Abha Iyengar and Mona Verma are the editors of this anthology of short stories. Abha is an internationally published author, poet and British Council certified Creative Writing Facilitator. She has won a number of international awards and written several screenplays. A review of her collection of short stories, The Gourd Seller and Other Stories has been published on this website.
Mona is the author of the novels, God is a River, The White Shadow, A Bridge to Nowhere, a collection of short stories, and a number of other books.
Being on the other side of The Other
Review by Manmeet Narang
For one year my relationship with the book ‘The Other’ was that of a writer. My short story was graced with a place among 33 authors in the anthology. The excitement of the journey was taking the first step into adult fiction after a five-year stint with Children’s literature. So when I held the book in my hand, it felt like seeing my dream breathe in my palms.
It took merely three stories to overpower the self-indulgent writer in me. Without my knowing, the reader in me was gorging one story after another. The world of ‘The Other’ was opening up and sucking me in.
On a cold night, Shene Bhat held my hand to take me through ‘An Afternoon’ to see the pain of a woman trapped in the body of a man. His rejection at the hands of the world pricked me. So when he kicked life to choose death, I found a part of me died along.
Mona Dash made me run along a relationship that is fun and convenient but most of all unaccepted in the world. One can take on the world but when the man in your life calls it unacceptable, it can spin around your entire personality. In that turn around sometimes you find yourself-your true love.
Asha Francis paints a similar relationship that doesn’t have the seal and stamp of marriage. With great craftsmanship, she brings out how if there is grace, every relationship can be meaningful and can leave behind a trail of beautiful memories.
We are born free spirit, we die as a free spirit. But the period in between is far from being free. Asha Iyer Kumar writes a painful portrayal of a man who chooses to be a ‘vagabond’ to live a life of freedom only to find himself chained again by relationships he has been running from. As my heart marveled at how varied dimensions of ‘The Other’ have come to the fore, light from Smita Luthra’s ‘Diamond in the rough’ made me sit up in awe. The desire to be ‘somebody’ is brought out with such sensitivity through this woman who is a ‘nobody’ doing her task of keeping the washrooms clean in the corporate office.
What could ‘The Hyphenated Indian’ mean? The title itself is so intriguing and the story even more revealing as Murli Melwani takes you beyond the partition, beyond the Indo-Pak wars to share what lurks at the Indo-China border.
In the middle of the anthology, Illakshee Bhuyan Nath’s ‘The Mango Tree’ stands tall and strong. The mangoes stolen from its branches makes you see things that you protect from others and find yourself helpless when you can’t.
‘The Silent Sentinel’ by Harshali Singh knocks at the door of your heart. Four tales within this one story tug at your heart and make you look at your family in a different light.
How far a human mind can wander, what limits it can cross, Kriti Sinha makes you wonder with her unique perspective on The Other. As if the impact of the story was not enough I find she is barely in XIIth grade!
Jyothi Vinod shows you the mirror in her story ‘The Benefits of Forced Laughter’ and makes you reflect are you who you pretend to be. Gently she asks are you really the other? Is the pain in you any different from those around you? Use your pain to heal others, she slips the message with affection and firmness.
‘The Other’ makes you think, cry, laugh, bleed, question. But more than that it celebrates how different yet alike we all are. As the visionaries and editors of this beautiful book, Abha Iyengar and Mona Verma put it in their words. These are stories of many ‘Others’ where no two are the same, yet are strung together by the oneness that writes them, their inner vacuum.
The Editor’s note. We asked Manmeet to add a comment on her own story. She politely declined; we were impressed by her modesty. Our copies of the book not arrived, so we asked Abha Iyengar to comment on Manmeet Narang’s story, The Veil.
“Romance is something so essential for people, and for women perhaps more, who live for a certain ‘touch’, ‘look’, or expressed love in the form of poems. The man playing the guitar under the window is a fantasy one would love to make a reality, or the horse-rider who sweeps the woman in his arms and carries her away. Manmeet’s story ‘The Veil’ is filled with romance, history, poetry, and a yearning for the unrealized ‘other’. Most men would be unable to comprehend or support what they may even consider a flighty, impractical state of mind. So I love the fact that Raza goes along with Saheba’s desire and gives her support, and perhaps manages to tap an unknown part of himself while doing this.” – Abha Iyengar
“The Other is an anthology/collection of bite size stories around a single subject: the other. It’s a peek into the minds of a new generation of Indians, their lives, aspirations and insecurities. You will be left wondering about the lives of the writers of these stories and at the end of the book is a short description of the writers featured here and don’t skip that part when you read each story.” 4.00 out of 5 stars. – Gopal MS
“Have been reading the stories and what a fantastic range to indulge in around the theme of The Other. How sensitively each writer has woven a story around the given subject” – Gayatri Manchanda.