At the outset, the book intrigues you with its mind-blowing subtitle – ‘Not all that spins away is lost, not all that comes home is familiar’. These two lines, in nutshell, encapsulates the spirit of all the 13 stories in the book. Written by 13 women authors, all living in Delhi, ‘Escape Velocity’ is as much the story of their lives and experiences as it is of the city – Delhi, for in the pages of this book is painted various hues of the city that conjures up images in the readers’ mind, and their lies the success of these tales.
The stories are real, aspirational and at the same time unapologetically self-indulgent. All of them have women protagonists or a central women character who mostly stick to their ‘comfort zone’ to better deal with the harsh reality of their lives.
In the first story ‘For the love of Likes’ Anjali Gurmukhani Sharma takes us to a high profile Indian household and the gadget freak, facebook addicted Ramola, who puts in all efforts for getting those extra ‘comments’ and ‘shares’ on her posts, at the cost of ignoring her son’s basic requirements. Ramola’s husband wishes her happy birthday on facebook, with perfect pictures and an equally romantic write-up to complement it at sharp 12 am, but forgets to wish her personally while staying in the same house, as he had an important office call to attend. A workaholic, her has no time for either Ramola or their son. Ramola on the other hand finds refuge in this virtual world and in the end, when her son accuses her of ignoring him for her phone and says ‘go hug your phone mumma, you love it more than me’, though she temporarily feels pained, she regained her composure by watching the latest notifications on her phone. And, ‘hugging her smartphone, Ramola sat up straight and blinked through her tears to focus better in the screen.’
In the story, ‘Between Bookends’ Kasturi Patra Kasturi’s Viakat beautifully describes her escapades into the world of books ever since her childhood and how books became her soul companion and remained so throughout her various ups and downs.
Kavita Bhashyam Jain in ‘Slipping through my fingers’ brings out the pain of a mother after having to stay away from her child. A single mother, the chronicling of the protagonist’s relation with her daughter right from the moment of birthing her, is beautifully done. The relationship changed over a period of time though… “the pull and tug of time changed our relationship in new ways….least of all things like makeup and hairstyling”. The story takes us through the various stages in the ‘cycle of growth’ in a mother-daughter relationship.
Kiranjeet Chaturvedi‘s ‘Mauke Ki Nazaakat’ focuses on yet another interesting angle between two women. This time, mother-in-law (MIL) and daughter-in-law (DIL). This story is a tale of a daughter-in-law who shared a secret pact with her MIL – that of hatred. The son/husband had no inkling about this bitter relationship and neither did anyone else knew of it. The story takes us through the various events that took place in the protagonist’s life post marriage and how she dealt her mother-in-law’s illness tactfully (mauke ki nazakat) and took off for a delayed honeymoon later after her accidental death.
‘Seeta’s choice’ by Megha Consul is another gem of a story. Playing around the sensitive issue of ‘partial androgen insensitivity syndrome’, the story is a brilliant portrayal of how despite sexual disorientation, one can still make firm choices and lead a life of dignity. In this story, Dr. Shalini, a divorcee, finds a new direction in life in nurturing and caring for this boy, who had intersex disorder and was abandoned by his own parents. When he successfully portrays the role of Seeta on stage (in a different interpretation), Shalini shed tears of joy.
All the other stories of ‘Escape Velocity’ are special, as each writer has shared their stories of transformation. In Kiran Chaturvedi’s own words ‘even without a predefined theme or prompts we found a strong thematic connection between our stories. Each one had an underlying paradox, and a character or a situation wanting break out of the conventional.”
The academically enriched foreword by Ashok University professor and author Saikat Majumdar, lends the book the right perspective.
The story behind this collection of stories is also quite special. It was born when Kiran Chaturvedi, the curator of this collection, met the writer Kanchana Banerjee in 2014 and started discussing the idea of starting a writing workshop. With the support of Moitreyee Chatterjee, a senior publishing consultant, they set up Write & Beyond on Facebook within a week. “As we talked of writing, and wrote in each other’s company, it was like being around the proverbial hoary bonfire all over again,” writes Chaturvedi. “It was homecoming. It was validation, recognition, and permission to tell our stories, with the knowledge of being heard. We knew then, how our stories—real or imagined—while being personal in a particular way, were also universal.”
Here’s the amazon link to the Book – https://amzn.to/2Yd7oiG