How Relevant Are Short Stories In Our Lives?

How relevant are short stories

Short stories are as dear as lullabies if they are introduced at the right time. While babies derive delight in looking at the illustrations and hearing the familiar voice of their parents, children love to cuddle up with a good story book.

My earliest memories of short stories are connected with my grandma, who could tell me weirest tales without a book but only at bed time. Her favorite refrain that ‘if we tell stories during the day, travelers forget their way’ was taken seriously by us. Though I chuckle at her belief now but it brings fond memories of her face whenever I think of stories.

My love for stories grew as I chose to study and later teach literature and had an easy access to all those renowned names known for writing brilliant pieces. Some of them got entrenched in my memory as they encouraged me to imbibe the values that they glowed with.

This love was recently revived by ‘What’s In A Nameby Sally Cronin, an engaging collection of twenty short stories, each story inspired from real life and emotions that every individual has to live through. Another captivating anthology ‘Twelve Tales Of Christmas’ by Cathleen Townsend infuses a spirit of togetherness and warmth through its stories of human interest. Now I am reading ‘The Story Teller Speaks’ by Annika Perry and I am amazed at her enchanting style of holding the readers.

My blogger friend Nihar whose ever-inspiring creative stories make a delightful reading, recently requested me to share the short stories that have left a mark on my personality and I got this idea of sharing these timeless classic tales.

The first one that comes to my mind is the ‘Gift of Magi’ by O.Henry. When I had read this story, I was too young  to absorb the emotion behind buying a gift, too young to understand why gifts are so important, as I had rarely received them but I learnt how important they can be and why people make sacrifices. I often wonder – could there be a better example of true love?

This value of sacrifice is further highlighted in ‘The Last Leaf by O. Henry. Old Behrman, an unsuccessful, dejected artist who was always talking about his masterpiece,  had nothing to sacrifice but he wanted to save the life of young Johnsie who had lost the desire to live. The last leaf that never fell and saved her life was actually Behrman’s masterpiece that he had painted on a snowy and windy night! How benevolence and inspiration can uplift human spirit touches my heart whenever I read this story.

‘The Model Millionaire’ by Oscar Wilde is remembered not only for the excellent prose and succinct style of Wilde’s writing but also for inserting subtle messages for humanity like… “Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed.” Generosity could be an inborn trait and a kind act never goes unnoticed. If Hughie could donate his last sovereign to the ‘poor beggar,’ the beggar didn’t disappoint him!

Saki, whose real name was H.H.Munro has written several masterpieces but ‘The Background’ appeals to me the most, as it is a satire on the hypocrisy and love of art, which is considered to be more valuable than a human being who is treated like a rare piece of art as he carried the masterpiece of a tatoo artist on his back! The story jolts you out of your slumber and makes an effort to underline what is more important – a person’s dignity and freedom or just a piece of art?

Short Stories

God Sees the Truth but Waits by Leo Tolstoy made a deep impact on me and I have discussed it time and again to fathom why does God wait so long, why does an innocent suffer for the crime of another person, how could forgiveness be as noble as it has been made out to be? Spiritual interpretations of this story have failed to convince me why was an innocent man used as a tool for the purgation of the soul of a hardened criminal? Isn’t God all-powerful?

The Bet by Anton Chekhov delves deeper into human psychology, bringing out the frailties of human beings on one hand and nobility that one can acquire if one wishes to. The argument over what kind of punishment is better – life imprisonment or death penalty culminates in proving that life imprisonment could be more humane as it offers an opportunity to the criminal to change. The lawyer who chose to accept solitary confinement, just for the bet, slowly rose above ordinary human beings and understood how immaterial is the lust for money and luxury.

A Man Who Had No Eyes by MacKinlay Kantor has stayed in my memory for the outstanding style of narration, style and a sudden unexpected twist that leaves the reader spellbound. It is not just a short story… it is a comment on life, how we approach it positively and move on. A must read to change your outlook on life.

Sparrows by K.A. Abbas brilliantly highlights some harsh realities of life, which had hardened a man. But a streak of kindness, so natural to human instincts, didn’t die and it could be ignited by loving birds, without even a word. A man, presumed to be devoid of emotions, shunned by villagers and even his own family is transformed into a loving and kind human being by the love of sparrows for their own young ones.

God Is Near by James Herriot convinced me that love could be found in furry friends too. If we love His creation, we can feel the presence of God around us even without visiting any religious places. Dr. Herriot’s unspoken commitment to the dogs and cats of Miss Stubbs was no less than her housekeeper.

Short stories lay bare various facets of life. They are more effectual in conveying the values without sermonizing about them. Each emotion can be felt through short stories if they are told in their true spirit.

Have you read any of these stories? Please share your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

If you have liked this post, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Balroop Singh.

 

 

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How Quotations Ennoble Us

A quote a day gives a new melody

If you are a regular reader of Emotional Shadows, you must have noticed that quotations form an important part of any post I share.

Sally G. Cronin, my author cum blogger friend has nominated me for three day quote challenge, which transported me back to one of the memorable moments of my life. Fond of collecting quotations, I had a notebook in which I would write one quote everyday. One day when our class teacher asked us to talk about our hobbies, I couldn’t say much and produced that notebook to save myself from that embarrassing situation. Her reaction surprised me. She took my notebook and promised to return it but she didn’t.

