TMYS Review December 2020 - Sensuosity & Sexuality in Contemporary Narrative - Excerpts

    ENSUOSITY & SEXUALITY IN CONTEMPORARY NARRATIVE : Collection of Essays and Short Stories

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    Title: Two Buttons Down

    Author: Ramanjaneya Sharaph

    Author Intro: Ramanjaneya Sharaph from Mumbai is a Chartered Accountant and MBA graduate by training, investment banker by profession, and writer by passion. Having started writing award-winning popular scripts for stage during his college days, his writing now encompasses plays, poetry, short stories and long narratives across mythology, contemporary fiction and humour in four languages: English, Kannada, Hindi and Telugu. Deeply interested in the Ramayana, Kannada literature and the rich literary heritage of our country, he has one of the finest collection of books on the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Fascinated by the power of the feminine, his writing frequently centres on this topic even as he worships the feminine in word, deed and action.


    Pruthvee settled in her favourite spot by the huge glass-paned wall of the office canteen.  Alone. Late morning sunlight streamed through the gaps in the foliage of the decorative plants outside, casting beams in which dust particles danced in ridiculous patterns. The sight would have made her happy any other day, but not today. The standard issue ceramic mug of cappuccino had long since gone cold. The thick layer of foam had dissipated away. Pruthvee still had her forefinger curled through the handle of the mug. Her gaze was not on the happily dancing particles of dust or the cold cappuccino. Nor was it on the cackle of women in the far corner, speaking in hushed tones, their furtive gaze punctuated by triumph, and the occasional guilt.

    That the women colleagues should reserve such special treatment for her was no surprise to Pruthvee, it was almost de rigueur. What was not normal, however, was the male colleagues avoiding her. Pavan from design, whose handshake always lingered a few moments longer than necessary, fiddled with his phone as he passed her table. Suraj, who would have sat down for a pointless chit-chat, took the longer path to the exit. Though not paying particular attention to her immediate surroundings, Pruthvee knew, subconsciously, that she had been abandoned.  That she was alone. The reason for her sudden pariah status was not unknown to Pruthvee. Deep in her heart, she had expected it too, but had brushed away those worries. After all, who bothers about fall in the bright colours of spring?



    Title: Lipstick

    Author: Toonika Guha

    Author Intro: Toonika is a writer and audiobook producer based in Gurgaon, India. Originally from Calcutta, she writes about food, culture, gender and mental health. Her works have been published in Conde Nast, Nat Geo Traveller, Whetstone Magazine, Firstpost, The Quint and more. 


    Mishti Didi’s wedding was a major event in Joba Lane. After months of searching for the right groom, Mr. and Mrs. Roy had finally found the right man to marry their daughter. His name was Shankhya and he was an engineer who worked at a major pharma company in the city—a big deal in the 90s. As soon as the nuptials were announced, the entire neighborhood began preparing for the big event.

    All the women thronged around Tarok babu’s shop to get new jewelry made. They spent hours every evening discussing saris, designs for blouses, as well as dresses for the children. Even as the women planned with unbridled enthusiasm, the men pretended to be unperturbed and continued to be engrossed in their evening adda sessions that involved carrom matches and discussions around politics and cricket. They were careful to only discuss the anticipated wedding feast in hushed tones, lest they be deemed ‘unmanly’.


    Title: My Sleepless Morpheus

    Author: Mohammad Afaan

    Author Intro: Mohammad Afaan is a poet and writer from Kashmir who has done his bachelor's degree in Urdu from Jamia Milia Islamia. He has been experimenting with the Nazm form of Urdu poetry with the goal of introducing postmodern metaphors in the Urdu language.  Other than poetry he has also written short stories and has been featured in a documentary called "Forgotten Homes" by the Department of Mass Communication, Jamia Milia Islamia.


