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Mar 28, 2011 11:55 AM 2939 Views
(Updated Mar 29, 2011 05:29 AM)



When nine like minded women, professionals and non-professionals from different walks of life, bound by a common thread of love for quilled words, converge on one platform, what do they do? They toss up a bowl of bhelpuri, with its “essentially India” flavour, as Prof. Srikala Warrier writes in the Expert Speak. But life is like that, isn’t it? Tangy, tasty, hot, spicy, sprinkled with garnishes that sometimes bring a smile to the smacking lips and sometimes a few drops of tears to give company to the running nose! Bhelpuri, my dear friends, is a collection of twenty three short stories covered in a smart, attractive, colourful jacket sprawled over some 239 odd pages costing a very reasonable sum of Rs. 220/- + postage charges, if bought online. The nine authoresses belong to a Bangalore based Writers’ Group called Inklink Group. The name is self explanatory – hearts linked with ink. The chiffony pages and bold print add to reading pleasure.

Lines woven in ink reflect the mind that holds the pen. Similarly, Bhelpuri also whispers the tales of women’s hearts. No wonder then the protagonists of mostly all the stories are women. The feminine touch in plot, theme, narration and story telling is unmistakable. But that does not mean it cannot cater to universal reading. It can and it does. Bhelpuri is not an-over-the-top statement of woman’s empowerment. It is the soothing lore of women faltering on the cross roads of life before choosing a distinct, informed, enlightened direction and path. Every story has a definite message which is not blared but quietly suggested. Doesn’t that remind you of the mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend and lover, perhaps, sometimes only seen and not heard, but most of the time bolstering you up with their quiet strength and support from behind? Bhelpuri is right that!

As Ms. Shashi Deshpande rightly articulates in her Foreword, short story is a genre which is fast eloping from a writer’s mindscape and reader’s list of choice reads. Now everyone prefers to pen and browse a novel. But will it not be more appropriate for the short stories to have an upper hand in this era of jet speed? Reading a short story is so convenient while traveling, munching a hurried sandwich during a short break in between work, in the dull afternoons when there’s nothing much to do or before tiptoeing to dreamland at the fa.g end of a hectic day? We have forgotten the taste of this genre of writing whose short length and simplicity belie the swift moves through vast canvases of time and the deeply etched, true to life characters transcending continental and other man-made barriers.

Bhelpuri presents us this lost opportunity to savour 23 delicious stories deeply entrenched in the Indian soil but at the same time having a global appeal because tales of human travail and triumph know no LoC. I give below gist of a few of these 23 golden stories to tickle the reader’s taste buds:

(1) Child of My Dreams (Eva Bells) – Laila, a surrogate mother with a tainted childhood, does not want to part from her off spring. Will she stand a chance in the Court of Law, Rajeev_Vermacially, when Gautam aka Sham Sunder, is the lawyer fighting against her who has already savoured her youth in hours of wanton pleasure?

(2) Cry From Beyond (Khurshid Khoree) – Exploring the old attic, Sabi finds a doll named Anna Maria, which belongs to her aunt Tina. Is Anna Maria the only tie between Tina and Sabi or there is more to the secret they both silently share?

(3) A Difficult Decision (Lakshmi Menon) – Jessy, an unwed mother, wants to give the best to her son Abhilash, for which she has to take a very difficult decision. What is this decision and will she be able to go by it?

(4) Castle In The Sands (Malathi Ramachandran) – Sushila and Kanti, two desert women, dream of a distant, dazzling city life. A man with killing charms can fulfill their dreams. Will their lives be the same again?

(5) Silver (Prema Sastri) – Madhavi meets childhood friend Rajaram, who was once madly in love with her, after ages. Will this meeting bring a glint to the silver that has touched both their hairlines?

(6) Colours Of Hope (Nalini S. Malaviya) – Shivakumar, a promising but struggling painter, bumps into a renowned artist, Prasanna Rao, who has a proposal which can change Shivakumar’s life. Will he accept it?

(7) Chicken Soup For Inspiration (Kamini Williams) – An orphan boy with a fondness for greasy chicken soup has a story to tell. What is this story inextricably linked with his past?

(8) Wait Until Dark (Vatsala Warrier) – Against the back drop of Sri Lankan sea beaches and the Tamil Militants’ rebel to destabilize the established political rule is the saga of survival of Murali and his beautiful daughter Valli..

(9) Spell Of A Moment (Anuradha Nalapat) – A moment painted into a timeless tale in the life of Ana and her sleeping child and how Ana copes with life in that one moment.

Nine different pens with nine different penning styles, bound in one volume, a delightful read with strong Indian fragrance, but nevertheless, at the same time, with a blend and bent timeless and boundless! Surprisingly, the read is racy too as I lope from one story to the other. The fluid narration, the razor sharp language, glimpses of poetic description, gripping story telling help fasten my gallop. If anyone asks me what is the common chord coursing through the anthology? I’ll say the positive vibe, the tune of hope and the feel of sun shine, notwithstanding the trials and tribulations that the characters undergo, bringing a pleasureful smile to the readers’ lips at the end.

To intrigue my friends and readers a little more, I add to the above nine stories, briefs of five more which are my personal favourite:

(1) Friday’s Child (Malathi Ramachandran) - A beggar girl willingly discards a life of comfort to go back to being a beggar.

(2) Patience (Lakshmi Menon) – An intriguing woman nurses a rogue of a husband on death bed.

(3) From Behind The Walls (Khurshid Khoree) – A shadow prowling the attic in the dead of the night has a whispered secret.

(4) She Danced At My Wedding (Eva Bell) – A pen pal with a heart rending secret prefers to remain incognito.

(5) The Reunion (Malathi Ramachandran) – Hopes of a broken marriage to get repaired at a family reunion.

Interested ones can click on the link given below for a copy of the book, delivery upon requisite payment.

To my esteemed co MSian @deepas I suggest that she may as well include this book in her New Year resolution of reading list.

Though, some of the stories may do well with a little bit of editing and proof reading, overall it is an engaging and engrossing reading.

My rating is 4/5 * to women empowerment!!!

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