Heals and Fulfills: The Other Shore
The Other Shore by Author Madhu Bazaz Wangu is a collection of liminal stories which surprise you even as they make you soar. If Mother Nature had chosen to be a writer and not the painter who composed the Universe, she would be Madhu Wangu. Each story shines a light on what has become dark not because one was ignorant but because one chose to ignore. Like a mirror blackened by time. Madhu makes one see the interlocking roots of trees beneath the earth tied in a tight embrace, she turns one into a bird whisperer as the cardinal who revives her spirit. She makes one smell the fetid life of the sister of the protagonist, Jyoti. The characters are honest and shock one – “I hate to hold knives without handles”, says the woman with the bloody four hands. Dreamscapes, timescapes, landscapes float in and out in a death-tableaux that reveals the possibilities of life proving that death is an “O Wow!” experience where wow is the wonder of wonders.
As a supremely gifted writer, Madhu deploys the trinity of Memory, Imagination and Consciousness with the aplomb and deftness of an orchestra conductor. She takes no prisoners but slays all the demons that society conjures. Mrs. Weiss is anybody and everybody, seemingly a liberal Jew who handled a Hindu Christian wedding with joy but drew her line when it came to a Hindu Muslim wedding. A Walk Through the Woods is no Robert Frost panegyric but a sharp pointer as to how human failing can turn a crisis into a catastrophe. Ditto for social failings as seen in The Dowry Brides. Fractured relationships are everywhere whether it is in Revenge or in Unrequited Love but the victorious relationship power of an awakened compassion is revealed in all its glory in The Beggar Woman. There is Little Death and there is Big Death which interestingly is a literary motif that this reviewer has used also but ultimately there is the grand truth about the Universe as the nourishing mother.
Children knock while grandchildren burst into the room says author Madhu Wangu. Good advice for this book too. Don’t walk by it or knock but burst into it. There is a candy store which awaits the reader. Even as it entertains, even as it educates ultimately The Other Shore heals and fulfills.
Review by Rakesh Kaul Senior