    Hoping that he would kill himself someday, hoping that someday this vague feeling would turn unlike his existence, into something real, he rode the bus exactly at the place where two policemen were shot dead a few days before. Since the past few months, he had seen his whole body vouching for God's reality. Sometimes while powdering a tablet to snort, he felt as if his fingers were crying from the mist of opioids— “What could be more real than an absence; a firm, actual, absence?” His name was Shahryar Kaaki, and he was a poet who was famous in the city of Sufipora as their only poet who didn't make it big and people loved him for his failure. They would often come up to him and offer their condolences as if with every poetry recital a poet was dead inside him. These poetry recitals of Sufipora were usually named after some famous poets like Ghalib, Mir Taqi, Agha Shahid. Shahryar felt broken when he saw people assuring him that soon he too would make it big, because he knew deep inside, they were wishing that he wouldn't. No city ever wants to lose its only failed poet, it was as if they were pointing out the dead body of a famous poet inside him. He was coming back from this week’s poetry festival, “Mushaira ba yaad e Ahmed Shameem” (recital in the memory of Ahmed Shameem) and he felt his belly impregnated by this dead poet; aching like a mother who couldn't do the only thing people said she was made for, who kept crying that she could only give birth to a nothingness. He had been carrying these dead poets inside him, year after year; not exactly like Sisyphus but more like the mountain he rolled the stone on. While sitting in the bus, it amused him that people never talked about that cursed mountain, eroding slowly, enduring godly wrath silently, sinlessly. He took a deep breath and brought a poster out of his bag. It was the first poetry recital of his city which was not named after a famous poet, Sufipora’s first themed poetry recital—jinsiyat aur sukhan (Sexuality and poetry)—and everybody was excited about it. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Title: The Hum of the Valved Voice

    Author: Sudipta Saha

    Author Intro: Sudipta Saha is a Lecturer in the Department of English at Surendranath College, Kolkata. He was educated at the University of Calcutta, from where he received his Masters in English with a first class, and then B. Ed, PGDBPS, and a M. Phil in Foreign Policy Studies, which was awarded to him in 2019. His areas of research and interest include the Application of Modernism in English Literature (fiction), American Short Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Changes in British Politics and Monarchy, American Foreign Policy and International Security Issues. In 2017, he has worked briefly with the editorial team of New Central Book Agency Pvt. Ltd., a reputed publication house in Kolkata. He has published many articles in various national as well as international journals. He has also worked on a research project on Bangladesh, which was sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.


    Javed and Rohan didn't mean to fall in love. But love happens when you least expect it. It creeps up suddenly. When someone needs attention, care, conversation, laughter, and maybe even intimacy, to destroy the loneliness. Love doesn't look at logic, or at backgrounds, and least of all, religion or gender.

    Javed and Rohan broke all social boundaries to come close to each other, to feel for each other, to love each other. Rohan was from a conservative, purely vegetarian Indian family that believed in idol worship, going to the temple, fasting to please a million gods, and so on. Javed bought goats for his family every Sunday and on every occasion. That said it all. Everything was different in their lives. Their lifestyles were different, their love was different (from the usual one), but their gender was the same. Their sexual orientation was still a matter of a million questions in a country like India.

    Both Javed and Rohan went to the same college and fortunately—for them—they were in the same class. Rohan had been studying in the college for around five months while Javed got his admission in the middle of the session. When Javed first entered the class, Rohan couldn't help but gasp slightly at the sight. The boy was definitely one of the most attractive people he had ever seen.


    Title: Acceptance

    Author: Sarves

    Author Intro: Sarves is a big square peg desperately trying to squeeze into a round hole. She writes when her brain's chatter becomes too much to handle. Sometimes, they make sense and on rare such occasions, she has a story to tell. Just like her, her stories range from comical to dark, from bauble to deep. She still hasn’t figured out what to do with her M Phil degree in Mass Communication. However, she has managed to get her stories published in several anthologies published by Artoonsinn (Hawk’s Nest, Paperback) and Hive (Route 13 and Blood Runs Cold, Kindle). Two of her stories are short-listed for anthologies that are to be released soon. She lives in Chennai with her better half and twin daughters, and her dream is to cajole people and make them pay to read her stories.


    I sunk my teeth into the last gulab jamun from the dabba that I had stolen from my amma. My tongue continued to savour the sugar-crusted malai balls, not minding my eyes that stung with sharp tears.

    “I won’t get to taste you again for a long time.” I burst into tears dunking the rest of it into my mouth.

    A week ago, before shifting to Chennai, I had decided to come clean to my mother. She deserved the truth. After all, it was not easy being a single mother and bringing up a child. Fresh tears rolled down as I licked off the sugar syrup from the dabba.

    My mother and I bonded over food. I could tell my mother’s mood with the food she served for breakfast. A delectable upma, speckled with finely chopped beans and carrot meant that she was about to have a busy day yet she made something nutritious for me. Filigreed rava dosa with red chutney meant when she was trying to woo me into one of her plans. Bread and jam on my breakfast table meant she was angry with me over some argument.


    Title: Renascence

    Author: Kathakali Mukherjee

    Author Intro: Kathakali Mukherjee is a language professional who studied Sanskrit in university but professionally works with German and French. She spent fourteen years of her work life in the library sector and software sector, in technical and management domain. Currently, she is engaged in translation and language teaching. She is a reading-writing addict, though an irregular blogger. She writes fiction and translates Bengali and German folktales. Some of her fictions are published online.

