(Members of the Whole Kahani
Top left to right: Kavita Jindal, Mona Dash, C.G. Menon, Farah Yusuf;
Bottom left to right: Reshma Ruia, Shibani Lal, Radhika Kapur)
‘Love Across A Broken Map’ by The Whole Kahani, (a group of writers of South Asian origin based in London) is a beautiful anthology of short stories that come together to create a harmonious symphony of the theme underlying each narration – Love.
I was very pleased to have attended the book launch on 26th May 2016 at the Nehru Centre, London. Meeting some of the authors was a wonderful experience and hearing them read from their work, lent the stories a genuine voice.
The first thought that came to my mind upon finishing this book was that the stories are refreshing in that you are not met with human experience heavily cloaked in the garb of cultural symptoms like identity or immigration; rather you are warmly greeted by the very universal emotion of love in its various avatars. The Whole Kahani has done well in challenging the stereotype of chancing upon romantic love that the reader would often expect in a work of fiction entitled thus. The stories do full justice to the title because they seek to demonstrate love and its many forms across the globe. The stories are primarily set in the UK but a few stories give us a glimpse into Mumbai, Goa and even Kuala Lipis, Malaysia.
Coming back to the themes of the anthology, ‘Entwined Destines’ by Shibani Lal shows us the beautiful bond shared by father and daughter whereas ‘To London’ by Mona Dash explores love associated with a place and old flames. Other notable stories with interesting themes are seen in ‘Rocky Romeo’ by Dimmi Khan where the meaning of love itself is tested and in ‘Naz’ by Iman Qureshi where a pet dog facilitates a relationship between two discernibly different individuals.
The characters in each story are well crafted and go beyond their role of merely entertaining the reader. Suman Bakshi, the protagonist of ‘Soul Sisters’ by Reshma Ruia is one such example whereby the reader is drawn into the character’s world of obsessive admiration and love towards a celebrity writer. This makes you think about the intricacies of the human mind and its interaction with the often romanticised heart. The Nine Headed Ravan by Radhika Kapur also stands out here because of the very strong yet vulnerable Matrika and her tryst with finding true love. This makes you reflect on the often idealistic expectations that many of us have about falling in love.
There’s much to be said about the writing styles that engulf the stories, akin to a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a cold rainy day – You don’t have to say very much, do you? Is that because it leaves you feeling good? ‘Watermelon Seeds’ by CG Menon which explores innocent childhood love includes such lyrical language and effective use of imagery that you are transported to Malaysia where the story is based. Kavita Jindal’s ‘Three Singers’ beautifully depicts how one seeks to attain love through shared similarities and the whole process is expressed poignantly by the writer. Another story that grabbed my attention mostly because of the manner in which the story develops and then comes to an end through the very clever use of language was ‘We are all made of stars’ by Rohan Kar.
To conclude, my favourite story in the book was Farrah Yusuf’s ‘By Hand’ which features at the very end of the anthology. As the story progresses we can see a father and son bond that comes to fore through an unconventional medium, that of letter writing. To me, apart from this bond, the story explored a very important kind of love; maybe one that has led The Whole Kahani to come together and publish this anthology – the love for writing.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and wouldn’t at all hesitate to recommend it to someone not savvy with South Asian fiction.