Thursday, April 25, 2019

RAIN DROPS AND CATERPILLARS by Anuradha Prasad: A Book on Millennial Indian Urban Neighbourhoods

Anuradha Prasad's collection of six short stories under the title Rain Drops and Caterpillars evokes some first-time moments and their significances. Her characters hail from different backgrounds. Consequently, these stories have unique perspectives to share. Each of them is different from one another.

If you go by the urge to locate rarity, a short story collection would certainly match the intention in the Indian literary scene. Short story collections are rare in a world ruled by novels. Rain Drops and Caterpillars inspires one to think of the weight of a short story in comparison to a novel. It feels like looking at the legendary scene of David and Goliath. The dwarf had a final victory over the giant. Rain Drops and Caterpillars includes stories about first love, love breaks, heartaches, dedication, and commitment to one's country, an inspiring story on parenting, moving on from an abusive relationship, and homosexuality. The stories are told in a language charged with emotions.

The stories in Rain Drops and Caterpillars are told in such a way that they appeal to one's emotional sensibility. The first response of any reader would be to have increased heart rates. The intellect would be triggered only secondly. Rain Drops and Caterpillars proves that to intellectualize an idea, the heart is the best route.

Anuradha Prasad is an artist, speaker, and author. She has worked with and published thousands of articles for top newspapers and magazines. She has a PhD in English literature from Mumbai University and was on the cover of Times' 'West Side Plus' and several notable publications. Her previous books are Two Winters and 365 Days and Coming Back Home, which exceeded 10,000 downloads on Kindle. The major themes she writes on are, internal transformation and self-discovery.

The first story in the collection, "Sublimity" reminds us of how important it is to be open-minded as parents. The challenges that Roushni faces in her life are not able to stop her. The moment her parents, Sakshi and Harshad came to know about the biggest challenge in their daughter's life, they are shattered. The prose of Anuradha Prasad etches a picture of pain in our mind. However, the two parents do not stop there. This is my favourite story in the collection, a powerful narrative with creativity, love, aspirations, and family at its centre.

The second story is titled "Acceptance". A gay couple strives to finds their space in a society that is blind towards sexualities that are not part of the norm. The story takes place in Mumbai. Two young men, with their relationships, taught like a bowstring struggle to express their identities. A tragedy takes one of them. The darkness of death would not keep life its prisoner for long. There is hope at the end of the tunnel. There is "acceptance." I am positive that you'll remember Sam long after closing this book. The subject matter of this story may seem highly political. Still, the author has given it a tender touch with her skill in bringing up human emotions at its best.

In "Courage," we meet Raghav and Soumya. They had been married for five years. Theirs is an abusive relationship. Often relationships are forged on habits. Individuals have a difficult time breaking habits. Soumya also finds a light at the end of the tunnel. Courage accompanies her to the end of that tunnel.

The fourth story "Compassion" is a heart-warming tale of affection among Narmada, Popsi, and Deep. Narmada and Deep are brother and sister. Popsi is their pet dog. One day, he goes missing.

In the fifth story, "Devotion" we meet Priya who wants to honour her husband's memories. Her husband was in the Indian army and was martyred while facing a terrorist attack.

"Deceit", the final story in the collection is also the most complex. In "Deceit", Nilesh realizes the true purpose of his life. He is in love with Sudha. His love is deep and blind. Inevitably, he suffers. What is intriguing about this narrative is the author's skills to bring out expressions of even the most subtle layers of the human psyche. For any budding writers, reading this story shall give perspectives about the craft of writing a romance. Although the story is short, the varying levels of fancy, ambition, desire, and infatuation are touched upon skilfully and in detail.

From Sakshi and Harshad along with their talented daughter Roushni in the first story, to Nilesh and Sudha in the end, every character in the story neatly touches upon something - an event, an experience, or a transformative force- for the first time in their lives. Consider Sam in the second story, for example. He has never had an inkling of the tragedy that would befall his lover Jess. Yet, he faces that phase, for the first time. Facing pain for the first time, all her characters show courage. From their courage, we derive hope, as readers. In Rain Drops and Caterpillars, Anuradha Prasad writes about people facing existential questions, from grownups to children. It is also noteworthy that all her stories are set in Indian urban background, post-millennium. Still, each story is about people from different strata of this millennial Indian urban society.     

Published by Ink State, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing, Rain Drops and Caterpillars is clothed in a colourful cover, which aligns harmoniously with the message of hope and survival shared in the book. Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd. is the publishing company that gave author Anand Neelakantan his big break by publishing and marketing his books such as Asura and Ajaya. Rain Drops and Caterpillars has readable typesetting. The size of the book also helps to handle it in small storing spaces like your backpack or luggage. It's an easy read and you'll find yourself enjoying these stories while you are travelling by train or plane. 

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