Here’s a Brief on my set of four books: Novels, Poetry and Short fiction.
The global sales links of all paperback and the digital/E-books are in this link:
Across Borders: A Novel
All media reviews and coverage of Across Borders and it’s first launch in 2013, are in the link: https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2018/07/16/across-borders-my-debut-novel-the-republished-version/
Excerpts from Across Borders, in the words of the protagonist Maya…
Chapter 1: That day in 1948, Kalpana and I left to cross over to another life with Ronjit uncle across the Pakistan border. There was no Bangladesh yet and was not going to be for a long time. Mihirpur is a small town near the city of Dacca, in erstwhile East Pakistan, currently Bangladesh. I was about to transcend the border of my childhood. After the age of eight, I was sucked into adulthood like quicksand. It would only be fifteen years hence that I would again cross the border, back into India. After my graduation in 1964, I would return to work, marry, raise a family and live the rest of my life on the Indian side. A few years later, in 1971, the home that I grew up in was to become a part of Bangladesh, no longer of East Pakistan, as when I would leave it. As the country was re-contoured into Pakistan, Bangladesh and India ensuing much turmoil, so did my life across its border in developing three distinct identities – childhood, adolescence and adulthood – get chiselled by the rough hands of time and experiences…
Chapter 2: It was nearly three days, before Ma got a first glimpse of the woman who had displaced her in her husband’s life. That morning Ma was by the well behind the house, putting the clothes to dry on the line. She saw a face just above the sari she had hung. Ma froze in recognition, a dagger passing through her heart, taking her breath away. Thereafter she felt no pain, no anger, not the slightest twinge of jealousy. Numbness had taken over, rooting her to the ground. This is how she would feel about this woman — anaesthetized, till her dying day. This woman had usurped Ma’s position as wife, robbed her of the status of the lady of the house, relegating her to becoming a stranger in her own home. Slowly regaining composure, Ma became acutely self-conscious of still wearing sindur on the parting of her hair, and the shakha, paula and loha around her wrists.
Why was she still adorned in the symbols of marriage of Bengali women, when her marriage was in reality dead, Ma pondered? The shakha (shell bangle) mirrors the qualities of the moon, implying that a woman remains serene and calm; and the paula (coral bangle) is beneficial for health. The loha (iron) signifies that a relationship assumes the qualities of iron — to become tough and enduring, which hers had failed miserably to do. But then, she would continue to wear these visual signs of her extinct marriage till the death of her husband. So what if these symbols had proven ineffective in warding off the biggest threat to her marriage – another woman? Ma now looked closer at Baba’s second wife. She was wearing the identical symbols of marriage, except hers shone brighter from newness and perhaps from requited love, unlike hers.
Chapter 4: At the very outbreak of the riots, Sudeep arranged for Kalpana and Swapnil to leave for Calcutta immediately. He would not take any chances with their security. I was able to convince him telephonically of my need to stay back, promising to leave right after my exams. He himself stayed back in a refugee camp, in wrapping up his business for a few more months. The evacuees from Vishnuganj who took shelter in two mills as reported by The Pakistan Observer were 24000, though the unofficial estimate of the evacuees was 150,000. As I learnt of this in the safety of my Muslim friend’s house, knowing that Sudeep was in that count, I fervently prayed for his safety and reunion with his family. I constantly fought my fear of being brutally murdered if detected to be a Hindu. It truly was the acid test of my ability to fight any threat life would pose thereafter…
Chapter 5: My mother’s helplessness in the face of father’s treachery always came to mind in times of indecisiveness like this. It propelled me to stay on in Dacca, in spite of the arsonist mood I was enveloped in. Though I was to never literally take up arms, I was intrinsically combating with life itself. How then could external forces deter my battle to win a good life, to hoist the flag of my success in front of my father? Therefore education and resultant economic autonomy I chose over the security of life at the time, deciding to leave East Pakistan only on completion of my final examinations. My personal experiences of the riots still give me the shudders. Even now, I wake up from sleep after vivid dreams of the violence, breaking out in a cold sweat as if I were in the midst of it…
Chapter 6: After the outbreak of the riots and attacks on a number of girl’s schools and hostels, it is difficult to pre-empt what may happen next, so all of us girls have vacated the hostel. However, of the twenty-two of us, only four of us who are Hindus, are in actual danger of our lives, if detected. As our truck rolls out into the neighbourhood, we can hear agonizing screams, as people are running crazily pushing one another, overturning wheelbarrows of fruits and vegetables, trampling over the crushed as well as fresh ones they might have just bargained hard for. There are small to large fires everywhere, with a putrid burning smell mixed with that of blood, sweat and fear. People are running arbitrarily — not sure in which direction. They are unsure of who is killing whom, not even aware if the man running alongside is a potential slayer, to escape the vandalism that has erupted on the streets.
