Pegging Parveen Talha’s ‘A Word Thrice Uttered: Stories on Life’s Realities’ to a specific genre is quite difficult. Her latest collection of short stories pulls from different walks of lives, spread across time, places and perspectives. The closest you can come to describing them would be the ‘Aesop’s Fables’ or ‘The Tales of Panchatantra’ but with a more recent and contemporary setting. Told through the various viewpoints the tales subjects include men, children, women, animals, miracles, misfortunes and banalities of life itself.
The 16 short stories in the book capture the flavours of India and the culture of its people especially from the Awadh region, as it evolved over the years from pre-Independence and beyond into the post-Independence era. Profound insights are hidden in sweet and charming tales of innocence and naivety. The characters through thick and thin cling to hope and live their lives beyond hardships or heartbreak. A reoccurring theme seems to be that with time comes change and change often bring better times for the hopeful.
Sensibilities expressed through the tales are surprisingly old and yet very relevant today. Relationships play a dominant part in the stories, both toxic and enriching. Plots that build upon a mother forced to leave her son to earn for his future, a grandson’s resolve to fulfil his grandmother’s one true wish, a child’s love for his pet, a pet’s love for its master, the selfish man in love, a heartbroken but strong woman, social norms flipped on their head with passage of time, courage to fightback abuse, the magic meal at the doorstep and the love from beyond the grave. Cliques are aplenty in the tales but they continue to be cherished for they help make sense of the cacophony of life.
The reader will find endearing protagonists and enraging antagonists. The tales are saturated with an immediacy that can be attributed to the simplistic and obvious contexts and behaviours in them. They are all on the verge of stories that everyone has heard as they are shared around in social circles, situations some have personally experienced or things someone we know has gone through but ones we never took notice of.
The author in a matter of few pages sums up a lifetime, establishing a connection with the central characters’ plight and subsequently forcing the reader to swerve it just as quickly. The short and quick dip limits depth while at the same time providing the reader with the big picture. The book is genius in capturing the essence of life from angles lost to most; it isn’t an intense read in volume but deep in value. A must-have on the shelf to serve as a reminder to the wonders of life.