only about a foot away from me. It walked with great confidence as if it knew I was there and didn’t care. With that tail stuck straight up it seemed intimidating. My heart rate must have went through the ceiling as it felt like I suddenly couldn’t breathe. Now what am I gonna do, I thought.
My husband sometimes comes out to talk to me on my nocturnal wanderings. I usually look forward to our time together. Tonight I didn’t want to see him walk out that door. If he startled that big dude, we would surely both be in a world of stink. I figured just lookin at it; the spray would cover me from head to toe. As I sat there glued to that chair, I kept thinkin’, what to do? What to do? I wanted to get up and run like mad, but I knew that would be a mistake. I was as still as a statue and I think I was holding my breath. Pepe just kept on eating and every once in a while would look up at me and I could hear him say “what ya gonna do about it?” Finally I got enough air sucked into my lungs that I quietly said “Pepe, this is my porch and somebody else’s food and you need to find another place to be.” It ate a few more bites and I heard him say “you can’t tell me what to do”. It looked at me and turned around with its tail stuck up in the air and I thought I was gonna get it good. It walked off the porch with confident strides and disappeared into the night. I let out a sigh of relief and was panting as I immediately went back in the house.
I have not been sprayed yet. I figured I better lay in a large supply of tomato juice and do some research on the stinky critters after that close encounter. I just happened to be telling a friend of mine about it, and she said “Don’t waste your money on the tomato juice. I had two dogs and my mom sprayed and made them stay outside until I went and got some tomato juice.” She said “I scrubbed the three of them down good and it had very little effect. I washed them down and hosed them down until I thought they would drown before I ever got them somewhat less smelly.” I decided right then and there that a lot more research was gonna be needed. My luck was gonna run out one day and I was gonna get sprayed.
Before I could do any research, I was again out on the back porch when a very young Pepe happened to come upon me in the dark. Tail hiked as high as it would go. Young Pepe was upon me in an instant. Not knowing how young they can spray or how far, I was again caught in a very smelly situation. It was only about a foot away. I stood very still hardly breathing for fear it would startle the young one and quietly spoke and said “Little Pepe, this is my porch and you need to find elsewhere to go.” It was more aggressive than its older generation and decided it wanted the back porch to itself. It hiked its tail as high as it would go and stamped its feet at me and growled loud enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I understood it to say “Go away. I’m using the porch.” I guess it didn’t understand English yet. I started to return the favor and stamp my feet and growl, but didn’t have a bushy tail to lift. I thought about that for about half a second before I took a couple of steps slowly backward letting it have more room. Apparently it thought I still had way too much of the porch under my feet. So again it stamped both front feet and growled louder, and I swear that tail grew about a foot in the process. This time It said “You are still too close. Back up.” I decided that research should not be conducted and so exited hastily into the back yard. I guess it decided it had won that round so lifted its head high, hiked its tail higher. Looking at me, it turned its back with tail in air. I decided when I saw that tail lifted in my direction I needed to get further away and so ran behind my car. Iit stalked off the porch in the other direction like it was the king of Pepe’s.
I called the local wildlife center and talked to a wildlife expert about my situation. He said “Don’t try to trap them it will get you in trouble. A skunk can only spray ever 24 hours.” I thought that’s useless if you don’t know which Pepe sprayed you and how would you know that? They all look the same. He also said “the spray is oil based and therefore hard to remove from clothing or animals. There are items on the market and in your local stores that will remove the odor. However, a skunk will not spray as a rule unless it is cornered or startled or threatened in some way.” That made me feel better. He said “If you see a Pepe out in the daylight avoid it because most likely it has rabies so call your wildlife office to get it trapped.” I took care of one myself as just the day before I had seen one out in the afternoon. My husband shot it with a .22 rifle as noise echoes at my house. Later in the week, he took me out to show me where it was. Unfortunately, he ran over it with the wheel of the pickup and it smelled for weeks. He might just as well have been sprayed.
I am not a “tree hugger” or vegan so don’t get me wrong when I say “all critters have their place in society, it’s just not on my back porch.” Since I have yet to be sprayed, I figure my time has about come and I’m not ready yet.
I’m still not ready, but another encounter has occurred unexpectedly. I was on the back porch last night when I heard something on the north side of the house. I thought it was probably my cat and started to say he was making so much noise he woke me up. My mouth was left hanging open when I suddenly saw the white stripe down its head. Just about the time I saw that, I must have made some noise because it suddenly looked up and seeing me, took off like it had seen the Devil. Lucky for me it had its tail down the whole time, but when he took off to the north, I headed south to the back door and went back in the house. I suspect this is not the last time I will see or hear from Pepe. So far, that’s the only one I have seen this year, but the years not over yet.