There are lungi clad men on the trot, with lathis, daggers, spears and burning torches, against the fading light of the setting sun. All shutters of shops are either closed or are being frantically pulled down, as those late to react will be looted and ransacked, lucky if they can manage to save their lives. People are making a dash for shops or godowns still open, in a bid to hide, not sure if they should stop to pick up a wailing child separated from the mother in the frenzy. There are partially burnt hulks of cars, serrated holes in place of their windows and windshields, dotting the city like campfires in a National Scout Jamboree amidst pitched tents, silent witnesses to the mass destruction and massacre. Thick smoke is wafting about, heavy with the stench of burning flesh, tyres and charred cars, buses and rickshaws.
There are pools of blood on the pavement, where a man might have been beheaded with one flash of a machete. The body, its skin ashen in death, has perhaps been removed by relatives or shop assistants after the rioters have moved ahead. Ambulances and police jeeps are rushing past, their blaring alarms merging jarringly, the red lights blinking furiously. Hospitals are thronged with the dead and the wounded; their mortuaries being combed in search of loved ones, in earnest prayer that they are not found, giving hope a chance to linger. Photos of missing people have been taped on walls of markets and stores. By now, trips to newspaper offices clutching photos taken at weddings — whether the missing person’s own or attending that of loved ones, is forming queues…
Chapter 10: On completion of their schooling, I plan on my daughters attending college from home in Calcutta. So we can now live truly as a family, after the years of mere vacations together. But to my surprise, Dipanjana, now in her eleventh standard, shows a keen interest in going to college at Delhi University. She manages to impress upon an unwilling Sanjana, who has just completed her twelfth standard, to proceed to Delhi. Initially I try to dissuade them, disappointed they do not want to stay home with me and Nayan. But having wished for them to be independent, strong and decisive women, sending them to boarding school at such tender ages to achieve the same, I cannot complain now. Thus I relent, escorting them to Delhi myself; decidedly to admit Sanjana to the college I had worked in for long…
After dinner, all the first year students, referred to as Freshers, are made to assemble in the lawn in front of the dining-hall. The second and third year girls standing facing them, size up each of the new students. Then the Freshers are made to introduce themselves, thanking the seniors who interrupt each one making personal digs, addressing them as Ma’am…
By the time Dipanjana joins the following year, having obtained above the high grades required for admission, ragging is more absurd. She is at times sent with her classmates to the nearby Kamala Nagar market, to fetch a broom and bucket, dressed in the mismatched salwar-suits, with the three braids of oiled hair. They are not allowed on their feet anything other than bathroom slippers, that too only the Bata Hawaii chappals. Even when they step outside their college, they are to address every senior of Delhi University as Sir or Madam, wishing them the time of day. Once few girls including Dipanjana are sent out on the University streets with a bowl in hand, to beg at bus stops the way common beggars do. The ragging at the college for day-scholars lasts about a week, but at the hostel it continues for months. The Freshers abhor being ragged to begin with, but in time drop their resistance, and enjoy themselves. In fact they get smarter day by day…
The more rules were imposed, the smarter the girls got in breaking them, till detected.
I quote V.S Naipaul here, from his book “India: A Million Mutinies Now” which aptly describes my attempts to define Maya –
“She was still part of the story she had told me, over two or three meetings. She was full of the emotions of it, and unable to see in it the historical progression that I thought I saw.”
- Existences: A collection of 26 Short Stories
A sample short story/chapter titled’A Doctor’ from “Existences” – that was published in the reputed literary magazine ‘Himal Southasian’ is in this link:
‘Kindness is not an act. It is a Lifestyle’: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” -Kahlil Gibran.
These thoughts here, sum up my new collection of 26 stories titled ‘Existences’ – each of which has been thought out and vividly depicted — from my varied socially relevant, corporate experiences of two decades, however casual and easy they might read.
“People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest person with the biggest ideas
can be shot down by the smallest person with the smallest mind.
