Published by Readomania, dedicated to the goddesses, Susmita Mukherjee’s book ‘Baanjh’ is an anthology of well crafted eleven short stories, depicting incomplete lives of complete women. Beginning with Kitty, recepient of an award for NATI, an organiser of Natak Company and thereon graduating to penning her first novel ‘Me & Juhibaby’ and Baanjh in 2001 exhibits the author’s multifold credentials.
The book is based on author’s indepth observation of women belonging to different stratas, situations and shades. The very first story Baanjh has Rukmini as a protagonist, enslaved, hated and mercilessly beaten by her husband who has a concubine. How would Rukmini get her redemption the readers may ponder but the story has a satisfying denouement.
‘Dibba’ is a powerfully penned story of a mother and a daughter in the hutment area living in prostitution seen through the eyes of a nine year old Sudha. The title ‘Dibba’ arouses interest and the end shows its cogency.
‘Sakri-bai’ is a story to be read with tongue in the cheek. Ironically humorous as the maid’s name Sakri meaning sugar in Gujarati is made to starve and her mistress contradictorily polishes off boxes of chocolates.
‘Memories of a Red Nose’ is all about a strange weird psychological disorder of a mother which happens to become a recurrent indelible memory degenerating into an obsession for her daughter.
‘A piece of Paper’ is a whiff of fresh air in the world of divorces. It is judged by a spinster correctly who regards marriage and divorce a sheer piece of paper. A happily married couple after nineteen years of togetherness wishes to separate for the reasons best known to them. Is it finally a happy or sad situation? Readers have to decide.
‘Starbuzz’ depicts the journey of a journalist Durga Rathod from a plebeian to a glorious one. How does the incomplete woman gets completion in the end, the readers have to trace.
‘The Feminist and the Bimbo’ is an ever recurring real life situation of a sister and sister-in-law’s tussle and the sandwiched husband bearing the brunt of it.
‘Some Birds can’t fly’ is about two bosom friends; a happily married woman, unsure about her married life and the career woman who subsequently falls in love with a married man to be left alone. The story makes one speculate whose life is better, the career woman turned into a Diwa or a wife confined to her house and hearth?
‘Friends for Life’ is the story of a student of Canadian Film Academy who visits Tikamgarh, Bundelkhand and becomes friend of a guide Shekhar who takes her around and is a walking library of monuments. This association brings them closer. The story has a beautiful concluding line” Why do we have to give names to emotions? Is it not enough that our hearts have found each other and that we will cherish this feeling life long?”
‘Unwritten Love Letter’ is the story of a wife and a mistress both appraising each other silently while loving the same man, weighing their gains and losses and plus and minus points.
The last story ‘The Affair’ is the story of each of the housewives who sometimes want to bask in her privacies unencroached, who wishes to pursue her hobbies and be liberated from the mundane routine to soar like a bird as the cover of the book exemplifies. The story voices the sentiments of so many. Coming from a prolific writer like Susmita Mukherjee, the book has a racy style. Written in simple language it keeps one on the edge and each story explores the depths and layers of women with remarkable astuteness.
– Jailaxmi R Vinayak