English teacher Lekha Nambiar has brought out an engaging collection of short stories
Photos: Lekha Nambiar. Pic by Melton Anthony; the book cover
By Shevlin Sebastian
It is not every day that one's debut collection of short stories can get a preface written by a noted writer. But the introduction to Lekha Nambiar's 'Mysterious Resonance' was written by none other than the award-winning writer M. Mukundan.
And this is what he wrote: 'These stories are written in English, but the author is a Malayalee. There aren't many female Malayalee writers writing in English. Though a debutante, Lekha's voice is to reckon with. When you have read all the stories in this collection, you will have a better understanding of the working of a woman's mind.'
This is indeed an engaging collection of stories, mostly, from a woman's viewpoint, but there are some interesting exceptions. In 'Umbrella', Lekha has written it from the point of view of an umbrella: 'It took around two weeks for the first customer to pick me up. I instantly hated his rough hands and lecherous eyes. He was so outrageously insensitive that when he carried me in his arms, his nails almost pierced my soft flesh'.
Most of the stories are just two or three pages long. And it is an easy read, with simple sentences and spare imagery.
Despite this spareness, she is able to convey a lot. In 'Mindscape, Lekha writes about two women friends, who set out on an outing towards a mountain and later, stop at a pond:
'They removed their clothes feeling no shame around their naked bodies. Like a pair of majestic swans, they skimmed on the glassy surface of the water. Kavitha wrapped her arms around Sukanya and both laced their fingers together. As the luscious unevenness of their flesh created soft ripples, they mutually adored their feminine grace. After swimming for some time, the girls walked towards the bank in a dreamy langour. In the baking heat, both exhausted each other with long caresses.'
“This story is a celebration of the physicality of two females, and an exploration of feminine sensuality,” says Lekha. “In fact, those who read it told me there is a lesbian touch to the story, although I was not aware of it when I wrote it.”
Sometimes, she gets her inspiration from real life. In 'Agony', Lekha has written about a woman who is married to a man who speaks very little, while she is talkative. “This is a similar experience of a good friend of mine,” says Lekha. “That is her agony. It is an unrequited love. So I made it into a story but I used my imagination also.”
The 18 stories have been divided into three sections: 'Nuances of Love'; 'Some Existential Affairs' and 'Strands of Reminiscence'.
The last section is autobiographical. These include memories of her dance teacher, college mates and friends, as well as amusing encounters with her own grandmother.
Here is an extract:
'After about a year when I went to see my grandmother, she gathered me to her breasts and softly murmured into my ears.
“Give me some poison.”
With a shudder I sprang up and burst out, “What? Poison!”
With a glint in her eyes, she replied, “Yeah.... that perfume you gave me last time.'
Incidentally, Lekha took five years to write the book. That is because she has a full-time job as an English teacher at the Jama-Ath Higher Secondary school at Thandakkad, near Perumbavur. Whenever she would find time, Lekha would scribble something. The end result is a promising debut.
The book, priced at Rs 195, has been brought out by Authors Press and is available on Flipkart and Amazon.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)