Think big anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack if you help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.” – Dr. Kent M. Keith.
“The Wise Woman’s Stone”: A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.” — Anonymous.
- Fragments: A collection of 90 poems…
As for the poetry collection “Fragments”…I’ve shared so many poems here over the last few years, starting out since I started to blog in a few other platforms since 2006…so you know what to expect…or just read a few here on my website.
And here’s a sample that would give you a peek into the working of my poetic mind: https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2015/07/29/a-poem-2/
“Into My Own”
One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.
I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.
I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.
They would not find me changed from him they knew—
Only more sure of all I thought was true.
Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963.
“Into My Own”, is an easily relatable and appreciated poem at this juncture of my life, (ref my previous posts on my books) where Frost describes a journey, both mental and physical, that he longs for, towards independence and self-awareness through symbolism of a dark forest – of uncertainty.
I’ve always believed that I alone have the power to make choices that could affect my life, and have thus become self-reliant.
My beliefs and opinions are much strengthened, as I depend solely on my own thoughts and experiences to form my views, rather than be influenced by family, friends and society.
😊But in the end, like Frost, I hope they will be proud of me, for I have not changed as a person, only grown into a fuller, more complete version of myself.
- Entwined Lives: A Novel
It is the story of two attractive, strong, independent women, Sujata Anand and Aparna Nikhil, and of their lives in fateful conjunction with each other, from loving the same man Anand, a news-paper magnate. The novel is set in present-day Chennai and Mumbai. Sujata is married to Anand at an early age and shortly thereafter Aparna returns from Mumbai to work for his newspaper, from a marriage gone horribly wrong, due to alcoholism that eventually turns fatal.
It is after her honeymoon, Aparna realises she is married to an alcoholic, the severity of whose condition worsens with years, beyond the birth of their son – contrary to family expectation that it would change him, as is often the hope in getting an alcoholic son married. The husband, Nikhil, from a reputed industrialist family, has become not only emotionally offensive but physically abusive, forcing Aparna’s return to her parents in Chennai. This after a night she was compelled to spend on the public stairs of their apartment building, with her infant son, from Nikhil shoving them out drunkenly, locking the door after them.
Sujata on the other hand, after their honeymoon realizes Anand is an insensitive bore, and they having nothing in common. When she becomes pregnant, her fears are confirmed as he is not around at the birth of the first child, even the next, his parents making some excuse on his behalf of his dire need to travel, on urgent work. Anand not wanting children to begin with is aloof and irritable around them as they grow, shocking and hurting Sujata. She is thus obsessively, passionately defensive of them, trying to enforce Anand to love them as an ideal father ought to. Sujata has grown up in an open-minded, close-knit family, unlike Anand’s conservative upbringing, and wishes her children to have a father as doting as hers. In compensating, Sujata spends a lot of time with her own parents and family, to ensure her children grow up emotionally secure.
The novel explores the metamorphosis of Sujata’s initial delight in aspects of Anand’s personality. Then as disillusionment sets in, these same characteristics that attracted and delighted her pall, and her mundane relationship drives her to depression. And, ironically, as Sujata grows more and more unhappy and withdrawn, Anand flourishes and decides that marriage is quite a perfect state of convenience. Till Sujata’s extremity in behaviour, either long periods of cold silence or heated tantrums, shake his peace and equanimity. He has no desire to leave Sujata and the children, in spite of his attraction and relationship with Aparna and his need for her as a dedicated and indispensable worker in upholding his dreams.
Sujata’s awareness of Aparna’s growing association with her boss, are initially from Aparna’s late-night hysterical calls., to talk to him on her husband Nikhil’s drunken calls from Mumbai – threatening to take away their child from her. These calls and the sharing of her private problems, the liberty she takes to call him so late at night, and Anand’s involvement in calming Aparna’s frayed nerves, prove their closeness, and sends Sujata into fits of jealous rage and tantrums for days. After staff at the paper start gossiping of Aparna’s closeness to Anand whom she admires immensely and has let on from her awestruck behaviour around him, Sujata utterly humiliated, threatens Anand she would leave home with the children if he does not dismiss Aparna. But when Anand sticks to his guns on retaining her, insisting she is an excellent worker, Sujata’s anger turns to cold contempt.
