A Word Thrice Uttered: Stories on Life's Realities is a collection of short stories portraying the diverse realities of life through the protagonists — children, women, men, animals, even some supernatural beings.
Readers meet fascinating women confronted with irresponsible men and downright evil ones too. But nothing stops these women from taking the first step to a leap into liberation and self-empowerment.
While Ratan's story is one of irreparable damage to a child's psyche, through callous handling, spilling onto his adult life, Ram Khilawan's is a contrast where familial love inspires a child to put aside his trauma and attain the impossible despite poverty.
Where children are not spared, what would the plight of animals be? But here the author infuses hope through stories where animals return in equal measure the love and trust they receive from humans who treat them as family.
There are gentle touches into sensitive areas, through the thought processes of little Aslam and the experiences of Hafizji and his family. Panditayin, wrapped in the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, makes readers long to turn the clock back into that golden era.
Parveen Talha's earlier book Fida -e- Lucknow (a collection of short stories published by Niyogi Books), steeped in the textures and flavours of Lucknow, brought alive the city and its people for her readers.
In the current volume she has widened her canvas and made it more colourful, with characters from Lucknow and its adjoining towns and villages, playing vibrant roles on a stage shifting through time and space, portraying the rich history of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. In this book her stories open many unknown pages of history, and bring back forgotten memories of folklore, of not only Lucknow but the whole of Awadh. With the bygone era, the present times also come alive.
Parveen Talha belongs to an old family of Awadh. After retiring from the Civil Services as Director General of Customs she was Member of the Union Public Service Commission for five years. She lives now in Lucknow and spends time writing about her beloved city. Parveen Talha is involved with social service which includes working for animal rights. In the year 2000 she was given the President's Award for Specially Distinguished Record of Service. In 2014, she was honoured with the Padma Shri for her contribution to the Civil Services.
find stories everywhere around me, as I have said in my earlier book. And I cannot keep them to myself. I want to share them, those observations, sketched on the canvas of my mind, refusing to be erased, left behind at times unknown, by -both humans and animals. So here I am, again, ready with a collection of stories woven around facts I have observed over the years
. My earlier collection of short stories Fida-e-Lucknow (published by Niyogi Books) had the citizens of Lucknow as the protagonists. For it was they who had created, over time, a cuIture which gave Lucknow a legendary character. Through those stories the real character of the Lucknow-wala was revealed, for he had more to himself than just the hyperbole in his language; his days were not ruled by cockfights or nights by tawaifs. He played exemplary roles, in the two wars of Independence, during floods and droughts and during the horrible days of the Partition which played havoc with his emotions. It had separated his dear ones from him and with them had gone his property too. After the annexation of Awadh and in the in the Post-mutiny and post-Zamindari period, he found himself reduced to penury and yet did not lose his poise and dignity or self-respect. Fida-e-Lucknow introduced us not only to the beauty of romantic love but also unveiled the personalities of some highly empowered women from Lucknow.
And now when I browse through the stories of the present collection, I realise that the characters in most of the stories are from Lucknow again, but the canvas has expanded and spread over time and space, introducing the reader to a variety of dimensions and not just a single view. The readers' gaze is not limited to one direction. There are profiles and profiles and many angles from which he can look at the protagonist to assess for himself his or her persona.
The characters in this collection have walked through time and shown their willingness and ability to adjust to the demands of a culture which has not merely evolved but acquired an altogether new face. They have shifted to Metros and foreign capitals, faced challenges and difficult times, made success of their lives or lived patiently through failures.
My stories are not only about good men and women. Cruelty and greed rules the minds of some who make life impossible for those dealing or living with them, like the two husbands of Kausar in 'A Word Thrice Uttered'. One, a downright fraud, the other cruelty personified, one using his right to Talaq to get rid of her and their retarded son; and the other keeping his right intact as ammunition to threaten her into submission and slavery. There is the cruel wife of Masterji who has made it her life's motive to 'teach little Ram Khilawan a lesson' in `Gangaji Is Not Far Bappa'. Manorama's husband and her three sons in 'Amma Come Back', Chaudhry the tea vendor in 'Trial and Punishment', and the Proprietor and Manager of the shoe exporting company, to which Hafizji was supplying his wares, in let Sleeping Dogs Lie' are all negative characters.
In the story let Me Have a Love Affair' there is this young man who is desperate to know what it is to have a love affair. That's Prashant. All he does is to concentrate on making plans and strategies to attract a girl, make her fall for him, as though he is on a shikar. He proposes and discusses marriage with her when, all the while, he is married and the father of a four-year-old child. Not once does he pause to think of the consequences, from the point of view of the girl. No doubt the girl is shattered -when she discovers the facts. But she throws him out of her life and moves on. Then there is in 'Thanks For Ditching Me' a similar irresponsible young man, Imran, who had walked away from a girl's life without so much as an 'Excuse me'! But the girl, who makes a fantastic success of her life and also gets married to a good and successful man, rightly ticks him off by thanking him for ditching her, for if he hadn't, she would never have reached that pinnacle of success and happiness. It was in a fairly advanced age, discovering about her high status, that the man had dared to reach her with the excuse to 'apologise' for what he had done.
Talking about the black characters I have here touched upon two love stories that failed. But this is my way of women empowerment, warning and educating through the art of storytelling.
It is difficult at this juncture not to mention a love story which had no black characters. Love which did not sour though it did not end in marriage. That is the ‘The Magic Wand', the unusual but refreshing story of a woman who admits that she had, as a young girl, been swept off her feet by a boy. There are similar indications from the boy's side too, but no expressions of love from either of them. Perhaps, because, for some reason, both had felt that their lives could only run like parallel lines, that there were no chances of them ever meeting. That could have been the reason for there being no demands and no expectations and only restraint ruling their lives. The magic which surrounded her universe in her youth keeps her spellbound at every subsequent meeting and even when they meet, when they are much older, forty-six years later.
Among the good characters Panditayin, Hafizji and Ram Khilawan and his entire family stand out most prominently. Begum Ilahi Bukhsh, Ghausia's mother, Christopher, Akbari, Aslam's father Fazlur Rehman and his grandmother will also endear themselves to the readers.
The collection does not only have black and white characters; there are grey ones too like Masterji's mother in `Gangaji Is Not Far, Bappa,' Aunty Manorama in 'Arnim Come Back', Amina, Kausar's stepmother, in 'A Word Thrice Uttered'. Marian Barret's, (Christopher's mother) character, too, certainly had shades of grey, in 'A String of Bela flowers'.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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