Issue 2 of Samyukta Fiction brings a delicious set of tales you can sink your teeth into. This issue was open-themed, and we received a plethora of entries on a myriad of topics. Choosing a handful was a tough process. For the writers whose stories we were not able to select, we thank you for sharing your work with us and urge you to continue honing your craft and sending new writing our way.
Each of the four short stories in this issue showcases a moment of lucidity born from a vital, transformative event, as a character undergoes a sharp, sudden crisis. Each story builds to a turning-point that brings the quotidian and the extraordinary together in an unforgettable way. You will find the stories notable for their formal innovativeness and while there are no explicitly common themes among the selected four – a strength of the open-themed format – there are definite continuities and assonances. An interpretive eye that looks for convergences in these four very different stories – from four different parts of the world – will, we hope, enjoy what is a really unique selection of tales from the new century.
I am delighted to introduce the authors of Issue 2 to you:
Kinjal Sethia is a freelance writer-editor based in Pune. Her work has appeared in the Nether, Borderless Journal, EKL Review, among others. She is the fiction editor at The Bombay Literary Magazine. She is also a part of the writing collectives The Quarantine Train and Pune Writers’ Group.
Kinjal’s story “The Gift” is a powerful indictment of violence against women and of social standards of beauty that maintain a stranglehold upon a woman’s identity. The shocking denouement is unforgettable for many reasons.
The thick welt of melted skin still glistened on her left cheek, the rod missing her eye by just a few inches. She caressed the burn on her face, sliding her finger back and forth on the melted skin, trying to rub it back to its original texture.. — “The Gift” by Kinjal Sethia
Vihanga Perera is a Sri Lankan poet and fiction writer whose work is widely known in his native country. His recent work includes the biography Bodies in Art (2020) and Under Attack (2018), a novel. Vihanga is also the editor of Jean’s: A Memorial Anthology (2020), a tribute to the poet Jean Arasanayagam.
“The Daughter of the Doctor who Sterilized Women” is a crafty tale, poised on the wings of a child’s point of view and an adult’s understanding of the world around her. A shocking scandal convulses a small town in Sri Lanka, dredging up the spectres of terrorism, nationalism, and religious fundamentalism, transforming several lives forever. Read it for Vihanga’s masterly use of irony.
Though it sounded preposterous, the charge against Shafinur’s father was quite serious. 4500 shady surgeries that grievously and irreparably hurt 4500 Sinhalese wombs. — “The Daughter of the Doctor who Sterilized Women” by Vihanga Perera
Tathagata Som is a doctoral candidate and Teaching Assistant in the Department of English at the University of Calgary. He works in the fields of environmental humanities, postcolonial studies, and South Asian studies. His critical and creative writings have appeared in international journals such as Postcolonial Text, ARIEL, and The Goose.
“Mother” by Tathagata is an uncanny tale of a young man’s love for his mother whose hold over his life takes an unexpected new form. The story evocatively balances the modern and the realistic with the ancient and the magical, and what seems like a repressive, dysfunctional relationship reveals itself to be a primordial force, something else altogether. A must-read.
I paid extra for the prostitutes to humiliate me as I fucked them. I deserved to be degraded in the most brutal manner possible. The mix of shame and humiliation, which would repulse most people, worked like a balm on my soul. — “Mother” by Tathagata Som
Ashwarya Samkaria has a Masters in English Literature (University of Delhi) and a Masters in Performance Studies (Ambedkar University Delhi) and is currently working as an independent researcher. Her short fiction has been published by EcoCast, official podcast of the Association of the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). She is trained in Odissi and has performed extensively in India and abroad.
“Dancefish on the Banks of the Yamuna” is a performance in words: Ashwarya mines the form of the short story to write both a critique of ecological violence and a visual-gestural piece on the fragmentation of self that is the result of alienation from one’s natural environment. Written in an experimental style that weds the verbal and the bodily, “Dancefish” is a moving rendition of a woman discovering herself and a dancer discovering her art in the midst of collective loss and grief.
… before I could even realise, I had started crawling on all fours, as an amphibious reptile might. I was on land, I was in the water. My guru’s voice reverberated in my mind, ‘dance like a fish, dance like a fish.’. — “Dancefish on the Banks of the Yamuna” by Ashwarya Samkaria
I thank all the writers who shared their work with us. 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.