Book Review: Lockdown Longings
Genre: Short stories
Review: Four stars
Publisher: Roli Books
Check the book blurb.
10 Short stories, 10 writers coming together spinning tales that can be rightly called soul stirring in a new world. The various stories in Lockdown Longings, where some allude to the national lockdown in India and making peace with past scars, rail tale about silence healing wounds and live-in partners showing love can be distant yet an oxymoron, a forgotten city amidst bombs, and a compelling tale about a petite girl in hospital dealing with dichotomy of pain isolation intertwined and ensconced in the past or present.
An aura of pain and poignant echoes the words of Sucharita Dutta-Asana narrating about Martine D’Mello, an old, lonely man plagued by anxiety and facing the desolate streets. Interlude is a story about coming to terms and the individual is brought back to a painful memory as he veers between past and present. The character is drawn to the cemetery trip. A story about coming to peace is lent credence and strong imagery painted brings raw emotions alive.
Lovin’ Lockdown is an intense story penned by Gargi Mehra on the what ifs of love from a distance and merging beautifully about snooping on a couple making out. There is a slow but real intensity and hinging on unrequited love from the narrator’s lens sitting in an office and eyes following the couple. The COVID-19 pandemic context slides effortlessly and the author doesn’t lose her grip in this uniquely woven voice with a dash of reality. The story is innovative where love or lust, and jealousy whichever name you call it merges with a sudden rush of misplaced optimism coupled with an out of the ordinary denouement. Love is strange and even stranger is attraction.
The various tales stir the heart and a unique story comes in the form of Malini Gupta’s Benedict which is set in the hills and imaginative Kanakbari Railway station. As the narration moves, one gets the sense of déjà vu but the skills of the writer come through about human understanding and beyond our traditional comprehension about love sharing the same destiny. Calling it, ‘estranged’ would be the biggest aberration and the climax makes for a powerfully evocative image where no words need be exchanged.
The anthology has its fair share of romance and a uniquely woven tale is about live-in partners in Mitica. Kanishq Banka depicts what goes in the life of a live-in couple in the premise and hinging on how self-isolation has altered the equation or chemistry of relations minus the intimacy. The end is simply sensational. Go read and figure out.
Have you ever heard about something called rape bomb? Amit Singh’s Gumsum-Nag takes readers to Kashmir, a place where paradise percolates but the dichotomy lies painfully on bombs wreaking havoc. An image of the parachute soldier landing, bombs flying in uprooting lives coupled with poverty and conditions of woman as intrinsically linked. The narration pierces the heart as the author depicts rape-bombs pushing us to ask about no land for commoners, the lesser Gods. Hunger is the biggest culprit. So little we know about lives alien to us and Singh’s story provokes utter sadness.
One of the favorite stories, Tiny Sparkle, of the Girl, with Tiny Feet and Petite Shoes written by Purva Grover starts with a woman in a hospital and the wobbling emotions about coping with loneliness, grief and pain are put to fore. The writing is effortlessly striking, knotted strings in our soul, heart, and nerves. Pathos is touching subtly on the condition of a woman and conversation hinges on the father-daughter equation, “Daughter and Dads, they will never stop astonishing me.” Simple and evocative making it heart wrenching.
The writer taps into emotions that we hold inside and probably because of the social construct, “Men: if only we would let them express without labeling (them).” Every aspect in Purva’s narration brings alive a certain emotion and the description be it colors, dress, white suits, or a mother longing for her daughter.
The stories are baked in a colorful manner from Ajay Patri’s Rose on e-love and how strangers can be trusted with a heart, making one hell of a tale where humans share moments and apprehensions to Lawrence Houldworth Air 3.0 served on an interesting human premise but with complex layers at some point making the read worth in the end, and Rajni Mishra’s Prognosis making for an important conversation about mental health, the chemistry between the character and Dr. Kala, where loyal love takes a toll. How often we ignore our mental state and brush out everything? In the end, the author makes an important pitch for space. Pragya Bhagat’s “Your Love Affair with Grief” makes for effortless narration on how expectation and reality come as metaphor together with social media ruling or ruining lives.
Lockdown Longings weaves uniquely, distinct tales and what work is unpeeling human emotions reminding us about frailties and vulnerabilities, celebrating the commoners in us. This trait is what makes this book a winner, the raw honesty is a sheer delight. It is the book to read during the lockdown.
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