27 February 2019
Stories are opportunities to really get to know people who you might never meet. Imagine, we don’t have to live every life, but can experience them anyway. And perhaps, somewhere along the way, understand how others live, what their thoughts are, their happiness, their anxieties. So we may be prepared to understand when we do interact with what we became familiar with, through a writer’s words. Aparna’s stories provide just these opportunities. From the delights of a private virtual train journey to the mountains in “Kanchenjuga Express“ to glimpses of diametrically opposite lifestyles from two sides of a barred balcony in “Behind Bars”, she picks out defining moments that shape her characters’ lives. True to the genre of the short story, she keeps them short, making quick connects and leaps, much like life today.
Hemingway said, "A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff is that you, not your editors, omit.“ There are no definitive conclusions, no aha moments that confine our imagination and bind us in conclusions. It is in the telling of snippets of life and the open ended-ness that is the charm of Aparna’s stories. Some of the stories are surprisingly short, and therefore beautiful. “Seekers” may take it a step further and leave us demanding to know what comes next, but that is the author’s prerogative. So live without conclusions, we must. There’s a liberation in that for readers, if we choose to ‘read’ it that way.
Like many Indian authors writing in English, who are exploring topics like sexuality, fidelity, relationships with partners and spouses, Aparna too explores these topics. Her approach however, is so natural, and so relatable, that it does not feel like fiction. They are not heavy, but light in treatment, and delightful. They make you smile as you recognise events, lines, reactions as your own. Ancestral homes and what they mean to this generation, waning sexual interest in long married couples, forgotten but deep connections we make with childhood friends, are all familiar humanscapes in her stories.
It also takes courage for a writer to pen such a variety characters, happy, indecisive, nervously experimental or traumatised. Delving into and laying bare emotions that are still considered taboo, and following through with sequences of events that her audience may not subscribe to, Aparna has put them all out there.
The language is from our everyday lives, and it could have done with some crisper editing in a few places. Some turns of phrases are so Indian that they may be intriguing to an international reader, but that’s what makes this writing authentic. The telling is from the heart. These eight stories won’t take long to finish, but they’ll stay with you for some time to come.
Keep writing dear friend, for this is just the beginning. Looking forward to more from you!