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image: via pinterest

Hello, my name? H.
Your good name?

He tilts his head and
awaits my good name.

Me? I am engineer.
Software field, he adds.

What do you do? I write,
I say, a touch smug.

Perplexed, he freezes:
processing, searching.

Just as I fear a shutdown,
a reload!

Eyes screwed, he asks,
um, writing?

Ya, I affirm.
Copy, you know.

He runs his fingers along
the air between us, a piano.

So you are a typer?
No! I am a writer.

But you type, no? Again,
his fingers play the air.

Yes, I reply.
So you are a typer!

That declared, a pleased
smile sits on his lips.

I acquiesce.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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image: penguin india

I’m more familiar with literary movements that swept the US and Europe than the ones closer home. The first that I heard of the Hungry generation was in this book (they figure in Jeet Thayil’s The Book of Chocolate Saints too). The Hungryalists, as they were known, were a revolutionary band of poets who originated in West Bengal. They questioned the rigidity of form and exclusivity imposed by upper-class poets, the bourgeoisie. They rubbed shoulders with Allen Ginsberg when he visited India. In fact, shocked by the legal action slapped on the Hungryalists for obscenity by a few righteous literary leaders of that time, he did his best to help the Hungryalists by writing to various people in positions of power that he knew in India. The poets received recognition and support from the international community while back home, they faced harsh and unforgiving judgments.

Much of the poets’ work was destroyed. However, Chowdhury has featured what could be found through her research and interviews in the book. She has interspersed the account of the literary movement with copies of translated poems and reproduced letters exchanged between the poets and others. Their passion and urgency are still intact in these letters. Even at the worst of times, despite the persecution, their love for poetry held them strong. Chowdhury has written an engaging narrative with prose that ebbs and flows, rich in lyricism, apt for the subject.

Title: The Hungryalists
Author: Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House India, 2018
ISBN: 9780670090853, 0670090859

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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image: amazon

I’m still reeling from this novel which is disturbing, funny, and heartbreaking. Trite as it sounds, it also offers us the triumph of human spirit. The novel dives into loneliness, trauma, and the struggle to integrate with what is considered as normal. It goes to show how human touch and the smallest acts of kindness can heal and restore a person.

The protagonist is Eleanor Oliphant. She claims she is completely fine. She accepts that her coworkers mock her and that’s okay because she finds them odd and they make her shudder with surprise and distaste. She has a strict routine. Calls with Mummy are on Wednesday. There’s something childish about her talk of Mummy as though the thirty-year-old woman is still trapped in childhood. It is revealed that she has a social worker visiting her. There are scattered mentions of a fire and scars on her face.

And then she falls in love and saves a man and makes a friend. All very unexpected. Eleanor begins to navigate through a normal life and discovers what kindness and affection feel like with child-like wonder. But the edge of a traumatic past is a tricky place to stand on, a fall is imminent, so is the possibility of rising out of it. It begins with Eleanor accepting she is not fine. Not completely anyway.

Gail Honeyman has done a brilliant job in understanding what trauma and loneliness can do to a person. A few details seem far-fetched and as you near the end, you’re left with the feeling that you’ve reached the finish line and you’re still going, looking hither and thither for the end.

Title: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Genre: Novel/Literary Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2017
ISBN: 0008172110

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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image: simon & schuster

“What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence” is an anthology of essays, in which fifteen writers share their stories about what they never had the opportunity to talk about with their mothers. The collection of essays is edited by Michele Filgate. It gets off the ground with her own essay about what she wants to share with her mother. The essays reveal how relationships between mothers and children are never clean and straightforward. There are wounds that go deep, there is love, there are things left unsaid which eat you up slowly, skin to flesh to bone.

Of the mother and child relationship, Filgate writes:

“That mother-and-child connection is a complicated one. Yet we live in a society where we have holidays that assume a happy relationship.”

Why rake up the mud when it can settle down at the bottom and we can pretend all is good, or when we can simply look the other way?

Filgate says:

“The more we face what we can’t or won’t or don’t know, the more we understand one another.”

The essayists hold the bull by the horns and risk being gored as they delve into their personal experiences of abuse, immense love, confusion. It is not all roses and greeting-card odes to mommy dearest. Each of the essays in the anthology pulsates with courage and honesty. Disparate though experiences may be, they are unified by the theme of what these writers have not shared with their mothers until now.

Title: What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence
Editor: Michelle Filgate
Genre: Essays, Non-Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2019
ISBN: 978-1982107345, 1982107340

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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image: via pinterest

“How can you bring that disciplined practice to your life each day instead of jumping straight into a project and laying fallow between these projects? What are the warm-ups that you as a writer can do? What is the jumping jacks equivalent to writing?

