What a day to release the First Anniversary Issue of Samyukta Fiction! World over, we commemorate Labour Day or International Workers’ Day and we celebrate the achievements of the working class, paying our respects to the blood, sweat, and joys of labour. What is a writer if not a labourer of the word, a worker of the human spirit? In a time of growing attrition and increased deprofessionalization, more than ever, we must revive the spirit of unity, solidarity, and mutual respect for the workers of our world. Our stories in this installment of Samyukta Fiction evoke the many-splendoured beauty of art, of writing, and of imagining different worlds.
I am happy to introduce the shortlisted writers of Issue #3 – many congratulations to you! This issue’s theme was “Colour.”
Malini Roy (who also writes under the pen-name of Svanhild Wall) is a UK-based Indian freelance writer currently learning ikebana flower arrangements with her ten-year old son. Roy has written for the independent comics magazine Vérité, and published scholarly work on literary representations of childhood in British Romanticism by the Shelley circle. Roy’s story “Marigold” takes the classic theme of a mother and daughter’s conflict and gives it an unforgettable spin. The colours of a cancer cell, as seen from the safe distance of a microscope, induce a powerful memory of Saraswati Puja. “Marigold” is a sedimented tale, artfully told – if you’ve been a daughter or a mother, you will know that chill in your argumentative heart instantly!
In the garden, African marigolds grew in abundance. As the mid-morning sun caressed each flower, Lopa plucked them one by one, with the serrated leaves on their stems. A centipede was sunning itself on one of the stems…— “Marigold” by Malini Roy
Chiranthi Rajapakse lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and is the author of the short story collection “Names and Numbers” which was shortlisted for the 2017 Gratiaen prize. Her writing has also been published in New Ceylon Writing and City, a quarterly journal of South Asian literature. Her story “Blue” is topical, covering the shortage of fuel and the economic crisis plaguing Sri Lanka today. Resonantly told, “Blue” captures the incomprehension and helplessness of average citizens even as those in power remain torpid. But the colour is more than the sum of its poetic associations, for it is a fact of our civic life that colours are appropriated as political symbols, and blue, in Rajapakse’s redolent story, is the colour of the sky, of petrol, of a kite, of you.
The politician’s sons go on holiday to the seaside when they are blue, while in a queue a man dies waiting for fuel, a man who drove a three-wheeler, a man who was seventy-six years old, a man whose name we do not know.— “Blue” by Chiranthi Rajapakse
Dhee Sankar is a doctoral candidate at Presidency University, Kolkata. His debut collection of Bengali poems, Ushor Pandulipi, was published by the prestigious Patra Bharati in 2022. His story “Black” is an immersive rendition of an unfinished conversation, of the revolving doors of life through which two lives flit past after a moment of connection. Sankar paints the arcana of misunderstandings in a fragile relationship using various shades of black, a colour that is both comforting in its absorptive power and repelling in its enigmatic beauty. A familiar setting, two inchoate lovers, and the mystery of the heart – read more to pluck it out!
We walked in silence. Were you furious again? If you were, your fury was cooler than water, softer than silk. Does my fury also feel like this. “Would you like to know what colour I assigned to you?”— “Black” by Dhee Shankar
Sofia Amir lives in Lahore, Pakistan, and is an undergraduate at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, planning to earn a degree in English. She has an interest in surrealist works, and hopes to one day enter into the publishing industry. An uncategorizable story, “Red” takes you into a high-art museum, where, in a corner, far away from the famous pieces, sits a glorious study in red. You must move towards and away from it like the waves of an itinerant ocean to grasp what the great master wished to convey. But when you enter the room, you notice something. And maybe, something notices you. Don’t say that you were not warned!
You can see where the artist intended to go, where the reds — carmine, rosewood, dusky, heady merlot — strategically lead the eye: rocks that glimmer with dull red light; a sky alight with it, hazy, dreadful; the violent flood of the river that has engorged itself on red silt and dark trunks; the silhouettes that are back, surrounding their fire.— “Red” by Sofia Amir
I thank all the writers who shared their work with us. Samyukta Fiction has turned one and there are many years to go, many words to pen, many tales to share. Stay tuned to our next Call for Stories. In the meantime, here’s wishing you all happy reading! Please don’t forget to leave your comments to encourage our writers and appreciate them for their art.