Short stories. They’re etched in the memories of so many of us who grew up on them. Often confined to a particular region or theme, the exposure could have been limited. The editor of The Best Asian Short Stories, Monideepa Sahu brings together stories from 11 countries, from 32 different authors, established and upcoming.

This session had 4 authors of the very many, in conversation, offering the audience a sneak peek into the backgrounds of the stories, and how each of them got to writing them. The idea originally came in all the way from Singapore, from Zafar Anjum, the Series editor. Each story was handpicked from over 350 stories. Each writer offers a unique experience in each of the stories; a different period in time, a different culture altogether, and of course, each experience being different.

Shashi Deshpande’s story revolves around the partition. Her memory of it is when she herself was a child. Down south in Dharwad where she grew up, the partition was distant news, while the independence assumed much more meaning. Her story is inspired by a lone Sindhi family whose house served as a saviour to many refugees. The child in her understood very little of the seriousness of the partition but was amused by the culturally different neighbours. The story is from the perspective of a little girl.

Poile Sengupta’s ‘Amulu’ has a protagonist as interesting as the title itself. The master storyteller revolves around the life of Amulu, an unconventional girl, dark skinned. She’s contrasted her with that of her stepmother and stepsisters, more beautiful and married away. When Amulu’s marriage doesn’t come through, her father takes her away to the North. It taps on the very real problem of young girls being sold as wives in some parts of North India due to the skewed sex ratio. Amulu overcomes the many challenges; her strength is as dramatic as the ending, Poile warns.

The story of two young college girls meeting after many years become the stars of the story ‘A Boy to Chase the Crows Away’ by Usha KR. The life of both the women have turned tables, while one becomes better than the other and the narrator tries to keep the friendship alive; to begin exactly where it was left. Through the story, the narrator realizes that the lives of their own have changed beyond recognition. The centring device here is a boy who was employed to drive the crows away. The story is one that is so universal, in terms of its emotions and characterization, and makes it to the anthology.

Chasing after the ‘What if’, Jyothi Vinod finds inspiration from an incident where she was met with two young girls in search of a little boy who stole from them. With no way of knowing what happened after, she pens a story where the girls confront the boy and their emotions and decisions upon their discovery of his background. The story examines compassion and conflict of virtues when what if angst meets empathy.

The anthology is one that is flavourful in its offers; one to help familiarize the reader with the world apart from their own, and thus, one to read it seems.

About the Author: A believer in the subtlety of magic in everyday living, and Shobhana seeks the same from the books she reads, and the poetry she writes. Immerses herself in music, literature, art, and looking out the window with some coffee. She curates her poetry, and occasional verses in her blog Thinking; inking. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.