Posted in Short stories

Short stories–and some reviews

Two 5-star reviews on amazon.uk
Laurence. Glazier on 13 Nov. 2015

Format: Kindle Edition

These short stories are reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges, for whom the theme of a library was also intriguing. These are stories of hope and sometimes magic, of good deeds and consistency bearing fruit. Tales of the passage of the years, of which things change and what remains in the form of essential qualities and truths. The magical realism of the initial story has greater realism than usual for this genre, and that is as it should be, for magic is not dream-stuff but everywhere in life if we but see it, and all events are part of wider stories.
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Format: Kindle Edition

Clear writing, engaging characters, intriguing ideas and ultimately well worth your time and attention.
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on amazon.com–one 5-star and one 4-star
Roshen Captured me and Brought me Deep Inside her Stories 30 November 2015
By Randal Joy Thompson Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to reading this collection of stories because I have read some of Roshen’s historical and religious books and have also read some of Roshen’s mother, well-known writer Nargis Dalal’s short stories and novels. I knew Roshen was working on a novel, but I had no idea she had also written short stories. I was also curious to see if there was any similarity in her’s and her mother’s style and subject. After reading these stories, I found that Roshen’s style and subject matter are quite distinct from her mother’s and reflect not only the concerns of a different generation but also the perspective of a woman who has chosen a life path quite different than her mother’s and perhaps even quite unique in India.

I first met Roshen in the mid-1970’s, when we were both students at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and we lived close to each other in the hostel. I knew the young Roshen then as an amazingly brilliant women with a gentle spirit and a kind heart and a hunger for spiritual enlightenment. We visited her mother once in Dehradun and I recognized at once the source of much of her intelligence, love of learning, and commitment to social justice.

Roshen remained in my heart and I longed to see her again for almost forty years. Last year, my longing was finally satisfied and I was able to return to India and visit her in her mother’s house in Dehradun where she continues writing, lecturing, speaking, rescuing cats, fighting for animal rights, and continuing on her spiritual quest. It seemed like we had only been apart for a few years.

I experienced so much of Roshen in these short stories. In The Library, I almost got the impression that the characters were books representing knowledge that was going to be wiped out by the encroaching online world and saw the nostalgia of academics as the ancient abodes of knowledge and the dusty old books of past secrets get tossed aside for the slick reality of modern, minimalist libraries where books seem almost like an afterthought. I also saw in the characters parts of Roshen, as a highly skilled and respected academic who never got the opportunity she deserved to excel in the politicized academic world of India. Her PhD Dissertation still remains one of the most profound, well-researched, and unique sources of ancient Indian history and my prayer remains that it will be published so that she gets the recognition she deserves. Not that she has not received recognition, but I do not think that her public is aware of the wisdom that remains locked in her PhD tome.

In As below So Above, I saw Roshen’s commitment to social justice combined with her insistence on individuals’ power to create their own reality on earth rather than to surrender to the notion of fate or to religious truism that can make people inactive and give up. Her story was almost a call to action confirmed by a revelation coming from the same world that can justify inaction. I thought it was also revealing that the protagonist’s wife was the one who interpreted the life-changing profundity in her husband’s dream.

I certainly saw Roshen as the main character in Paper Toys and again saw her incredible sense of social justice and frustration with the bureaucracy and traditional superstitions of villagers which dominated over lives and allowed preventable death to happen in order to uphold the status quo. I could also sense Roshen’s sadness about the materialism and love for money that had creeped into Indian society in the years between her visits. One the one hand, the hospital looked cleaner and more professional, but the human spirit had clearly diminished and even children had changed. How often we find when we return to places we discover the world is no longer as we perceived it or hoped it would be.

Jahanara struck the deepest chord with me because Roshen so clearly conveyed Jahanara’s feelings combined with her almost sterile, well-planned act of suicide. I empathized with her character and could also relate to the stark contrast between her vision of herself and her reality and how others saw her and her importance to them and her potential contribution to the world. How so many of us can get mired in self-loathing and distorted views of what is happening around us and other’s feelings toward us and staunchly decide to follow the path to self-destruction only to be thwarted by the sudden recognition that people “out there” care and that our work is perhaps really worthy of us continuing to live.

My Kindle version had only four stories and so I missed reading The Frogs and The Beautiful One, which were not even listed in the Table of Contents, and The Search, which was not even mentioned on Amazon but was in my version Table of Contents. I will have to write Roshen to get these.

Roshen’s style is clear and punctuated by images and descriptions that draw the reader into the scene. I was captured. I look forward to reading more and also to seeing Roshen again.

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HASH(0x960fdab0) out of 5 stars I only gave this Kindle e-book four stars because it is shorter than I would have liked.
6 November 2015
By Mariaca Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I own one of this prolific author’s books on religions in India. But recently I was given a link to her charming collection of short stories. I only gave this Kindle e-book four stars because it is shorter than I would have liked. Given that minor detail, I enjoyed the quixotic mix of stories, especially the poignant story-memoir whose setting is a hospital in India. That tale itself is worth the price of the book.

Personally, I like the style in which Ms. Dalal writes. Because her literary voice seeks neither pity nor admiration I can easily visualize the India she writes about. I wish she would use that authentic voice to expand her experiences in a future novel or memoir. She is a prolific non-fiction author on subjects related to India, and though this, for her, was a rare foray into fiction I hope there will be more of the same to come.

