Book review: Manoshi, a collection of Bengali short stories
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“Manoshi” is a collection of twelve Bengali short stories written by Shila Majumder. Fiction is always a mirror of our society and our times. And, these stories are no different.
Each story speaks about some aspect of Bengali life, of the Bengali society. The stories have been written with utter tenderness and empathy.
The characters are people scattered around us, they can be our friends, our relatives, and the situations they go through are regular events in our society.
Yet, when we read these stories, we might just be able to see these characters and these situations in a new light.
The author has done a tremendous job of finding stories that are as old as time itself and presenting them in a raw and visceral style, while keeping the sweetness of emotions intact.
One of the best stories in this collection has to be “Aloi Fera”.
It is quite common in rural Bengal to find women who are said to be possessed by goddesses. People gather to worship such women who become goddesses in their own rights.
But what is the reality behind such possessed women?
In this story, we meet a young girl, who loves going to school and playing with her friends. One day, she starts having fainting spells and the superstitions of the people around her turn her into a possessed goddess overnight.
The little girl is stuck in a rut that she abhors.
She is sick, physically and emotionally, and yet her guardians are so enamoured by superstitions that they make no efforts to understand their daughter’s plight.
It is a beautiful story that talks about one of the most unfounded religious practices prevalent in backward rural areas till today.
Readers will be forced to feel the little girl’s pain at her confinement in her own home and they will rejoice at the choice she makes in the end.
Another beautiful story in the book is “Roilo Lekha”.
As we journey through life, we make friends at every turn. Some remain through life and some we lose in the tides of time.
This story is about two families who become inseparable once they become neighbours. Love, respect, care, affection, friendship—the two families share everything with each other.
But every good thing in life comes in a limited edition pack.
A sudden, unexpected job transfer rocks their lives, and yet life has to go on.
A job has to be found, above and beyond human relationships.
The story might not talk about some unique concept, or something witty, but the way the story has been written and the way the relationships have been shown are just so touching that readers will go back to their own stories of separations—for every human being on this earth has such a story hidden deep inside their heart.
As a reader, I will take the liberty of making a comparison here. Shila Majumder has written stories that are comparable with those penned by noted litterateur Ashapurna Devi.
I think there’s nothing more I can say about this talented woman. I’d just end by urging the readers to pick up this book and encourage Majumder on her literary journey.
(Reviewed by Priya Das)