Author: Divya Dubey
Publisher: Gyaana Books
Buy from Stack your Rack
The six short stories in Turtle Dove are about ordinary and, sometimes, not-so-ordinary people. Though based in and around Delhi, these stories are really about people anywhere, any-when; about people like you and I, and the eccentric world we live in.
For the second consecutive time this year, i have been pleasantly surprised by a collection of short stories. After reading and reviewing Delhi Noir, i thought it was difficult to cross that standard. But i guess i just underestimated the literary talent floating around in the Indian book market. So, while in 'Delhi Noir', the trials and tribulations evolve from the external circumstances, in 'Turtle Dove' the complications and catharsis come mainly from within the individuals. The best part is that the book never insults your intelligence, there is no spoon- feeding here and you are required to read between the lines, understand the subtle nuances at times on your own. A wonderful feeling for me at least!!
"Best friend" displays a dilemma we must have faced in our lives at some point of time - should you keep up with a friend even when he/she is good for nothing. So, here Shailaja is patient and provides all the emotional support she can, but Sonali never stick to one decision and always uses her as a punching bag for the endless rants and mindless ruminations. The narrative is assured and even though rapid moves between past and present is a little unsettling in the beginning, it settles down admirably after that. The author has an eye for detail, however the long descriptive portions with excessive use of adjectives can be frustrating for few people.
"Arnab" is etched with so much sincerity that my heart went out to the central character while reading this story. It is a flesh and blood character dealing with effeminate emotions that seeks no validation, but commands so much adulation by the silence it portrays. The family pressures lead him to a path of self destruction and then causes a string of tragic events in the people around him, specially for his mother who has always longed for a daughter. The story strongly indicates gender stereotypes in our Indian society and its effects on the psyche of an individual.
The title story "Turtle Dove" is definitely the best tale in the book. The concept of incest is dealt in a dark, engrossing manner that is ironical and hard hitting at the same time. It is an amazing story of union and separation within the boundaries of family relationships, very bold and provocative yet sincere and endearing. The erotic portions come as a breath of fresh air in these times where subtlety is quietly vanishing in books while narrating such scenes. The symbiotic relationships each of the characters share have undertones of love, lust and most importantly, to create destruction in each other lives.
"Naani" portrays generation gap in bold and brave strokes, yet the colour of the story ranges from depressing and dark, with shades of bright and beautiful world interspersed cleverly. It is engaging and provides a very credible style of narrative, as the scenes are lifted straight from the Indian households. There is lot of panache and craft in this storytelling, so even though there is a possibility that the character come out to be caricatures, the author has stood his ground because she knows exactly where to draw the lines. It also highlights the scheming ways women can undertake to thrust their superiority, ironically towards women in their own household.
"Barkha Rani" is poignant, bizarre and ugly, all in the good form of the word. It portrays a journey of an ordinary domestic maid who is bounded by traditional and old-fashioned way of living, but still manages to surprise when it comes to the harassment dealt to her own daughter-in-law. I just wished a little more detail could have been given to the emotional turbulence she undergoes before taking THAT big decision. Ultimately, it talks about women emancipation in a broader sense but not investing enough in the metamorphosis the character should be subjected to. But it does manage to capture the Indian psyche beautifully within the different stratas of society.
"The science wizard" portrays emotions of a child prodigy who gets himself entwined in the bad world of crime and drugs. It deals with his rise, more rise, fall and more fall with the practicalities of the world and brings about an important issue of peer pressure, right from the school days. Even though it is dealt with deft sensitiveness, the story loses its grip in the portions when the action shifts towards his friends and does not remain focussed on the central protagonist. Written in almost a journal kind of style, it leaves you with an open ending which forces you to think about the vagaries of a regular life.
So that's 4/5 for Divya Dubey self-published anthology, Turtle Dove. The first four stories are engrossing and enjoyable, last two left me a little underwhelmed. But i still make a strong recommendation to read this one. The cornerstone of her writing lies in evoking emotional responses through her characters. Most of the time it is not pleasant, but then the magic of reading always lies in exploring the unexplored. A commendable effort from the first time author, someone to look out in the future for sure!!