Next day I was summoned by the Principal. With great trepidation, I walked towards her room, wondering what had I done now, knowing well I was in for another punishment! I saw my notebook of quotations in her hand and was taken aback by her kind words of appreciation. The pride and encouragement that she infused in me doubled my love for quotations and writing them down most neatly.

A good quote is more than a book. It can leave a lasting impression on us… it can awaken aspirations, ignite the inspiration that lies dormant, it can connect us with great minds and their experiences, it can mold our perceptions and personalities.

Quotations have ennobled and enriched me.

It is hard to pick a quote as each one carries some profound truth about life yet we have our favorites.

My first pick has to be from my all time favorite poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling:

Quote from Rudyard Kipling's poem If

The above lines have adorned my table for many years and have inspired me:

  • To remain calm in provocative situations
  • To trust my abilities
  • To let people pass their judgment
  • To be patient
  • To respect my values
  • To listen calmly
  • To forgive those who tried to demean me

I have been a little rebel in breaking free from the rules. So the ‘three day quote challenge’ has been construed by me as ‘three quote challenge’ (just an interplay of words from left to right!) and I would like to share them together.

forgiveness quote

The above quote and many such have helped me reconcile to the whole idea of forgiving those who could have derived sadistic pleasure in enforcing their authority to establish their supremacy. I still read quotes about forgiveness to reassure myself that forgiveness purges us of any ill will that we may be carrying in our heart for those who were insensitive towards our emotional wellbeing.

Solitude

The above quote was a little puzzling for me but it has helped me in many ways:

  • In understanding the difference between loneliness and solitude
  • In introspection and self-reflection
  • In listening to the echoes of my heart
  • In resolving inner turmoil
  • In soaring on the wings of imagination
  • In enjoying my own company
  • In sky gazing when the clouds drift to reveal the rainbow.

Many thanks to Sally for nominating me for this challenge. It is customary to nominate some more friends for the challenge but I throw it open to all my readers who love quotations to write a post about their favorite quotes.

Thank you for reading this. Please share your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

If you have liked this post, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Balroop Singh.

 

Why I Married At 23…Sometimes We Do Make Wrong Decisions!

Early marriage

Our decisions cling to us, we have to live with some of them all our life. We might live in the shadow of regret because we didn’t have the maturity to ponder. We didn’t have the guts to speak up, to express our resentment, to rise against what appeared to be a wrong decision.

What if a parent or sibling makes those life-changing decisions?

What if they were made under societal pressures or moral bindings?

What if they are seen to be quite right by everybody around us?

All these questions didn’t crop up when I married at 23 (actually 22+) and it happened to be a happy marriage.

Thankfully, I have lived by that decision without any regrets.

I am not alone!

I know many girls marry at this age, out of choice. But the million-dollar question is: Are they enlightened enough to gather the import of such a decision?

When there is an unwritten decree that you have to marry when you are asked to just because it is convenient for the people around you, when the society values your muteness at such decisions, when you are expected to concur with what your near and dear ones decide for you, when you don’t want to displease them…do you have any choice?

In many cases that decision may turn you into a puppet, a slave, a housemaid, a sex symbol, a money-churning machine – who cares? You are seen as respectfully, happily married woman!

Now many such questions stare at me and I realize how simple, how immature and young I was at that time.

I couldn’t even understand that I was abdicating my dream, my aspiration.

I was told that I could still pursue it. I just chose to forget it but that is another story!

I was told that everybody must settle down. I could hardly fathom the depth of those words.

Did I have a choice? I was not expected to question or even see the man I was supposed to marry though I did raise some queries and insisted on meeting him at least once.

It is another matter that I met a kind and understanding man.

All those who are married off like this are not that lucky.

Those were probably primitive times…we didn’t have any Google to ask all those questions. We just had a radio and a gramophone, which sang away to glory and who was interested in the news that women had been granted equal status, that they too could claim their rights!?

Nothing has changed in this technology driven, digital world.

The unwritten diktats of the society follow young, naïve girls to their grave.

Marrying young

Younger brides can be easily molded, that is the belief. They can’t wield much power and will-power, this weakness can be easily exploited.

I didn’t have the power or the authority; they too face the same scenario.

The patriarchal societies are driven by the same age-old traditions of marrying a young girl, demanding (or expecting) dowry and considering the wife as a personal property.

My own niece met with the same fate and I couldn’t do anything! Isn’t it strange? But she chose to divorce!

She could only do so when the choice lay in her on hands and I appreciate her bold step.

I am not shifting any blame.

I could have also made a wrong decision. Many people do so.

I am only trying to understand how much has our society evolved. How much freedom have we attained and who have actually got that freedom?

At the same time, I am awe struck at the wrong decisions made in the western world, where dating at teenage endows them with too much of freedom.

They have all the choices!

We all make wrong decisions but when we make them ourselves, we move on, thinking it was a bad dream, a little mistake, and an aberration.

How long will the societal oppressions keep demanding the sacrifices of young, innocent girls? How long would their ambitions be thwarted by the biased demands of the culture and the dogmas?

Thank you for reading this. I am sure you have some thoughts to share. Please do so.

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Thank you for your support. Please add your valuable comments, they are much appreciated.

Balroop Singh.

Image adapted from: http://kenmclane.org