'Stories Varied delves into the possibilities of woman's life in the man's world. While Ilaa's Ire takes one back to woman's life and times in the Vedic age, '201' Qualms depicts her predicament when torn between trust and duty. If "?" addresses woman's marital stress in an alien land, Cupid's Clue is about her acting on a rebound in the native place. Even as Autumn Love enables a woman to discover the void late in life, A Touchy Affair renders her amenable to her man's other woman well in time. Just as Love's How's That inflames her old flame, A Hearty Turn brings the female lesbian leanings to the fore. As Love Jihad bridges lovers' religious divide with a secular plank, Tenth Nook creates a marital gulf on the material plane. If Eleventh Hour is about woman's lust for love, Twelfth Tale underscores her quest for power.
Excerpt from Tenth Nook:
It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever. [*] It was as though she could hear the receiver’s knock at the door, followed by the echoes of the auction bids – eighty-five lakhs, ninety lakhs, ninety-five lakhs…. , she could hear no more. That was until the hammer struck, sounding the beginning of the end of her innings at Tenth Nook. And to herald her return to her parental place that he nicknamed Square Peg, her square one from which he promised to take her to the Seventh Heaven. Of course, he did take her there, never mind the means.
“Why am I bogged down with this man-made thing without a thought for the man who made it all happen,” she thought on second-thought. ”He’s only to be blamed for that. Why not, he’s the one who maligned my mind with materialism, didn’t he? Or is it Mammon who had seduced my soul to the core? But how does that mater any way. He did desert me at the first post of adversity and that’s what matters. How shameful. Is it cowardice or callousness? How am I to know? Let him go to hell and I’ll brave it out regardless. But what about our kids, won’t they be worse off, left in the lurch?”
The thought of their children, a boy and a girl, twins, aged twelve, led her to their first-floor bedroom of their duplex dwelling.
“Oh how he raised their hopes sky-high!” she thought on her way. ”Didn’t he tell her he was cutting corners for their crowning future. Doubtful, after all this, isn’t it? No doubt it’s his vanity to cut a figure for himself and his family that could’ve been at the back of his mind all through. That much is clear in the hindsight, isn’t it? But what about me, am I not equally guilty? Well, that’s the fallacy of falsity that we shared but this is the burden of deceit he thrust upon me, really. But am I any less callous than him when it came to our kids? Being a mother, shouldn’t I have been more concerned about them than him? But how do I measure up? He left all of us with equal abandon but lo, I’m worried only about losing the dwelling! Did I think about their plight all this while? Shameful, isn’t it? Could it be the material loss that obscured my maternal vision? Maybe, it’s their bleak future that benumbed my mind. Why this hypocrisy? It could be both, what’s the hell about it. But what a double jeopardy, twice over that is!”
Seeing her children asleep on a bare floor, as tears gushed out of her eyes, she checked herself as though afraid of inundating them in a flashflood.
“Am I not privy to their deprivations for long?” she thought. “And yet his largesse turned our ancestral dwelling into a two-storied building. That was in his heydays. Won’t it help us tide over the rough tide of life now? Was it his foresight or just one of life’s ironies! But still, if I had a sibling or two that would’ve made a difference. Yet, how can I sustain their dream of becoming doctors? Who knows? Living in that Square Peg, did I ever dream of Tenth Nook? Maybe it’s all about destiny, regardless of modesty of birth. Won’t my life prove that, what a journey it had been from there to the zenith?”
Born and brought up in a canalside dwelling in an agrarian village, she was the only child of her parents, who cultivated assorted vegetables in their meager backyard that barely sustained them. Thanks to her scholarship, she got a degree in arts from the government college in a nearby town, where she wanted to take up a job to support the family. While her mother was averse to the idea for its attendant perils and as her father found it hard to clear the dowry hurdle, she stayed put at home. But life seemed to ensure that love had its share as well as say in matchmaking.
One fine morning, she noticed a youth ogling her from her neighbour’s place; obviously he was a visitor and probably their relative. Though enamored of him, out of shyness, she kept herself aloof all day long. But driven by anticipation, she ventured out in the evening as if to meet his expected advances, and kept vigil on her neighbour’s house. That is reading some romantic novel while resting her back on a coconut tree in her front yard. When she lowered her guard absorbed in the story, unknown to her, he gave her the slip to sketch her picture in her romantic posture. As he approached her with his artwork, alerted by his shadow to his impending presentation, getting up reflexively, she stood there nervously. When he introduced himself by the pseudonym of a budding short-story writer she happened to admire, as she stared at him wide-eyed, he made bold to present her that picture perfect. How thrilled she was at seeing her likeness in his work, and how glamorous he seemed to her enamoured eyes for being an artist besides an author!