    These days she lives in Kolkata and is reachable through her Twitter, Facebook and Medium handles, as well as her site https://kathamukh.wordpress.com.  


    Course of time converted the once vibrant flower garden into a space full of grassy weeds. Before sunrise he roamed the space. As the morning sun peeped in the east, he entered the house to take a look at the empty rooms therein. Setting his foot in every room, he felt an urge to call the once occupant’s name. The emptiness often swallowed him. Sometimes he stood like a possessed person for long in a room, before moving to the next. This morning ritual ended after he entered own bedroom which was the last of the rows. He called his wife, who he imagined to be lying on the bed, “Pratibha! Pratibha, won’t you get up now? It is already six.”

    The empty bed did not answer. On most days, Kamala’s voice came from the next room, “Shall I make tea, Babu?”

    Kamala was the maid who had served in Debidas’ home for two decades. After his wife Pratibha’s death, she had taken responsibility to run the household.

    Debidas had given the hand of the eldest of his three daughters in marriage to a USA resident engineer. The younger two daughters studied engineering. Debidas was unsure whether it was his accomplished son-in-law who had inspired both his middle and younger daughters to settle in USA. They married boys of their choice there, without asking him for his opinion even once. He was ignorant of how the fancy of USA captured his daughters. He could not understand what had made his daughters leap into an unknown world, rejecting the luxury of their familiar environment. His grandfather had built the Barasat home at the turn of the century. He waited over a decade for his daughters to come back to the ancestral home. They showed up briefly after Pratibha’s death.


    Title: Reunion

    Author: Kasturi Patra

    Author Intro: An erstwhile strategy consultant and financial analyst, Kasturi Patra currently works as a freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Jaggery Lit Mag, Litbreak Magazine, Bengal Write Ahead, Escape Velocity, EquiVerse Space, Wordweavers, 50-Word stories, Women's Web, and several other platforms. Her flash fiction was recently shortlisted in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. Kasturi is currently working on a novel and a collection of linked short stories, while pursuing an MFA in Fiction from Writers' Village University.


    When I first noticed Kunal Sen, he was standing under the amaltas tree, a few feet away from the school’s main gate.

    It was January in Delhi. The primary school girls, bundled up in their fluffy jackets with their faces hidden under beanies, and their legs covered in thermal leggings sticking out of their skirts, looked like a herd of sheep waiting to be sheared. They pushed each other to step inside the warmth of the school’s auditorium. They were too young to put style above their comfort; it would only be a matter of a few more years.

    The weather looked like the dregs of tea left at the bottom of a cup—a grimy, greyish brown. The sunless day smelt of damp clothes, unwashed bodies, expensive perfumes, coffee beans, and diesel smoke.

    I was dropping Pipli off to school. She had missed the bus again, but I didn’t blame her. Catching the bus at seven when the weather was in single digits wasn’t an easy task. I was relieved to see that she’d dissolved into the sea of sheep and I could approach Kunal without her barrage of questions.


    Title: Happy Ending

    Author: Enakshi Biswas

    Author Intro: Enakshi Biswas is a corporate communications professional by day and a passionate writer by the night. Imagination is her super power and it has found its way into short stories, essays, poems and a movie script recently. She made her debut as an author with an anthology of short stories called Love in trying times. Her stories have been published on platforms like Yourstory, Youth ki awaaz and various newspapers. A compulsive story-teller, she has performed on her stories at live storytelling shows like Kommune and Tall tales. Happy Ending is a story fragrant of romance and tasteful of loss. The protagonist is a blind masseuse who navigates through the thorny road of love, lust, longing and the extent she goes to win a man haunted by a secret.


    Deepa’s blindness was her strength. It heightened her other senses, and as a masseuse, it was her superpower. Like a male porn-star who has to be erect on demand onscreen every-time, she was flirty on demand when clients buzzed into her frosty glass-walled chamber. 

    Deepa went about her work with a quiet dignity. Her hands would work magic as she would knead male flesh like a mother would knead dough to satiate her child’s hunger.

    Her massages were a lesson in compassion. At the end of a tiring day, that is what all men craved.

    But if there was one man for whom her touches were anything but maternal, it was the well-built Raghu. On days he visited her, she didn’t use the room diffuser. Instead she would drink in his essence through large gulps of discreet breaths, as he would stride into the room; smelling of a cheap fragrance that reminded her of the sea. Every move on his body was slow and deliberate. Pleasure was never rushed. She would alternate a tender touch like a careless whisper, with a risqué graze that held the promise of a fulfilling climax.


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