Shake the bottle and other stories by Ashapurna Debi, Translated by Arunava Sinha
Published by: Om Books International
Fiction: Sort Stories,288p
Rating: 4/5 stars
Ashapurna Debi gazed into the heart of the domestic life of the Indian woman as no other writer in the world has done. In one story after another, numbering into thousands by the time she was done, she examined the imprisonment of the women within their homes and their responses to the power play, pressures and hypocrisies lying beneath the surface of the apparent solidity of the middle-class urban family. Nobody has written as relentlessly, with as much insight and yet with as light a touch, of the darkness of both the interior and the behavioural life within the four walls of the home. Over more than 70 years of a writing career, she created an extraordinary oeuvre, whose depths will be mined for generations.
Twenty-one of Ashapurna Debi’s most shocking stories, cherry-picked from over a thousand, have been brought together in this collection. Why these stories in particular? Each of them unravels an unexpected, even dreadful, side to the personalities of the women who feature in them. In every story, a deceptively quiet but potentially explosive act of revolt takes place – or comes close to taking place. Far from the sweet and submissive stereotype of the wife/mother/daughter/woman of the house that familial structures have enforced, it is the rebellious side of the woman, often forced to emerge through cruelty, viciousness and even hatred, that stands revealed. these are scandalous stories, each one of them.
About the author:
Ashapurna Debi was a prominent Bengali novelist and poet. She has been widely honoured with a number of prizes and awards. She has been awarded the Jnanpith Award and the Padma Shri. For her contribution as a novelist and short story writer, the Sahitya Akademi conferred its highest honour, the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship.
About the translator:
Arunava Sinha is an award-winning translator with his work ranging from classic, modern and contemporary Bengali fiction and nonfiction into English, and from English into Bengali.
*Thank you Arunava Sinha for the review copy. All opinions are my own.
Having read a lot about the prolific pen of Ashapurna Debi, it was a sweet pleasure to finally read her work, ALL thanks to Arunava Sinha the translator for this lovely collection of 21 short stories and who sent me this book to read.
After reading the stories in this collection, one can only marvel at the finesse with which the author brings the intricacies of human relationships in the confines of domesticity. Each story throbs with the tension of possibilities as the characters (mostly the women but men too) stand on a precipice of emotions, actions and repercussions mirroring the fragile ties that bind couples or family members.
The 21 stories are simple yet complex in nature: simple in the ordinariness and complex in the way they leave you gasping for breath. The stories are everyday fare in middle class families: the palpable tension between a widowed mother who has brought up her son who lives with the change that a daughter in law brings with her entry into the family but there is then another story of a widowed father who smarts due to the changes that enters the family when a daughter in law enters! And then as a reader, you begin to see the author is positioning how individuals react with suspicion, fear and ill will when a new member enters the intimate space of a family.
Each story in this collection is about the contours and intricacies of human relationships: the spaces that exist, the push and pull of individual expectations and actions on another person and vice versa. I can only recommend picking this book: there is no doubt about this. You will be enthralled.