“Waiting for Manna” is collection of translated short stories by eminent feminist and writer Sarojini Sahoo. Originally she writes in Oriya. She has eight novels to her credit and nine anthologies of short stories some of which have been translated in English and Bengali. She is the recipient of Orissa Sahitya Akedemi award and Jhankar award.
Sarojini talks about pregnancy, rape, girl child, stalkers and about the social set up we all are trapped in; about the mindset we can't get rid off.
The first story is about a childless woman who is obsessed about having a baby and then wonders about motherhood once she gets it. Since she is admitted to a hospital for few days before delivery, she gets a chance to interact and observe people from close quarters. Children who were once central to parent’s existence get engrossed in their own life and forget about them who brought them up so lovingly. She sees children who leave parents and are indifferent about their needs.
Once she gets her baby, she wonders about the motherhood and its rewards.
Another story that touches the heart is ‘Threshold’, the story of Ipsita, a girl who runs away from her home to elope with her boyfriend and her anxiety and desperation to forget her parents.
Not only women but men also are central characters in her spinning tales, like for instance Dr Anurag, his courage that finally is engulfed by system that swallows all of his pride and ethics and forces him to succumb to pressures. How lucidly she tells the story of professor Anirudh who being bright could have been something but lands up teaching in a private college with meager salary. It’s interesting to read how finally he breaks the chain and is able to reverse the heaps of insults thrown at him.
In “Rape’ she tells the story of a female fantasy. A naïve women dreams about being raped by the doctor and confesses it to her husband. From then on an innocent relationship between husband and wife changes; the change actually is subtle but a simple dream affects their marital status. The story dwells on consequences of being truthful to her husband.
It is her way of weaving story on a simple comment or a trivial incident that is remarkable. Slowly she introduces characters that give twists and turns and build up a tale around the central character. At times they bring out the real person and his/ her struggles behind ordinary masks. The protagonist of her tales are all around you thinking aloud; it’s easy to identify with them. Her way of telling a story is such that the characters are well sketched out. None of her stories have a beginning because they start from a non incident and none of them have an end because they are lost in smoke screens. This is the reason the stories become gripping and you want to read them till the end. You connect with them instantly because you can identify with the subjects easily. They leave you uneasy because truth looks you in the face.
A girl child loses a precious pen in ‘sorrowful endings’ in a slush and tries to retrieve it, afraid that her parents would scold her for being careless. She starts to sink in that slush and wonders if her parents would know her whereabouts in time to save her? The story goes through perspective of a girl child, pressures on her and her failure to cope with them. It vividly describes the state of daughters in our society and the pressures children have to face from parents and peers.
Class divide and how it affects a child’s psyche is presented in another story “Beyond Reach” A small incident brings out the soul of the story and she weaves a beautiful story around it. It gives glimpse into the mind of a well to do mother and her warped thinking in extraordinary way
Whether it is a story of a doctor or a maid servant or a girl child, they all portray inner struggles of people, the daily grind of real life and its consequences.
All stories are reflective of true life of ordinary people with ordinary endings yet they all reveal the struggles going inside every human being, their reactions to life and outcome.
The writing style is lucid and keeps you glued till the story comes to its logical end; loved reading them.
Book reviewed by Dr Madhvi karol
Publishers-- Indian Age publication
Causes Sarojini Sahoo Supports
Human Rights Commission ,