This is a book with just two short stories. Just two. Yet, if you read them with the heart they are enough. Why? Because the writer, Sri Minaketan Panda, has poured his own heart into them. And, since the hearts of all people on the earth are one, his heart speaks to the heart of the reader. In soft, barely audible cadences, yet the voice reaches the depths of your being. That is the power of these stories.
The first, The Defeated Winner, is a coming-of-age story, of childhood, youth and lost love. It tells the tale of a boy in school with his friends, growing into college, then going to engineering school, falling in love and losing his love. The familiarity of the story is its most uncomfortable aspect. It could be your story, as much as it is mine. We may or may not have lost a love, but we have all lost a whole lot more. The set of friends of childhood, now barely in touch over Facebook, the sense of innocence, the warm envelope of parental sacrifice and care, the sight of someone who truly loved us and was gone. We have lost all this and much, much more. Defeated Winner holds up a mirror to all that we have lost and what you are likely to see reflected may not be pleasant.
In the second story, Dreams on Fire, Minaketan resorts to a diaspora setting to set a tale of longing for the motherland, in this case Odisha, and the deep, visceral ties that we can never surrender wherever we might be. It is the story of two brothers, Kalinga and Utkal, who return to Odisha to fulfill the desire of their deceased parents to give back to their land of origin. For Kalinga and Utkal, however, the land of origin is the USA, where their parents were noted doctors. What follows is an exploration of the idea of Odisha by the author, told lovingly, but with a tragic underlay that one cannot miss and not be overwhelmed by.
Minaketan has written these stories with a lot of feeling, painting a canvas with the rich, vivid, evocative colors of his state. Two Stories is a labor of love. You, the reader, however, are likely to feel only the love. And, a definite sting of tears in your eyes.
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