I wake up with a thought that I find hard to dismiss — I can’t adult today. The weather is gloomy. Inside, and Outside. So, I just can’t adult today.
Amma fixes a dabara of elixir, which breathes some life into my body and mind that refused to be refreshed after seven hours of slumber. But Amma‘s coffee makes my spirits soar. No surprises there. 🙂 As I relish one sip after the other, I squat down in front of my humble bookshelf. My glance jumps from one book to another. There are so many books that raise their imaginary hands, and beseech to be picked up. And, my unhurried glance falls on Kirthi Jayakumar’s Stories of Hope.
Everything about a book matters, doesn’t it? The cover-design, the font, the smell… (The price-stickers put on the blurbs irk me.) I connect not just with the stories, and the authors, but certainly with the way the books look. In that aspect, I fell in love with Stories of Hope as soon as I saw the cover-design. It’s almost like a testimony to the fact that the book — an omnibus of short stories — is a mixed bag of gems. As I continued to look at the design, I felt like as though it told me, “Everything around you might be crumbling. But hope, somehow, would help you to wade through.” And Kirthi echoed my thoughts in her introduction. “If hope springs eternal in the human heart, it only signifies one thing: that we can, and we will be able to rise above our difficulties.”
The characters in Stories of Hope are the people, whom I meet everyday, whom I think lead a normal life. Remove the facade, ordinaries become extra-ordinaries. The thread that beads them together is the fragile, yet beautiful thing called hope. Their lives plummet. They are robbed of their dreams. Despite all the predicaments, they learn to move on, tearing off through the darkness, with hope as their only lantern.
Kirthi’s writing is as warm as her characters. And, her people brim with love and humanity. I wanted to hug them. I wanted to thank them for sharing their stories. I wanted to tell them that everything will be okay. And, I wanted to pour my heart out to them.
The stories spring up from various places — from war-torn countries to agrahaarams. But I was with all those people regardless of wherever they were. I could hear sankarabharanam. At the same time, I could hear gunshots. Kirthi’s narrative was so vivid that despite the stories’ brevity, the feelings evoked by them lingered on.
Here are my favourite passages:
“When hope crashes, almost immediately a future smashes into smithereens — into a thousand broken mirror pieces, while you’re left with your pallid, hopeless eyes staring back at you. You hear no sound at the tiny splinters fall into the soulless depths of despair. Somewhere so deep, a chasm akin to a black-hole, that nothing that goes in can ever be brought back. Not even your dreams. Or hopes. Painful, how the rug is deftly pulled out from under your feet while you remain watching, inert, inept, even. But it happens, nevertheless. And nothing can change that. The department of time, in the university of life, teaches you an invaluable lesson to move on. But that becomes tougher to learn if you were a strong student in the department of emotions. Junk philosophy, I think, If it was in grief, it was philosophy, if in joy it was madness. Just the way a philandering flame could be for warmth, or for arson…”
“Pain was universal. It took you enough experience to see it in the next person, and to understand it just by a glance. Everyone’s eyes speak, volumes at that. The pain in your bottomless soul meets the pain in that of the others, no matter who, where, why or when.”
“The soul of the desert came alive in her. Heat built up within her, raging and furious like a bonfire. She summoned her courage, every last tiger in her body came right up to her heart, which was now drumming threateningly.”
“It was a blow to him, coming home to an empty house that echoed with memories.”
“My dignity is in my heart…”
After I finished reading the last story — For the Love of a Homeland — I tried stifling the tears that fought to escape my eyes. I tried swallowing the lump in my throat. I recalled how many times books made me cry this year. Along with that observation, a question emerged. “Why do I cry often these days?” I realised the answer was in Stories of Hope. In the story called Train, I had highlighted these sentences — “He looked upward as he sobbed. It was okay to cry, it was really okay.” ❤