Jayanthi Sankar, born and brought up in India, living in Singapore since 1990, has been creatively active from 1995. She has been published in several magazines and ezines like the indianruminations, museindia, The Wagon, inOpinion. Her short stories have found places in various anthologies including ‘the other’. She has been invited to participate in the panels of literary festivals such as (Asia Pacific Writers & Translators) APWT 2018 at Gold coast, Singapore Writers Festival, Seemanchal International Literary festival, Asean- India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Writers Festival. Also a watercolour artist, she has been a freelance for more than a decade and a half, with three years of experience in journalism.
Be it the backdrop of Singapore or any hill station in India, we traverse through Jayanthi Sankar’s 12 short stories from the contemporary life into the histories, cultural and political divides between classes and races reaching far beyond gently raising questions for readers to ponder opening on the new windows to the life and culture of various ethnicities of Asia. In the first reading of ‘Punkah Wallah, truly a Singaporean story, I was engrossed in the changing face of Singapore and the storyline as it is. The main characters unfolded only in the second reading, the two worlds of authority or the affluent vis a vis the oppressed or helpless folks were evident. I could identify myself with Herman, who symbolises the affluent world. Herman and Mani’s maternal uncle are comfortable in their activities of exploitation. And the entire Indian society is deaf and dumb to the plight of widows. So many metaphors naturally fall in the narration.
Not just in the formats but also in the varied themes, the author in her ‘Dangling Gandhi’ artistically breaks the conventional trends of storytelling that often miss the nuances and depths of humanity and culture. The characters and their culture and the never-ending questions of human values are intricately woven in a wonderful narration. Through her interesting experiments of connecting characters and lives, the stories acquire their unique flavours.Author’s presence is absent in the stories themselves and creates a breeze like magic in the reading experience. She excels in capturing cultural diversities of different eras and generations, finely weaving facts through them. Whenever this strength of hers that is unique compared to any contemporary writer, manifests to bring about a very wonderful reading. The author holds up a mirror shining the focus on different perspectives with not the slightest intent to tarnish but only to raise all the awareness in us, readers. With more than two threads ‘Peacock feather fan’ reminded me of Italo Calvino’s narrative style of fiction.
Can an Editor be ornamental to the office, never appearing, control the office? With an illusion, controls the middle-level posts, which in turn bite at the lower level posts treated akin to roaches! How far can love towards pets be considered genuine love towards nature? Why do we have some conditioned mindset on these? What’s the psychology behind? A person’s love for pets and children is giving rise to several questions. Ecological balance also applies to the office just as any human community. The animal lover treats her children indifferently and relishes meat of almost all animals. The big cat tiger gets shot because he attacks humans, whereas humans attack cats and eat animals. The ageing population of Singapore represented by the lonely older woman, Aziza tends to think police can be called for mundane errands.
Author’s dedicated editing while crafting brings about a meticulous depiction that is appallingly sharp. Not a word wasted as she paints her fictions ‘beyond borders,’ fascinatingly merging and beyond, stressing that the world, with it’s the natural landscape doesn’t belong to humans, but only the humans belong to the Earth.
Book Review by P. Muralidharan
Book: Dangling Gandhi
Author: Jayanthi Sankar
Publisher: Zero Degree Publishing