Her stories are multi-layered and nuanced. In her latest book 'Going home in the rain & other stories', Monideepa Sahu reveals numerous perspectives of human life through interesting characters. The book, a collection of 14 short stories structured around different ideas, was recently released at the Walking Bookfairs in Bhubaneswar. They nudge the reader to look beyond the superficial as the author believes there is much more to life than what is revealed at first glance.
"Loneliness of life in big cities; horrors of war; love, loss, longing and hope; artistic integrity versus commercial success are some of the varying themes in the stories," says Bhubaneswar-based Monideepa, who was a former banker.
Some of the stories are inspired from places that she visited for work. 'Road Kill', told from the viewpoint of a monkey, is about development and progress at the cost of environmental degradation. "These stories bring to fore many perspectives of human nature and life," says the author, who is also the fiction editor of Kitaab publishing house.
Of all the 14 stories, 'A Royal Tour' is closest to her heart as it incorporates her own experiences in it. The story is about life's journey, of love and opening oneself to new experiences and ideas in order to progress. It's about reaching out and understanding your loved ones and allowing them space to grow, she says. In 'Hoshi's Bombay', she has created a young Parsee man, who struggles to come to terms with his shock and sorrow caused by senseless urban violence and decay.
He learns to accept his own fallibility, his powerlessness to radically change the world. He also learns the enduring value of love and friendship, and to appreciate that people are also capable of random acts of kindness and selflessness. Despite all the negativity around him, he chooses to retain his faith in humanity.
'Dhatura' and 'Monsoon' contain strong elements of magic realism, taking off into wildly imaginative realms. The other 12 stories are set in lifelike situations, often in real cities and
identifiable locales. Whether set in a fantasy world or in the lanes of Kolkata, Bangalore or Mumbai, all the stories reflect on real life. Dhatura, which is the story of Surpanakha, is about the horrors and senselessness of war, of how people can be brainwashed to misunderstand and hate others, and of the underlying humanness that binds all. The story is also about hope, and the persistence of amity and love, she says.
Monideepa began working on the stories several years back. She sent them to writers from all across the world through online workshops for authors to gain fresh perspectives on them. "I kept revising them again and again till I knew that they were ready to be published," she says.
The challenge of getting into minds of people through stories was a fascinating experience for her. "I also enjoyed creating imaginary characters and situations, and playing with various ideas," she says. Her stories 'Hoshi's Bombay', 'Flowers and Paper Boats', 'On the Spot', and 'The Tainted Canvas' have males as the central characters. Her first book was 'Riddle of the Seventh Stone' and Monideepa's second work 'Rabindranath Tagore: The Renaissance Man' was released by Penguin.
A fan of different genres of literature, Monideepa says she wants to expand her creative base. She is currently working on another fantasy novel for teenagers. Monideepa also plans to write about the fading heritage of Odisha. Some of her stories were previously published in prestigious collections in the US, Singapore and India.