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Shedding the Metaphors
Dr. Nandini Sahu
Black Eagle, Books
Dublin, USA,

 A review by Santosh Bakaya

As I closed the book, Shedding the Metaphors, all the flesh and blood characters, complete with their warts, bruises, flaws, and gullibility, crafted so deftly by Nandini Sahu, snuggled next to me, whispering in their strong, individual voices, making me privy to their heartburn, their desires, ambitions, hopes, whimsicalities and idiosyncrasies. Be it the highly intellectual, effervescent Madhavi, of A Very Different Story, or Mami Pradhan of The Wild Stream, or Neelu of Octopus, or Lata of The Scarlet Fly-each character has been so ingeniously delineated that one starts thinking that one has known them all along.
The dialogues in all the stories have a very natural flow and, let me mention, even the monosyllables encapsulate a sea of roaring emotions.


The erudite preface itself offers the reader immense scope for self- introspection and looking anew at the multiple layers of a myriad- hued life, which leaves one highly enriched. Honestly, it is a preface which needs to be read over and over again, with its emphasis on inclusivity, universality, acceptance, reconciliation and persistence. Yes, I plead guilty to the charge of dwelling a little more on the preface, and that is because it is one of the most insightful and intellectually stimulating prefaces, I have had the opportunity of reading, lately. In her words:

 
“My creative fiction is my social-mobility-platform, with the agility of love’s touch, pungent through my mind’s wanton complexity. Precisely, my stories do not preach”.


Yes, in none of the stories does the writer sermonize. With an effortless dexterity, we find her weaving stories around themes, which the judgmental might crinkle their noses at, look the other way, or squirm with unease. We find her writing about friendships cultivated on dating apps, long distance relationships, and platonic love and about what is natural what is not. What struck me about her writing style, is a certain lyrical lucidity and an honesty that shines through all the stories.

When one finishes reading the book, one is drenched in a snug and warm epiphany, that it is the different shades of love that move the world. Her powerful words, have a stunning impact, as though hit with a tender hammer, the underlying allegories, and metaphors leaving a lingering impact, heightening and honing one’s sensibilities. In the preface, she further says, that when life comes full circle, all metaphors are shed, putting an end to misapprehensions and misunderstandings.

 

“It is a new beginning, being inclusive, empathetic, universal, accepting, reconciling and persistent. Now one is complete, it’s a commencement, at the same time it’s the end. It’s the mode of nirvana, abyss, all-inclusive, nihilistic, irrationally-rational, non-judgmental, romantic. It’s difficult to contain all such finer metaphors of life in one living, thus, shedding the metaphors and shedding my Id, Ego and Superego, now I am the Brahma.”

 
Through these twelve powerful stories Sahu has done precisely this -shed all the metaphors attached to her in the past, present and future, dealing a death blow to the universal so-called rightness of long entrenched negativities. The stories are marked by a heart-warming, spontaneous and seamless flow giving the reader immense food for thought.

A Very Different Story, the first story in this collection, is a poignant story of a virtual, long-distance friendship between two scholars, which remained veiled from the outside world, but infused a new vigor, rejuvenating two lost souls. I cannot stop myself from reproducing a few lines from the story:

 
Madhvi had qualities even she didn’t know that she had. We were of the same age-group, but she was the mature one. She was someone with whom I could be as romantic as a Bollywood hero, as stupid, as insecure, and as good or bad as I wanted to be. There were no judgments passed. I wanted her to be my mistress in youth, friend in a mature age and nurse in my old age. I took personal care of every small detail of her life, but from 2000 kilometers away.


She had this tremendous capacity to hide her pain and smile, laugh all the time. She was actually two people. The one whom the world knew--the serious academic, creative writer, glamorous, practical, adamant, jovial with friends, helping and caring Prof. Madhvi. Then there was the other one – elemental, romantic, emotional, sensuous, true, honest, ready to capitulate and vulnerable, my Meeta.
 

The concluding lines of the story left me with limpid eyes.


Today I am far in the expanse, amid a cobalt stroke of sprays; in front of my eyes, a golden haze. I still hark back to you from a sky of molten gold.


This story and, the last- a memoir, Being God’s Wife, touched me very deeply. It came straight from the heart of a devoted daughter, the concluding lines of which also left me with glistening eyes.

 

I have had a great life with your Baba. I have seen it all- being God’s Wife.

