Short stories are like a steaming mug perfectly infused with Adarakwali Chai a winter afternoon. It’s over before you know it. As you suck in a bit more you hold the hot cup between your palms but cherish the aftertaste and in the meantime you don’t need anything else. With many of us reading on our handheld devices today, juggling multiple roles, news can be the ideal literary form. Here is a look at a few Indian women who have managed to write in this form.
His shameless language will certainly unsettle you. Chughtai’s Urdu short story Lihaaf is one of his best-known works. Never known to mince words, this story also got her on an obscenity trial and took her all the way to Lahore. Lihaaf is the story of the neglected wife Begum Jaan and her masseuse Rabbu. Chugtai speaks unabashedly about female desire and his characters aren’t ashamed to act on them and that’s what makes his works so special. Gainda, Til, Gharwali are some of his other well known works in this format. She received the Padma Shri.
Also Read: The Life and Writings of Ismat Chughtai Teach Us How to Be Shameless Feminists
Laureate Padma Vibhusan, Devi wrote largely in Bengali, but her works have been translated into several other languages, including English. The center of his writings remained the marginalized, especially women. His most acclaimed short story is Draupadi. Dopdi the central character faces unimaginable violence but retains his sense of agency in the face of it all. Mahasweta Devi has written around 20 short stories.
Although his novel Prothom Protishruti for The first promise remains his most notable work, Ashapurna Devi has written for 3000 short stories. Refugees, migration and women have always been at the center of her stories. She also wrote children’s stories. Devi received the Jnanpith Prize and the Padma Shri.
Popularly known as Ainie Apa, collection of short stories by Qurratulain Hyder Patjhar ki Awaz (The sound of falling leaves) is well known. She had written two other collections Shishe Ke Ghar and Roshni kī Raftar. Hyder’s works are often set in history and speak of Indo-Muslim cultural heritage. She is also well known for translating many famous English works into Urdu.
Known by her pseudonym Mamoni Raisom Goswami, she publishes her first collection of short stories Chinaki Morom while she was still a student. Many of her short stories are set against the backdrop of Delhi, where she taught Assamese at the University of Delhi. Her works speak about women and the cultural and political aspects of Assamese society.
Sobti’s, winner of the Jnanpith Prize, was a voice in contemporary Hindi prose that was very difficult to ignore. Her works deal closely with questions of female identity and sexuality. Some people thought she used too much profanity in her writing. Critics also called her out for being obsessed with sex, however, the descriptions of sex in her works were always from a woman’s perspective. Some of his well-known short stories are Nafisa, Sikka Badal Gaya, Badalom Ke Ghere.
Also Read: Famous Hindi Writer Krishna Sobti Has Died
Malayali poet and short story writer, his popular collection, The kept woman and other stories was published in English posthumously. Her writings were considered controversial because she spoke openly about societal restrictions placed on women and questioned conventions.
Deshpande is well known for her portrayal of a middle class Indian woman who is constrained by society. She embarked on literary writing as a short story writer. The context of her stories is always Indian, but she talks about universal issues like the predicament of human relationships that negotiate gender stereotypes.
Desai’s novelist, short story writer, and children’s author, The Games At Twilight, is a story almost everyone knows. The theme of childhood, innocence and disappointment and the visual imagery of twilight plays out so well in this story and keeps you hooked. Diamond dust is another from his collection of news. She has been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize.
CS Lakshmi who wrote under the pseudonym Ambai has a distinct writing style. His short story Siragukal muriyum (The Wings Will Be Broken) received much critical acclaim. She is a feminist author known for her attention to detail. Her short story Squirrel set in a library is an essential tale of how women’s writings were treated as secondary. Veetin mulaiyil oru samaiyalarai (lit. A kitchen in the corner of the house) is another of his news collection.
Urmila Pawar is a Dalit and feminist writer and activist. Her works beautifully highlight the issue of class, caste and gender. News from Pawar, Kavach and A Childhood Tale is widely read. His autobiographical work Aaydaan (The Weaving of My Life: Memories of a Dalit Woman translated by Maya Pandit) is one of his most famous works.
American author of Indian origin, Jhumpa Lahiri is best known for her collection of short stories The Disease Interpreter. This earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Hemingway Foundation / PEN Prize. She has another collection of short stories called the Unusual land. Lahiri’s work explores the experience of Indian immigrants to the United States. Much of his writing focuses on the difficulties of raising a family in a culture very different from yours.
Also read: Why Jhumpa Lahiri is essential reading to understand the Indian Diaspora
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Indian-American author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, well known as a poet and novelist, has also written some beautiful short stories. His collection called the Arranged marriage won the American Book Award. The 11 stories in this collection are all directed by protagonists who are women. These women immigrated to America from India and negotiate between the two cultures.
The first collection of Pariat Boats ashore won the 2013 Sahitya Akademi Young Writer Award for the English language. She was born in Jorhat, Assam and raised in Shillong Meghalaya. Its stories speak of the North East, its folklore, Khasi life, traditions and politics.
Ranchi’s 29-year-old Kritika Pandey recently won the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story The great Indian tee and the snakes. The story revolves around a Hindu-Muslim couple. The simple story of a Hindu woman who helps her father run a tea stand and falls in love with a Muslim man who visits his stand highlights the link between community prejudice and intolerance in India.
This list is indicative and not exhaustive.