Perhaps, happiness is overrated. Maybe life needs a closer look at other critical states of emotions such as melancholy, to start with, for a fundamental understanding of why we desire happiness so much and is it that important after all? “Had life been about overflowing happiness and bliss all this while, there would be no story to tell,” says 53-year-old Paramita Satpathy, whose new book Colours of Loneliness and Other Stories, scratches the surface of human preoccupations with happiness and presents a realistic literary work connecting at a more profound level.
The book is a collection of stories translated from Odia by Snehaprava Das. The stories unravel the layers of human experience, some pleasant some not so much. What’s noteworthy, is the frank treatment of every emotion. Some stories condemn sexual abuse of children, dowry deaths, female foeticide, while others look critically at hyper urbanisation.
There’s A Rare Fable that details the unique relationship between a princess with supernatural powers and a mare who becomes her friend and confidante. The Nowhere Nest story speaks of the agonising realisation that a woman has no place to call her own. Every place she feels she belongs to is defined by the relationships she has entered into. The title story, Colours of Loneliness looks at the lives of two close friends Maya and Veena, and how they deal with their own share of loneliness.
The story titled, Wild Jasmine, is based on the argument of rehabilitation and exploitation around it. “But layers of complexities are woven to the theme in the form of innocence, betrayal and beginning of a revolution. Elixir of Love is presented in a dramatic way to narrate the dream sequence of a woman in quest of the elixir of love. The story is woven around heartbreak, regrets and whether there exists any such elixir,” shares the author, who has written close to 100 stories and two books in translation titled Intimate Pretence and A Boundless Moment.
The books finds resonance with a city like Delhi where alienation is a stark reality. It’s worsened by the predicament of wanting our ‘space’ but not at the cost of feeling isolated. “Loneliness in its physical form becomes very apparent in big cities as people do not have time for one another. Most people settled here with their roots being elsewhere. They become vulnerable as they face cheating, rudeness, cruelty, and crime in its crudest form making each one insecure and lonely,” says Satpathy, who thinks the book will help these people connect.
But not all is dark and gloomy in the capital. “I spent a few years here as a student at Jawahar Lal Nehru University and I’ve also visited Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad. But Delhi somehow posed a kind of an enigma to me. I get a sense of space being in Delhi,” says the author, originally from Bhubneshwar. But now Delhi is home. Its loneliness and the case of happiness is also hers.
Colours of Loneliness and other Stories
Price : Rs 685
Publisher: Oxford University Press