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Pooja Nair’s short stories capture love, loss and life

In the first short story of her debut book 'I Was With You', author Pooja Nair has used Coorg as the backdrop of the story (Pic. Courtesy incredibleindia)

Making one’s writing debut with short stories can be risky as the format requires a narration that captures the whole story in limited words without losing any of the nuances. Pooja Nair based in Portland US, does this well in her first book “I Was With You” (APK Publishers).

The seven stories dealing with varied issues reflect different shades of human emotions. The first one “Rest” whets the appetite of the reader ensuring that the entire book from cover to cover is read. Through the main character Vasant Rao — who owns extensive coffee plantations in Coorg, Karnataka — Nair shows how success in terms of money, prestige and comforts is immaterial if life is devoid of happiness and contentment.

Speaking about this story to India Narrative, Nair, a corporate professional, said: “We are all restless to succeed to feel validated, without always understanding the implications of our actions. Overall, with growing human population and consumption I feel concern for the natural world. I am also an optimist. We can turn things around, the question is – will it be too late.”

Adhering to what makes shorts different from other formats, Nair gives them an interesting twist.

Nair chose this format for her debut to be able to hone her skills. “At first, I thought that short stories are practice, till I am able to write a novel, where the stakes feel higher. Maybe I have a longer work in me in the future, I am not sure. For right now, I have to face that, short stories are all I can do.”

Elaborating on this format further she added: “Trying to fit in complex characters who undergo psychological shifts within a short story format, has been a sort of compensation. I feel attracted to short stories as it allows me to work with many different plots. The challenge with short stories is that it is less forgiving and even complex plots have to be distilled into fewer words.”

Her ability to tackle difficult issues is evident in the tale “Garden” which talks about a relationship involving three protagonists – Arup, Asha and Ray – and reflects human dilemma yet is not judgmental about them. “This story gave me the most trouble. I used Reiki as a motif to blur the lines between the characters to suspend my own judgement even. I wanted the reader to feel closeness, to care for them even if they did not approve,” she revealed to India Narrative.

Another story which stands out is “Flight” which deals with husband-wife relationship and presents it from the view of one of the partners who is self-centered. The reader is bound to be bowled out with the ending. “I thought it would be fun to write this with an off-beat tone and from a self-absorbed character’s point of view because the events occurring are grim and worrisome.”

Nair’s “Pickpocket’s Conscience” deals with a sensitive topic as it provides a glimpse of conscience and human compass in a world where wrong-doing is not an exception through the main character Batuk. “Sometimes I feel the ‘moral compass’ in our organism can be suppressed but does not die. I was trying to bring forth that feeling in a character like Batuk that most people would see themselves furthest away from.”

Nair’s style is lucid and description of people, places like Coorg and Malabar, and situations crisp while her narratives elicit empathy and companionship, making the book engaging and readable.

Don’t miss the poems at the end which talk about the universal theme of love and loss. “I think poetry is always more memorable, more personal, more nostalgic and I wanted the reader to leave with an aesthetic experience of love and loss, which is universal,” Nair observed.