A Postard From India

Photo by Sanhita Mukherjee.

I was honored and proud to be asked to write the foreword to the English version of this moving and vivid short story collection. Congratulations, translator Sanhita Mukherjee and Bengali author Raja Sinha  (also spelled in English Raja Singho). The Postcard Tales launched this weekend at the Chennai Book Fair in India.

Here’s where you can get it:

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FOREWORD

Jamaica Kincaid once wrote, A great piece of literature encompasses all that is and all that will be.

Yes, this applies even to short stories.

A great short story stands alone. It is not an excerpt from a novel or a vague synopsis of a longer story crammed into a predetermined word count. A great short story is a stolen glance through a window into someone else’s life. The best ones leave us with a sense of “sweet sorrow,” a yearning to linger there on the sidewalk a little longer even though we must press on to our own destinations. Such stories don’t need a contrived cliffhanger ending in order to leave us dying to know what happens next. They accomplish that effect through more organic and nuanced means.

The first short stories I experienced were fairy tales read to me by my mother before I was old enough to go to school. Then came the Jack Tales, a unique feature of my Appalachian upbringing. Later I would discover the short stories of Rabindranath Tagore, Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, John Cheever, Edgar Allan Poe. Some capture the human condition with horror, others with humor, others with nightmarish satire. They have all left me comforted in knowing I wasn’t the only one experiencing life’s suffering; that in some way it’s communal, that we’re all in it together. They left me satisfied, but a little bit sad to see them go.

The stories in this collection have captivated me in the same ways. They are unique to India but they are universal to all of us. From the self-mutilation in “Primeval” that I will never be able to expunge from my mind, to the smell of burning books in “The Five Windows,” to the heart- wrenching revelations of a condemned young woman moments before her execution, along with the unspoken and timely themes that accompany them, Raja Sinha has left me haunted.

Even so, I was eager to turn the page and peer through the next glass, following along with the author’s appraisals and inquiries into life, culture, society and survival. May you be moved by his investigations at least half as much as me.

Jeffrey Stanley

Fulbright-Nehru Scholar

New York University

The Indian Farmers’ Strike in 90 Seconds

Photo via Al Jazeera
Photo via Al Jazeera

My US Bengali friends’ theatre company Kushilob put together a series of online theatrical shorts reacting to, and explaining, the massive farmers strike currently happening in India. You probably saw protest footage and tear gas on CNN or glimpsed it in the New York Times but perhaps aren’t exactly sure what the fuss is about.  The full Kushilob video is here on YouTube. Most of the pieces are in Bengali so for my other friends here’s what the Indian farmers strike is about in 90 seconds.  “Salt of the Earth” features Bedatanu Banerjee and me:

Feel free to share either of these vids with anyone anywhere. Thanks.

#farmerstrike

Aurora Visible in India

Exciting news in the Times of India about my friends and colleagues at Aurora Film Corporation, India’s oldest continuously running production company.  Looking forward to seeing Kalkokkho (House of Time) written and directed by Sarmistha Maiti & Rajdeep Paul.