Grandmother’s house is a magical place where a lanky kid goes in, gets surpassingly pampered, and comes out as a chubby kid who finds great difficulty in making a bow on his shoes. But another thing that is the highlight of the visit to grandma’s house is the bed-time story.
Every night, a different story with a different plot, with different characters. One day the hero would be a tall man, one day he would be just as tall as my grandma. One day the villain would have big black teeth on either side of his mouth, but another day he would look just like anybody else. One day the story would be from the past and one day it would be in the future.
The stories of Lord Krishna, his friends, his ‘leelas’, Mama Kansa’s goons trying to kill Krishna, stories from Panchatantra, the hungry lion, the innocent rabbit, the cunning fox, the annoying wolves, the naughty monkey, stories of my birth, my naming ceremony, me choking on my mother’s milk, my brother welcoming me home, cooked up stories of every hawker with potatoes, onions, palak, lemons, story of that one time my grandma and her brothers were pushed into the police vehicle and then left someplace nearby by the police during those famous Quit India rallies, stories of my mother smuggling fried items, small fruits to her classroom when she was a kid, stories of my aunt and my mother fighting to carry the lunch box to school, and hundreds more.
After every story, my grandma would make me close my eyes and tell me to imagine being in the story. It was a trick she used on me to make me go to sleep.
These small stories that spoke about different things every new day brought in a curiosity to experience a new world day after day. A world so fascinating that one wished to stay there forever. The anticipation of a new world’s glory and a chance to experience that freakishly grotesque situation that thinking about them now gives a new wave of excitement to rise with a smile even on a Monday. A habitual and nostalgic feeling has conveniently made Short stories preferable.
In another instance, as a common woman in a busily crowded city like Bangalore, metro trains have come in as a boon for me. With underground ways that offer littlest to the littlest internet connectivity, has made me turn towards a way of entertaining myself during the commute; Reading. Sometimes I retort to reading a book to just avoid awkward eye-blinking situations of getting up for an elderly man or a woman with a hyper child or any other person who absolutely needs a seat, when somebody else has offered their seat when my mind was busy deciding whether to give up the seat and hang around those sweating and smelling bodies, or not.
A metro ride, being a short one that truly offers the ‘me’ time makes the experience of reading a short story easier as there would be no necessity to remember the plot or the characters, their whereabouts amidst the stress of how to finish the project in hand before the deadline so that I can chill in office, stress of booking the tickets for the Friday night movie, the stress of finding ‘the suitable boy’ in every boy I encounter, the stress of managing two fighting-over-a-fictional-character friends and not taking anybody’s side as I am blessed with just two friends in life.
A short story, unlike a novel also does not make the reader forget her work and read like there is no tomorrow (calling in sick to know what happens at the end of the book, letting the files pile up as the eyes are moving left to right and swiftly back to the left, getting scolded by the boss and standing on the threshold of getting fired), as the reader gets the plot, enjoys the magnificent world in the story in a very short period of time.
A short story keeps the floor open for the reader’s imagination to run free in visualizing the hero’s colour of the eyes, the sound his shoes make, the holes in his jacket’s pocket, the rhythm that his voice has and the angle of his nose. It also allows the reader to go into the heroine’s house, pet her dog, use her coffee machine, listen to her refrigerator hum, in her own way. The lack of intricate details induces a spark of making the situations grand as shown in the magnum opuses on the silver screen.
Short stories usually have plots picked up from a common life. They make the reader connect with the plot, with the characters rather than the novels that create a parallel world that has logistical needs.
While in school when I used to write essays, there was a pre-set paragraph that I would push into my essay to increase the word count. No matter what the topic was, I would write the paragraph and somehow connect it to the essay. One of the sentences that would always be in that paragraph was ‘Time and Tide wait for none’. I think it finds a better relevance here rather than any of my essays in schools. Man has moved from ‘I love you’ to ‘I luv u’ to ‘<3’ to a small red picture. Time is considered money and everybody seems to lack it. In such an age of small talks, short stories provide the perfect escape during the buffer periods in-between life’s heavy moments.