PAVITRA IN PARIS
(A powerhouse collection of 11 short stories)
The story “Pavitra in Paris” was conceived in the winter of 2008 with my husband’s phone call to me, when he was on his way to work.
“How do you think Pavitra would react if he could enter the church?” he asked me perkily, and I felt I could hear his heart beating fast through the phone at this hypothesis.
“I think he would faint with joy and disbelief!” I responded, bringing to mind the frail untouchable who tended the fields and worked at my marital village of Belsandi in India.
Unlike the tedious nine-month wait for childbirth, Pavitra in Paris was born in two weeks after being conceived in front of St. Andrew Wesley church of Vancouver. I gifted our newborn to my husband—the father of this story—who had impregnated my mind with its idea.
“Fabulous!” he remarked, wiping the tears streaming down his eyes. “This will be the title story of your collection.”
And so it is—5 years later!
Next came “Kamini”—a radically different theme from Pavitra—tantalizing the reader with the seductive charm of a married thirty-eight-year-old mother, and her brief love affair with a high school student.
Then came “The Pied Piper of Jaipur,” depicting satirically the generation gap between Dolly and her grandma, until the entry of Nagesh the snake charmer takes the story to a whole new level of desperation and despair caused by extreme poverty.
Thereafter, I penned “Groom Bazaar,” a story very close to my heart, as it allowed me to take the reader down memory lanes of all the characters seated around a dinner table in an exquisite Indian restaurant in New York City. What starts as light-hearted banter in this story, soon takes an intriguing turn when Sita narrates how her groom was found in an open bazaar—a shopping to which the bride had no permission of choice.
Soon after finishing this story, life put me through a gruelling personal experience of my own, the tremors of which are still fresh in every pore of my skin.
The blinding white lights above, the masked faces surrounding me from all sides—their visible eyes tense with anticipation; my head felt light, my body hollow, as I sank deeper and deeper into the induced sleep of the anesthesia. I was going through an emergency surgery after suffering an internal hemorrhage caused by the bursting of the tube which was accidentally carrying my fetus, instead of the uterus. When I regained consciousness, my husband held my hand and said, “God spared your life for He wants you to finish your stories.” This phrase rang in my ears night and day through my recovery, and as soon as I was able to sit up in bed, I started filling blank pages with colourful characters once again.
Bheem Ojha of “Splash!” humoured me through this dark interlude of my life, and promises to bring a smile on every reader’s face through its surprise ending set in a simplistic village of Bihar, India.
The seawall running along the English Bay beach in Vancouver had inspired many stories in my mind, and I decided to pay tribute to it by using it as the pristine backdrop for “The compromise.” On the surface, it’s a story about a nondescript stroll of a mother and daughter along the jovial shores of the Pacific Ocean on a beautiful fall afternoon; scratching the surface reveals its many layers of the mother’s struggle in escaping the nightmares of Dharavi slum in Mumbai to come to the surreal beauty of Vancouver. Is she able to convince her daughter not to separate from her partner? Is any relationship perfect? Don’t we all compromise with life to attenuate the severity of its myriad challenges?
“The Package Deal” is a brilliant craftsmanship of love, humour, intrigue and surprise ending, all woven into a single story involving arranged marriages in India. Even though the title of this story is self explanatory and the introductory lines reveal the mystery in advance, the reader is bound to be surprised in the end.
“The Inseparables” is a heart-wrenching story of selfless love between a young girl and a parrot. It is at once adorable and shocking, forcing humans to be more humane towards each other.
“The Perfect Match” stirs a roller coaster of emotions when Lovely takes the readers on her arduous journey to find a husband—her perfect match—in Canada.
“The Camel Trader” is nail-biting suspense in the middle of the lonely and savage deathtrap of Thar Desert, where Makhan Singh finds himself alone on his treacherous journey aboard his faithful camel, Veeru.
And finally, “The Curse of a Nightingale” is as beautiful as it is devastating. A stunning young girl with a magical voice is marred for life. She may have been horribly disfigured, but she can still make it big with her golden voice. Or can she? The anticlimax of this story is raw, compelling and jolting. It will linger in readers’ minds for a long time.
Please Note: The order of the short stories above is chronological, and may not coincide with the order in the book, Pavitra in Paris.