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As I had written earlier, I started finding and typing out short stories/ episodes written earlier. These six were uploaded in a kindle book, link below them.
The Library

A thousand years later they will excavate a mound and as they dig, slowly, carefully, lifting the bricks of crumbled buildings, they will find the skeletons of six people who seem to have died sitting, covered in dust; and when they take some of this dust in a test tube and analyse it in their laboratories, they will learn it is the dust of books. To make the excavation report factual and interesting they will attempt to reconstruct the situation but they will not quite succeed.
[A story on academicians–well-qualified and brilliant, but unable to find jobs]

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As Below So Above

My story begins with a nightmare. One night I dreamt I went to heaven.
It was like this. I had died in my sleep, and I was happy. After all, the life I had was not worth living. I did have a few momentary regrets about my young wife and two-year-old son, but as I rode upwards, light as a cloud, I soon forgot them. I was eager to start my new life.

[a story about a real refugee camp in Bangladesh]

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Paper Toys

Last evening I visited Ward Number 28 again, the Orthopaedic Ward for women, in Janvadi Hospital. More than thirty years have passed, though I had planned so often to go there.

[a true story–life in a government hospital in India]——————————————————–

Jahanara
Jahanara was the most beautiful name she could think of. It wasn’t her real name, but she had chosen it for herself. Its the name she wanted to die with. In about three months Jahanara aimed to be dead, covered in flowers, her face pale and beautiful, her hair washed and straight. [a young woman, full of ennui, who becomes a writer]

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The Frogs
Once again, I was allotted a new place to stay. It had two small rooms with low, ill-fitting asbestos ceilings under tin roofs, and a bathroom and kitchen without the ceilings, the tin roofs propped up by shaky, termite-ridden rafters. The floor was perpetually damp with seepage from the ground, and there were cracks everywhere, which let in a wide variety of insects and creatures.

[an account of frogs and other creatures]


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016GQVNOS

 

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Posted in Divali, Festivals, India

Celebrating Divali with Family and Friends!

Minty
Minty

This year, Divali was on 11 November. For days before houses were lit with flashing multi-coloured lights. Cracker bursting too had begun long before the 11th. On the 11th evening it reached a peak. The sky was lit with rockets, the road outside the house was aflame with sparklers, anars, and all sorts of fire-crackers. And the noise was deafening. After lighting a few diyas I came inside. On TV every actor and ‘important’ person went on about how wonderful it was to celebrate Divali with family and friends.
I too, was celebrating with family and friends. They consisted of: Sweetie, Minty, Pixie, Mini, Maxi, Mitzi, Ashi and Nandu. Here’s how we celebrated. Sweetie was wrapped in a quilt on my bed, until I joined her at night so that she could sleep on my shoulder as she always does. Minty sat on my lap and later had a warm sweater to curl up in. Pixie came inside and dived under the bed in the other bedroom. Mini, Maxi, and Mitzi hid behind boxes in the storeroom. Ashi and Nandu would normally be with them, but for extra safety [as they are black and I had heard of people wanting black cats for Tantric rites], they were in the bathroom, and hid under the sink.
All were safe, even though none were too happy. On my terrace the diyas burned with a soft light. It was the most peaceful house in the area.
[Pixie is a dog, all others are cats. All are rescues].

Posted in Kindle Direct Publishing, Writing

‘Mine your own material’

If I remember right, this was one of the prompts in Writing 101. Or perhaps it was old material? It got me thinking, though I did not post anything at the time. And I have begun the process, instead of constantly writing something new. I have thousands, hundreds of thousands of pages, unread by anyone. Some are ready stories, some are articles, some need a lot of work, but have considerable potential.

As a first step, I located, typed and uploaded on kindle, four, and later, six stories. Not many sales, and not many have read them, but then they were lying unread for so many years! And whoever has read them, has liked them–one story, two people independently compared to the work of Borges!

And I’ll be continuing the process–of putting my papers in order, uploading what is readable.

Posted in 1984, History, India

Remembering 1984

Every 31st October I remember that night in 1984. When I got home, there was a burning bus right outside my gate, and a man hiding from the mobs in our garden. Down the road I could see more cars, buses and buildings in flames. It was the day Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India, was shot dead by her own Sikh guards.
Below are a couple of passages from my book the Puffin History of India vol 2.
‘Violence against Sikhs had already started that day, and continued for the next three days. Over 2700 Sikhs were killed in Delhi, and property belonging to them, worth hundreds of crores of rupees, was destroyed. The worst area was in Trilokpuri in east Delhi, where Sikhs were burnt alive and killed in other terrible ways. In Kanpur, 140 people were killed and attacks on Sikhs occurred in eighty other towns in north India.
A curfew was imposed in Delhi, but it had little effect, till the army was asked on 3 November to shoot if necessary to control the situation. Slowly peace returned. In the midst of the madness, many residents of Delhi and elsewhere, protected and saved hundreds of Sikhs.’

Indira’s son Rajiv Gandhi was chosen as prime minister, and later after elections in December, and a massive win by the Congress, he was again chosen to lead the country. Unfortunately, a few years later,on 21 May 1991, he too was assassinated. Though as prime minister he had introduced policies from which we still benefit [new technology, for instance, that brought in mobile phones, the internet, etc], the tragedy of his life being cut short was greater, as he never wanted to be prime minister or in politics at all.
Another quote from my book, “He said, ‘I had no love for politics. I treasured the privacy of my happy family life.’ He went on to say that after his brother Sanjay’s death, his mother had no one to turn to. ‘She called out to me in her loneliness. I went to her side. At her insistence, I left my love for flying. At her insistence, I sacrificed my family life. At her insistence I joined her as a political aide. It was from her that I learnt my first political lessons. It was she who urged me to respond to the insistent demand from the constituency and the party to take my brother’s place as member of Parliament from Amethi.”
His policy in Sri Lanka led to his assassination. The IPKF [Indian Peace Keeping Force], and its role in Sri Lanka remain controversial. Its activities seemed badly planned and executed. More on that later.