@Monica belongs to the list of writers I admire the most. I am familiar with her stories, and when she released a book, I jumped with joy. It is a smashing debut!
The Pause, septet stories each examining a different emotion and each culminating in hope. Written during the Covid lockdown, the author clearly states that though the pandemic may be the catalyst, but the stories are about taking the final leap towards a brighter life.
The book kick starts the party with ‘A Day in a Superhero’s Life’, a poignant story about a man suffering from ALS and his mother, his rock, who tends to him. He lives for his mother and sometimes thinks he is alive because of her sheer willpower.
Another day. I live another day.
This line made twisted my heart muscles. It is stark, honest. It has a tinge of hope and a streak of hopelessness. All in one.
The second story stole my heart. Titled, Thursday’s Adventures, it is all about Milli and her love for words as she faces paternal abuse at home. The dictionary is her guide to discovering how certain words can describe her existence succinctly.
Milli, all of nine-years, is a bookworm and forms a kinship with the school librarian, who lets her read in the library during lunch hour and breaking the rules to lend her two books at a time. The author has summed up Milli in one sentence for me:
In the library, she could be anyone!
It is through the prism of Harry Potter and magic, Milli lives her life. This story and its ending pricked me into tears for its simplicity.
The next to make it a trio is ‘Phoenix Rising’, a story about a battered woman, rises against her abusive and violent husband. The story infuses hope that women can – and will find a way out of their misery.
‘The Other Man’ deals with a touchy and sensitive topic. Suicide. Two men, Satya and Abhishek, old and young, tired of fate’s cruel hand, decide to end it all. They ‘bump’ into each other, and, after exchanging all kinds of volleys and insults, but do they go ahead with their original plan?
Pushing me toward the end was ‘Tangerine’. The one story that competes for pole position with ‘Thursday’s Adventures’ in my heart. A young woman during the lockdown finds a stray and hurt cat she names Tangerine. While caring for the furball, Shalini, despite their estrangement, realises what her mother may have experienced while they lived with her abusive father.
Deciding to meet her mother, Shalini brings Tangerine along with her and in that meeting, all the flimsy walls that had crept up between the mother and daughter crumble. What a fine story!
‘One and a Half Minute’ breaks away from the usual story and narrates that of a homeless boy, Kachra, who perched himself right on the edge of my heart. Set against the background of the 26-11 attacks Mumbai faced, the story concentrates on Café Leopold, where Kachra helps the clean-up effort.
Tears poured down his cheeks but his hands never stopped.
This line is a metaphor for what we have experienced in Bombay and probably will continue to do so.
To bring up the rear is ‘Null and Void’, a story about a young woman who falls in love with a controlling man and how her life plays out. The story ends with so much hope that it makes one think.
Monica has always been vocal in her stories about issues many shy away from, and her debut book is no different. Each story is posed in a way that it makes us think, feel, and emote.
Some may even make you cry. My favourites are Thursday’s adventures, Tangerine, and One and Half Minute.
Don’t be swayed by the thin volume of the book as it packs in enough punch to make one ruminate. If you have not already read it, pick it up now. On the double!