Tag Archives: #penguinrandomhouse

Left to Right: Shikhadin and her book, Impetuous Women.

Shikhandin’s ‘Impetuous Women’: A Story Once Published For India Currents

‘An old neem tree extended its gnarled boughs over the roof which was pockmarked by last year’s hail. Hairline cracks on the roof allowed streaks of sunlight to pour into the hall below.’

Apart from the near ripe guava, there was something else that intrigued her. The tree’s peeling bark. Barks of guava trees peeled easily, but this was such a young tree. Besides it was not so much the peeling bark, the patterns it had made. The tree seemed to be full of faces. One in particular, low enough to be at eye level looked like an old man’s face. A smiling and kindly face and when the breeze made the tree sway the face seemed to nod at her and smile like the grandfather she still remembered and thought dimly. 

In that instant, a mere split second of a summer disk, when the sun seems to have had too much to drink and simply can’t get up and call it a day, and everything else is bathed in a quiet gold.

The above excerpts are from Indian writer, Shikhandin’s new book Impetuous Women, a collection of short stories. With her evocative imagery, the author paints characters, places, and situations, bringing alive the pages.  

Shikhandin’s earlier works are Immoderate Men and Vibhuti Cat. Impetuous Women is her latest published by Penguin Viking. A recipient of several prizes, Shikhandin’s honors include runner-up prize in the George Floyd Short Story Contest 2020 (UK), Pushcart nominee by Aeolian Harp (USA) in 2019, and First Prize Brilliant Flash Fiction Contest 2019 (USA) to mention some. 

Impetuous Women is pivoted around women. Some stories have been previously published in international and Indian publications. Interestingly, the story ‘It Comes From Uranus’ fetched Shikhandin a second prize at the India Currents’ Katha Fiction Contest (2016) which she wrote under her name, R.K. Biswas.  

Impetuous Women opens with ‘Taste’, a story about two friends – Dimple and Sarita. Caught in a game of keeping with the Joneses, their underlying jealousy comes to the fore.   

In ‘Just Dessert,’ we meet Liese, a German woman married to an Indian, Dinesh. A perfectionist, Liese is precise in her work especially when it comes to her culinary skills. Chocolate mousse is her signature. Little did I know that this seductive dessert could send a shiver down my spine. 

Shikhandin picks situations and people from life to peg her stories making them relatable. A rather mundane subject in ‘Threshold’ and ‘The Amma Who Took French Leave,’ is the housemaid. And, when the maid disappears in ‘Threshold’ it makes the narrator confront a hard truth of her life. ‘The Amma Who Took French Leave’ looks compassionately at the less privileged.   

Sometimes lessons on romance are found in the least expected of places. In ‘Missing the Movie’, a young couple – Girish and Seema – on a movie outing get a lesson on love that is far real than the English film they watch in a cinema hall. 

What will a commentary be like when a ‘word’ becomes a spectator to a gathering of poets? With characters named she-poet, barely-literate professor-poet; owl-poet; doorknob-head-poet, and Chinny-chin-chin-poet, this story has you in guffaws.  

‘The Thirty-third egg,’ laced with wit takes a dig at a tourist who smuggles eggs from the breakfast table of her hotel. 

Exploring the interior and exterior worlds, Impetuous Women creates a truly expansive and inclusive feminine narrative. The women are easy to recognize – defined by their quirks, maternal instincts, and a tenacity that comes only to women.

She smiled as she took them, her head uncovered for the entire world to admire her kohled eyes, the dimple on her left cheek and the side locks that she had oiled and curled into stiff upside down question marks lying pat against her cheeks.

The thought lands without warning. Just like Meera’s one-eyed tomcat, which has the habit of dropping soundlessly from the garden wall, casually interrupting the quietness of a day about to curl up for the night. The sun is already sliding down a livid sky and shades of the evening are gathering around her. Ramola drags on the cigar

Sleep at long last does come to them, sauntering slowly into their personal space, catlike in its stealth. This time through, they are ready, even eager to welcome their tardy visitor.

The languor that comes after deep physical pleasure melts and merges slowly into tender conversation, both verbal and tactile.

With her sharp observation of people and places, Shikhandin’s brilliant characterization makes the ordinary and the prosaic unforgettable. And in making us invest in them, the twist in the tale is astonishing. Impetuous Women is like quick bites – easy to savor and fun to read. 


Mythily Ramachandran is an independent journalist based in Chennai, India with over twenty years of reporting experience. Besides contributing to leading Indian and international publications including Gulf News (UAE), South China Morning Post, and Another Gaze (UK), she is a Rotten Tomatoes critic. Check out her blog – http://romancing-cinema.blogspot.com/ 


 

Mooch Ado About Nothing

During the ongoing pandemic, several people have been ditching their usual shaving, threading, and waxing routines, donning their natural, back-to-basics avatar. With one barely stepping out of one’s homes, “lockdown looks” have become all the rage—and moustaches, beards, and other facial hair have become quite the norm among both young and old. It is interesting that during such a time, there is a new children’s book that simply explains this very timely and relevant concept of body positivity.

Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand and Nabi H. Ali is a delightful little new picture book about a young Indian American girl’s journey to accept her body hair and celebrate her heritage. Shelly Anand is an Atlanta-based human and civil rights attorney who fights for immigrants and workers from marginalized communities. Nabi K Ali is a Tamil-American digital illustrator who enjoys creating works about various cultures and people.

Young Laxmi is a young girl, whose peers in school, Zoe and Noah, get her to notice her facial hair one day while they are playing farm animals at recess. During the game, they ask her to personify a cat, as she has tiny hairs— like whiskers—on her upper lip. All of sudden, Laxmi becomes conscious and all too aware of her “mooch”. In no time, she begins to notice hair all over her body—her arms, knuckles, legs, and between her eyebrows. When she reaches home, she tells her mother about it.

It is then that her mother tells her about several powerful girls and women from history, all of whom sported moustaches—“from Mughal empresses and stately ranis to village girls and city girls.” She tells her about the benefits of having hair all over one’s body—as it protects and keeps us warm. Her parents even tell her about the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who had hair between her eyebrows. 

The next day in school, Laxmi tells Zoe that she wants to play jungle animals. This time, she volunteers to impersonate a tiger (“with my long silky mooch!”). She also shows Zoe the tiny blond hairs on her lip and asks her to pretend to be a lion. They draw an artificial moustache for their friend Noah who doesn’t have one yet. And soon, the entire class is queuing up to get “world-class mooches” drawn for themselves! 

Thus, through an incident of teasing and body shaming, Laxmi actually manages to overcome her fears and inhibitions, turning it into a positive outcome for herself. Moreover, she teaches her classmates an important lesson to embrace one’s bodies and rejoice in its so-called imperfections. As a result of this “mooch revolution”, her classmates who had natural mooches begin to flaunt them proudly to everyone else.


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’.