Neelam Saxena Chandra – Skylines published by Authors Press, New Delhi, 2015
Short story writer, novelist, poet and translator, Neelam Saxena Chandra, holds a numbers of records and nominations. The Limca Book of Records 2015 cited her 2 achievement,one,for the highest number of books, 9, English and Hindi, published in a year, two, for being the first mother-daughter duo, to co-author a book of poems. She also made the Forbes India list of 78 best-known authors in India in 2014.Neelam Saxena Chandra’s awards include the Rabindranath Tagore International Poetry Award 2014, the Children Book Trust Award,2009 and the Premchand Puraskar Award
The narrative is simple yet the message lingers on long after you’ve finished reading the book
Review by Garima Srivastava Nag
A compilation of fourteen short stories, Skyline, brings you an array of emotions from everyday life . Quite a few stories inspire awe & respect in readers .
I will start with my favorites.
‘The Other Woman’. I immensely enjoyed the courage that Muskan the female protagonist of the story shows. Often women with kids are shown as weak individuals; they make unbelievable compromises to salvage their married life. Muskan, on the contrary, comes across as a woman who knows her worth, who knows that there is a life even without a husband. She refuses to bow down before the hardships of life; she takes the bull by the horn. She is determined to stand up for herself. I was so engrossed in her story that I imagined that she was a real person; I wanted to walk up to her and pat her back. We definitely need more women like Muskan in the real world.
‘ Horizons Of Hope’ centers round love, marriage and the arrival of children. The birth of two female children, Trisha and Tanishka, earn Aradhana the wrath of in laws and the ignorance of her husband. The indecisive husband , unable to stand up for his wife, asks her to leave the house. Men take steps like this; the husband’s attitude makes me question our social set up. Does a woman ever get to call a house her home ? Why does she have to bear the brunt of all social prejudice? Questions such as these stormed my mind . Thankfully Aradhana was not a portrait of a helpless woman. She went back a long forgotten hobby & excelled in it. She didn’t succumb to pressure. She proved that she could be independent and make a life for herself.
Another gem in the book is ‘The Bolted Fortitude’. Bindiya testifies against her husband & helps a hapless girl to get justice. Is that possible in reality? Such stories inspire hopes of a better world .
‘The Reverberations’ send out a strong message: the social acceptance of rape victims. In the story, the culprits are hanged for the gruesome crime; in present-day Indian they enjoy a guilt-free run. There’s more to this story. I am not going to play a spoil sport and reveal more.
‘Lessons In Prudence’ deals with domestic violence against women .
‘The Shimmering Sun’ is a heartfelt story of a woman whose life is overturned as the result of an unfortunate accident. The accident rips away the masks from the faces of the people around her, including the person she trusts the most, her husband. This is another inspiring tale of how a woman take her destiny in her hands and make it shine.
In ‘Love Knows No Boundary’ an HIV victim is accepted by his lover. The message the story sends out is that we need to be considerate and sensitive towards victims of AIDS.
‘Acts of Despicability’ play out a kaleidoscope of emotions.
‘The Conquest’ is a love triangle with interesting turns.
‘Time’s Wounds’ highlights the despicable practice of dowry and the social stigmas attached to it. The story shows how difficult it is for a person to break the social mold or defy society’s norms.
‘The Hiatus’ deals with racial discrimination. It shows how we create boundaries on the basis of religion, region and, most annoyingly, on the color of skin.
A Notch below the favorites
Although most of the stories do give you a sense of empowerment and hold out hope for the future, there are a few that are run-of-the mill. I wish layers of emotions had been added to the plain narratives.
‘The Three Men in Her life’ has an interesting protagonist, a teenage but it could been an interesting read had it a few twists.
‘Love Locks’ tells the tale of the personal struggles of two people from different social backgrounds.
‘Facets Of Love’ is a simple love story where the girl meet her ex after a gap of time. To her dismay he has become an alcoholic . The transitions between the past and the present create confusion. The story line would have been clearer had it been a novella.
Skyline stands out because of the subjects it deals with. It is difficult to keep the level of interest high if your stories carry socially relevant messages. Neelam Saxena Chandra has skillfully concealed the messages in interesting narratives. Strongly recommended.
“Neelam’s women are intrepid, factual, sincere and many things at the same time. The fourteen short stories of this collection are unique and creatively rich in every sense.” – Varsha Singh in http://reviewsindiamagazine.blogspot.in/2015/01/skylines-by-neelam-saxena-chandra.html
“A woman is like a palette of colors. Just like the colors, she too displays a different tint and shade at different points of time” – Priyanka Batra Harjai in https://booksnewsindia.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/book-review-skylines-author-neelam-saxena-chandra-publisher-authorpress/