Short Stories Society

A woman’s word: Abdullah Khan reviews ‘The Punch Magazine Anthology of New Writing’

The most interesting part about  The Punch Magazine Anthology of New Writing: Select Short Stories by Women Writers is that there is no thematic thread here, and all 18 contributors have different socio-cultural backgrounds. They are women with different writing styles and sensibilities. 

The book opens with an introduction by editor Shireen Quadri, who explains the context of bringing authors of different genres and nationalities together. According to her, these stories “reflect a certain kind of sensibility and sensitivity”. As a reader, you can’t agree more. The stories capture the nuances of socio-political conflicts of our times and meditate on issues such as identity and the growing wedge between communities.

Vineetha Mokkil’s intelligently rendered story ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ talks about the impact of political propaganda by the rightwing on the educated middle-class. When a family of modern sensibilities, progressive enough to consume alcohol freely, comes to know that their daughter is going to marry a boy of another faith, they react in a way expected from a khap panchayat. Mokkil tells her story without any melodrama but the climax will move readers to the core.

Poetic renderings

‘Kashmir Valley’s Soofiya Bano’ by Humra Quraishi is about the 2014 flood in Kashmir and the return of a missing son. Interestingly, the narrator is not worried about th eflood wreaking havoc in her neighbourhood; she is happy it gives herself and her son an opportunity to escape a place she likens to hell. 

We travel from Kashmir to Mumbai as Rochelle Potkar introduces us to Purana, a washerwoman, and her struggle to keep herself alive while discharging her familial responsibilities. Written poetically, the story touches you: Potkar is not only an accomplished poet but she can do wonders with fiction too.

Latha Anantharaman’s ‘The Very Narrow House’, set in Palakkad, is about dark family secrets, and Anjali Doney’s ‘Pandemonium’, set in Kochi, is about unrequited love. 

Among foreign writers, Sarah Robertson’s ‘Marietta’s Song’ is about music and miracles, and Hellen Harris’s ‘Olya’s Kitchen’ about a character determined to preserve the memories of his dead grandmother. 

There are many other stories, equally fascinating, that ponder weighty issues such as identities, the human condition and politics that shape the contemporary world. Out of 18 stories, there are two that offer a skeletal treatment of their characters and seem to be written in a hurry. But in all, this is an important collection of short stories that needs to be read.

The Punch Magazine Anthology of New Writing: Select Short Stories by Women Writers, Edited and Introduced by Shireen Quadri, Niyogi Books Pvt. Ltd., ₹395

The Mumbai-based novelist, screenwriter, literary critic and banker’s debut novel, Patna Blues, has been translated into nine languages.


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Printable version | Jun 29, 2022 10:01:16 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/society/abdullah-khan-reviews-the-punch-magazine-anthology-of-new-writing/article65430078.ece