I am delighted to present Samyukta Fiction’s first issue! It is being released on what is New Year’s Day according to the Indian solar calendar, a day that is celebrated as Baisakhi in North and Central India, Rongali Bihu in Assam, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu in Kerala, Pana Sankranti in Odisha, and Poila Boishakh in Bengal. But along with India, the day is celebrated in Cambodia as the Khmer New Year, in Laos as the Lao New Year, and in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. It is also Ambedkar Jayanti, a day to mark the birthday of B R Ambedkar, India’s most eminent civil rights activist, constitution-maker, and visionary. It is important to recall the many-splendoured beauty and optimism of this day even as we struggle globally against a deadly pandemic and its socioeconomic aftershocks.
I hope you will find each of the five stories featured in this first issue a treat. The theme of the issue is “reversal of expectation” and each story plays with your mind, its anticipations and assumptions. The stories are embedded in their own time and place, and one is struck by their immediacy as well as their timelessness, a feature that, in my opinion, the best writing often embodies.
Let me introduce to you, briefly, our five featured writers!
Alex Barr’s short fiction collection My Life With Eva was published in 2017 by Parthian Books. Take a Look At Me-e-e! a book of stories for children about farm animals, appeared in 2014 from Gomer Press. His recent stories can be read at MIROnline and Litro Story Sunday. Alex’s short story “Sybil” is a tale of dawning realization, powerfully mediated through his sharp eye for detail and nuance. A young man and woman, newly in love, discover that love’s connections are never easy and can quickly come undone. A tale set in the 1950s that is as alive today as it is in the mind’s eye on the past.
Until a year ago, he hadn’t heard of Pericles. A bourgeois shoot
grafted on peasant stock, father a self-made graduate engineer, no doubt all aspiration and no culture. — “Sybil” by Alex Barr
Florian Beauvallet teaches at the University of Rouen (Normandy, France) and is a member of the ERIAC research group. His research focuses on the notion of flippancy in literature and he is also interested in the role played by translation in the development of the art of the novel. Recently, he translated into French Imitation, the first novel by South African writer Leonhard Praeg. Florian’s short story “Graduation Day” centres around its protagonist’s feelings of hope, self-doubt, and uncertainty. As the reader gets wrapped up in this story about a story, she wonders what is life – a tale well-lived or a life well-told?
For a few brief moments that morning, the world was set afire by a sense of wonder. — “Graduation Day” by Florian Beauvallet
Brindley Hallam Dennis lives on the edge of England where he writes short stories. Writing as Mike Smith, he has published poetry, plays and essays (mostly on the short story form or on adaptation). His writing has been published and performed and has won prizes. “The Interview” is a story about a writer, who goes in search of a story about a man whose road has taken him somewhere unexpected. As the story loops about writing and being written about, the reader is afforded a chance to think about her own voice and its articulations.
The old farmhouse too, will go that way, but over a longer period of time, I guess, and run to ruin and green decay. — “The Interview” by Brindley H. Dennis
Takbeer Salati was born in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. She is currently completing a PhD on the writings of Sadat Hasan Manto. She is also working on a translation of her grandfather’s book Hijaz. Her research and short stories can be read on Akademos and Mountain Ink. Takbeer’s luminous story “Red Snow” explores the twinned destinies of Elif, a young Kashmiri girl, and Rantas, a mythical witch in the Kashmir valley.
Even the winds of the city blew with curiosity. Elif and a neighbor boy were missing. — “Red Snow” by Takbeer Salati
Janet H. Swinney is an acclaimed writer from the North East of England. She has family ties with India and her experience of life there has deeply influenced her writing, published across the UK, India, and the US. She is the author of The Map of Bihar and Other Stories (2019, Circaidy Gregory Press) and the upcoming collection, The House with Two Letter-Boxes (2021, Fly on the Wall Press). Her work has been shortlisted for and has won many prizes including the Eric Hoffer prize for prose 2012, and she was a runner-up for the London Short Story Prize 2014. Her story “Hot Cakes” is set in a small village in Punjab, where a young girl’s fate lies in thrall of forces greater than her family’s or even her nation’s. A young doctor from the UK enters Pooja’s life and changes it forever.
Pooja entered the barren space that was the schoolyard clumsy,
downcast, self-conscious, chastened and a martyr to the cause of the female gender. — “Hot Cakes” by Janet H. Swinney
We received a number of entries for Issue # 1 and I thank all the writers who shared their work with us. Please stay tuned to our next Call for Stories! In the meantime, here’s wishing you all happy reading!