By the time I finished reading the stories, I realized that Sahu has a sharp eye for detail, a keen sense of humour, a very tender manner of talking about the vulnerabilities of her characters, and that her prose has a lyrical cadence. Let me again quote from the Preface:


It is my empirical and experiential connection, which scrutinizes age, sex, race, class and colour to shelter the naked empirical evidences—talking about subjugation of women and nature as well as mental health of men and women and the jeopardy thereof. The characters, major or minor, ever created by me, fall sick, fall in love, have mood swings like Nature, suffer both physically and psychologically or accept death without fuss.

Alternative Masculinity, the second story in the collection, left me with an unending smile, and also food for thought. Savita’s perennial concern about how to deal with every trivial matter of her husband’s day to day existence, and Harihar’s irritating habits made me gnash my teeth at his sense of husbandly entitlement. ‘To me, it looked as if poor Harihar was under a panoptic surveillance.’  This sentence evoked such a powerful imagery of a husband, forever under the critical, disapproving eye of his forever solicitous wife- the illiterate wife, behind the success of her academician husband.  
 

Echoing in a lullaby, was another story which spoke to me in soft, tender whispers- of love, innocence and purity. The Shadow of a Shadow, deals with a very sensitive theme of an intimate friendship between two girls, Ragini and Sunita which has been very tenderly and commendably handled, dwelling at length on what is natural and what is unnatural.  Are ‘Stony dead eyes, chopped wings and blue-black bruises’ natural in a newly married girl? Is it natural for a middle-aged couple to live under the same roof for convenience, and carry on their own affairs? “Such moral degradation? Such violation of the laws of nature! Other girls may get misguided. Unpardonable! Most unnatural!” was the verdict of the hostel authorities of the university, when they came to know of this ‘unnatural’ friendship, this errant sexual behaviour, leaving in its wake two shattered hearts, two shadows and a ‘wretched feeling as if they were in a bottomless pit.’

This book is indeed highly recommended for every lover of short stories. The searing sincerity and the impassioned intensity with which hammer blows are dealt to conventional wisdom add to the stunning impact of the book. I can go on and on about the rest of the stories, but I want the readers to read this honest book and savor it.
 

All I can say is, that it is a must read for every bibliophile.

About the Author

Nandini Sahu

Prof. Nandini Sahu, the Amazon Bestselling Author(2022), is a major voice in contemporary Indian English literature. She has accomplished her doctorate in English literature under the guidance of Late Prof. Niranjan Mohanty, Prof. of English, Visva
Bharati, Santiniketan. She has been widely published in India, U.S.A, U.K., Africa, Italy,Australia and Pakistan.  Apart from numerous other literary awards, she is a triple gold medalist in English literature; she has received the Gold Medal from the hon'ble Vice-President of India for her contributions to English Studies in India in the year 2019.  She is the author and editor of twenty books, The Other Voice, The, Recollection as Redemption, The Post-Modernist Delegation to English Language Teaching, The Post Colonial Space: Writing the Self and the Nation, Silver Poems on My Lips, Folklore and the Alternative Modernities (Vol.I), Folklore and the Alternative Modernities (Vol. II), among others.


She is the Former Director, School of Foreign Languages and currently a Professor of English at Indira Gandhi National Open University [IGNOU], New Delhi, India. She is the Founder Editor of Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Language (IJLL), a bi-annual peer-reviewed journal in English. Professor Sahu has designed multiple academic programmes on Culture Studies, American Literature, Postcolonial Literatures, Children’s Literature, Indian Folk Literature and Indian Philosophical Thoughts for IGNOU and many other universities. You can find her on www.kavinandini.blogspot.in www.nandinisahu.in

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Dr Santosh Bakaya, award winning poet, novelist, biographer, TEDx Speaker, acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu, has authored twenty three books encompass multiple genres. Reuel International Awardee [Poetry, 2014], Setu International Awardee for ‘stellar contribution to world literature’, 2018 [Pittsburgh, USA], WE EUNICE DE SOUZA [WE Literary Community, 2023], for ‘rich and diverse contribution to Poetry, literature and Learning’, she runs a very popular column, Morning Meanderings [Learning and Creativity. Com.] Her collaborative e- books [Blue Pencil] Vodka by the Volga [With Dr. Ampat Koshy, 2020, From Princep Ghat to Peer Panjal [With Gopal Lahiri, 2021] are # 1 Amazon bestsellers. Recently published: What is the Meter of the Dictionary? [AuthorsPress. 2022] The Catnama [With Dr. Sunil Sharma, AuthorsPress, 2023] For Better or Verse [With Ramendra Kumar and Dr. Ampat Koshy, AuthorsPress, 2023]

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