Vandana Singh: The Woman Who Thought She was a Planet
And other stories
This is a short story series. It is always a challenge starting books like these, because you never know what to expect. I had never heard of Vandana Singh, but I was reading something that now I don’t remember on Indian authors and came across a fait accompli statement about her being a feted, well known science fiction writer. I had never heard or her so went and ordered her book on Amazon.
The first short story is Hunger, centered around a house-wife who is hooked onto lurid science fiction such as “Aliens of Malgudi”, experiences hunger prior to party because she didn’t have time to eat and her maid-cook does not allow her to eat, because of which she says something to her daughter, whose birthday it is and who has come to give some parathas to an old man who lives on a charpoy on the landing above, in anger as a result of which, the parathas stay in the fridge and the man, hungry, commits suicide with a vial of rat poison and his death interrupts the party, leading to her husband and he becoming ostracized and then him having to leave his job. When she describes her husband’s promotion to vice- President, she says, “…which was not at all as exciting as a president of vices ought to be” what a line. And she ends the story with, “And that this great truth, which she would spend her life unraveling, was centered around the notion that you did not have to go to the stars to find aliens or to measure distances between people in light-years.”
I couldn’t figure out “Delhi”, but “The Woman Who Thought She was a Planet” is interesting. Again, I couldn’t get the allegory, but it is so well written. About a woman, who truly believes she is a planet, inhabited by living creatures and then flies away nude into the sky, to be eventually followed by her husband…
Infinities is so far my favorite. She weaves a story around the Hindu-Muslim conflict in an unnamed city within the context of mathematical infinities, which open gateways to other worlds for Abdul. The words just flew when I was reading it and I was anxious to just know more.
Thirst is fine. A little overly dramatic and seems like a story she wrote in her early years, working on the relationships between naags and naag-panchmi and women across 3 generations affected by the snake-kingdom.
The two best stories are Infinities, which weaves a Hindu-Muslim conflict in an unnamed city with mathematics and the pursuit of infinities, that allows the protagonist to step through doors into other worlds. It is just so beautifully written. The next best is Tetrahedron, where a tetrahedron lands in the middle of Delhi and how one girl’s life changes because of that. It’s again about other worlds and gateways.
Gateways and other worlds…this is the underlying theme of most of her short stories. She is a pleasure to read.