You can easily develop your writing practice by planning your time, what you’ll write, and what you’ll read. And then do it. Every single day.”

Read my guest post ‘The Writer’s Practice: Your Everyday Writing Warm-Up’ on Live Write Thrive –

https://www.livewritethrive.com/2019/06/24/the-writers-riyaz-your-everyday-writing-warm-up/#more-10671

Live Write Thrive is a blog by Susanne Lakin: a novelist, writing coach, and copyeditor. It is your one-stop blog for all things writerly!

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image: via pinterest

You blanket me
mold my bones
and flesh
sparing me
the comfort of
clarity. Brown
and brimming:
how i love you.

It’s the taunts, their
memory, stealth strikes
betraying secrets.
Must you be blatant?
So unforgiving?
Why hold my flaws
to the mirror,
to light?

Hold them instead in
the heart, a comforting
secret, till the heart
confuses it for love
for what else does the
heart know but love?

Until one day, deceived
it’ll give away;
splinters will run through
it, raspy breaths, maybe
i will clutch at it,
who cares?
so long as you
glow and radiate
outwardly.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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image: via goodreads

The unfolding of a woman

Janice Pariat’s novella The Nine-Chambered Heart is a collection of nine stories tied together by a single woman. The nine also references the paper folds that make up an origami heart – at least the one that I attempted. Eight people, men and women, who have loved or desired the young woman describe her and their relationship with her. Written in the second person, the narratives read like conversational letters of confusion, love, concern, nostalgia, and bitterness that the lovers felt.

A single narrator holds court in each chapter and is described with a title related to the role that he/she plays in the unnamed woman’s life at different stages. Only the Butcher appears twice. People and places have no names. Only the animals do: China, India, Scapara, Layla, Gramsci. There are cities with rivers and those without.

Over the course of the nine narratives, the reader sees the woman only from the perspective of various people. The multiple perspectives move on a ‘Rashomon’ tangent and as in the movie, the readers don’t get to know the woman in her entirety; she remains incomplete, an enigma, a mere sum of perceptions. A fear of abandonment along with a need for love and the pain of loss ripple through the narratives. Perhaps that explains the lack of names which brings with them the possibility of attachment that’s longed for and yet feared.

Most of the narratives offer the protagonist in small and similar bites, something of her background, her quirks, her love for cats and origami, her fragility, the aloofness she exudes. It is only in The Lighthouse Keeper’s narrative that a side of the woman is presented that jars against the impressions gathered from the others.

The most striking feature in The Nine-Chambered Heart is the well-crafted sentences, each precise and poetic. The novella is not something that a reader would down in a single gulp but something that one would want to slowly savor. And then round back for second helpings.

Title: The Nine-Chambered Heart
Author: Janice Pariat
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction
Publisher: The Borough Press, 2018
ISBN: 978-0008272548

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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image: via pinterest

I am from a loud place
of many small things
old things, old furies, old
hands saying stop.

I am from feathers angelic
of the flying kind, yet I’m
grounded, only the heart aerial
never carrying me away from
me. A homing pigeon, it returns
from far-flung places, telling me
stories in flutters, and feathers
fall all over me like promises,
maybe consolations.

I am from coffee, diluted
with milk to make me drink
milk, nurturing instead an
insomniac, a night owl who
burns like the stars and holds
in her veins the seduction of
the moon, dark and cold
moon with pause, of disquiet.

I am from pages torn, balled,
and burned. A bonfire that reduced
me to ashes. I rise again, the ashes
they cling, never am I free of
ashes. Burn child burn.

I am from no-nos. Don’t do this.
Don’t do that. Good girls are made
not born. Be a good girl. That’s like
a good girl. A good girl was forced
under my skin. I said my good byes,
she peers out at me now and again.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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image: via pinterest

Delighted to have my short story, ‘Tarla’s Homecoming,’ published in The Bangalore Review’s May issue.

Grateful to The Bangalore Review’s editorial team for publishing it.

Follow the link to read the story –

http://bangalorereview.com/2019/05/tarlas-homecoming/

 

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image: via pinterest | a pretty accurate picture of my home

On Bengaluru Review:

Read my review of Sylvia Plath’s short story, “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom” here –

https://bengalurureview.com/2019/05/11/sylvia-plath-mary-ventura-and-the-ninth-kingdom/

On The Bookish Elf:

Three hours of book shopping and thirty-five books later this piece happened: Yoga for Bookworms

“Any bookworm worth their salt would know that reading books, buying books, and obsessing about books require physical effort. It is not all about flexing those mental muscles to plot twists and climaxes. Reading makes great demands on the body. There’s nothing sedentary about it. Enter yoga, a cure-for-all, book worming included.”

https://www.bookishelf.com/yoga-for-bookworms/