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'An Unborn Desire' Book Review: Sinister tales

Singapore-based Ananya Mukherjee’s latest book consists of 15 unusual and sometimes macabre short stories.

Published: 05th December 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th December 2021 06:34 PM   |  A+A-

Ananya Mukherjee's An Unborn Desire.

Ananya Mukherjee's An Unborn Desire.

Express News Service

Singapore-based Ananya Mukherjee’s latest book consists of 15 unusual and sometimes macabre short stories. Most of these stories stem from the author’s personal and loaned experiences as well as observations of the dynamic world around her. In the Preface, Mukherjee writes that the collection is an attempt to “weave observation and imagination seamlessly into a single fabric”. 

In the title story, past-life regression therapy leads a young man to discover the deep mysteries of his previous life and death—while also uncovering one of his wife’s darkest secrets. “I was equally intrigued by the complexities of the human mind managing that dilemma and the seemingly simple journey of a soul from one life to another,” says Mukherjee about the inspiration behind it. 

In ‘More Than You Can See’, Norah suffers from a vision disorder that gives her complex hallucinations of restless visuals fitting her mental environment. The story ‘Me: Version Infinity’ is about a robot who lives in a laboratory. 

The stories are all set in various cities across the world, where the author has lived or travelled, and many of the experiences described in them are real. “The description of a morning in Istanbul, my hunt for a little Syrian boy called Isah, a restaurant in Prague that greeted me with Rabindra Sangeet, the 100 euros that I lost and found, a man sitting in a yogic position on my drive from Cape of Good Hope or the Fakira in Marrakesh… they are all real or triggers to the stories I wrote later,” she explains.

Most stories are based on true events. For instance, ‘Dance like a Bird’ is a chilling true story about honour killing. Dating back to about three centuries ago, ‘Sheeba’ is based on an actual legend set in the ghost village of Kuldhara, 17 kilometres west of Jaisalmer. ‘Moving Shadows’, a story set in Singapore, explores some of the area’s brutal history. During the Second World War, the Japanese invaded Singapore, and executed much of its ethnic Chinese population—the dead bodies often hung upside down from trees. 

Though often dealing with uncomfortable and hard-hitting subjects and themes, even the darkest of these stories, however, have a strong message of the good winning over the evil, and justice prevailing in the end. A former business journalist, she says that the stories that have stayed the longest with her have been those that have surprised her with a twist. Like ‘Of Stars, Planets and Boundaries’, which is another uncanny real story about coincidence—two brothers riding a moped were killed in Saigon when a taxi driven by the same driver and carrying the same passenger collided into them, exactly a year apart from each other. 

An Unborn Desire
By: Ananya Mukherjee
Publisher: Rupa
Pages: 160
Price: Rs 295



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