Sujata now firms her mind to become financially independent before executing her threat to leave, or the children will suffer, and the court might compel her to hand them over to Anand if she files for divorce. Her humiliation, the turmoil and misery, propels Sujata into an intense friendship with Shekhar, a physically average looking, but emotionally commanding much older, wiser, sensitive, caring man, she meets through her work as executive search consultant. She has set up her own firm, after working in one for a year to gain experience.
The novel analyses causes of alcoholism and its fatal effects on men and women alike, and the aftermath on the children and families. Shekhar’s as well as Aparna’s spouses, both succumb to its commonest outfall – cirrhosis of the liver. Anand hovers between romantic love and passion, though not allowing any of its froth to destroy firming of his dream castle – his newspaper that is growing from strength to strength. Aparna is given a senior role and responsibility to set up and run a Friday lifestyle magazine supplement, at a crucial period of organisational change and the peak of their romantic liaison.
Sujata is then driven to seeking solace in an emotional and romantic liaison with another man, just so happens to be Shekhar, who in addition to being an emotional and romantic prop, mentors and guides her own dream project – the head hunting firm she runs. She also welcomes the romantic and sexual advances of a younger, attractive man, who she has met through her work. This is in spite of spurning the sexual advances of a powerful and much older man, a retired army general, who could have been helpful in her business.
Soon Aparna becomes confused and disillusioned with Anand’s blowing hot and cold with her, after their intimacy, also from the continuous stories he keeps telling her of his outings with Sujata’s family and his problems with her, yet clear leaving Sujata and the children is not an option. Aparna now meets a young Englishman online, on Face Book. He woos her relentlessly, impressing her with his straightforward charms, enabling her to slowly steer away from the devastating true current love of her life, due to its hopelessness in culmination. But the Englishman, Stephan, a very handsome man from his numerous profile pictures, a real estate magnate in UK, is all too good to be true, from the start, the way he landed upon Aparna ‘virtually’ and took her off her feet.
Sujata, by now successful in her business, with pan-India tie ups with multinationals as their executive search partner, her sons in senior school, walks out of her marital home for good, her sons in tow. This is after a heated quarrel, starting with something insignificant over their cook, but which taking on alarming proportions. It had for the first time sent Anand into an uncontrollable rage, from Sujata’s verbal assaults that now were beyond any control, and his slapping her. Sujata marches out, drives in stinging humiliation to the police station to lodge a complaint. With Anand’s reputation, the larger than life image he has through his premier newspaper, this is going to lead to a lot of muck flying around.
Entwined Lives is a story of relationships that begin with hope and devoted passionate love – that fizzle with time, familiarity, and disillusionment, partners going in quest of love, sometimes to return to each other and marriage without love, but a mature understanding. The novel charts and follows the continuing loves and lives of Sujata, Aparna, Shekhar and Anand, their relationships in its first throes of excited passion, idealization of the loved person, and then denial of it. This is not a grand tale, but one most can relate to, with the narrative involving the intricate nuances of love – of the death of love.
An excerpt from “Entwined Lives”: It’s not just from the perspective of women, as none of my books are, but unbiased male perspectives as well, from a feminist writer. 😌
“It is now that Shekhar perceived how love tends to remain pigeonholed in one’s heart, each niche unique. When one slot is suddenly perforated and drained, as was now at Aneesha’s death, its hollowness hurts sharply. The love from other slots cannot overrule the pain from the wounded one. One has to suffer the emptiness of that lost love, till it heals with time, or till it fills with other existing or a new love and the pain wanes with time. Shekhar had never discussed Aneesha with Sujata, because he could not bring himself to dishonour what they had shared for thirty years. Moreover, how could he tell Sujata of Aneesha’s acute drinking problem? It would have been so unfair to Aneesha. Shekhar had never believed Aneesha would actually succumb to her drinking, that it would kill her one day, for she had been a strong woman physically. He had not considered that she would allow the tunnel of illness she had walked into to close in on her finally. So her sudden sickness, the acuteness of it, her passing in a few days, had left him broken.”
My 5th book, released in 2020…details are here: https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2020/12/01/trouvailles-my-moment-of-yugen-new-poetry-book/
Where My Books Go
ALL the words that I utter,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm-darken’d or starry bright.
— William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
PS: 😊 My sentiments precisely, with reference to all my books.
#newbooks #literaryfiction #novels #shortfiction #poetry #inspirationbooks #selfhelpbooks #motivationalbooks #womensempowerment #acrossborders