.. and other short stories.
In my childhood, I spent many a summer visiting my maternal grandmothers’ home, puttering through her house and curiously rummaging through her many shelves and boxes of arts and crafts. As a long time handicrafts teacher, she owned a rather large collection of trinkets, from doll making supplies to embroidery bits and pieces, for batik work, needlepoint, knitting or crochet, from a variety of glass beads, sequins and skeins to a variety of needles, cut-outs and books. She had every imaginable thing, and more. Sometimes she would let me see how she used them. I was allowed to look but never to reorganize! Sometimes I was allowed to accompany her to her work room at Udyachal High School where she and other teachers simply caught up on grading their students work or planned for the year ahead while I watched on, or wandered the halls of a very large school building when no one was there or even grab a few books from their library to read. But I always came back to see what she was creating. In all the years I knew her, she remained very protective of her boxes of arts and crafts – because she said each bead and skein had a story to tell - where they came from, which outfit or craft they belonged to and what she imagined she wanted to do with them. She worked with seed beads when there were no bead looms! Her skill, talent and dedication to create objects of beauty remains inspiring.
In my late teens and early 20’s, I heavily wrote verse; as life became more complex, my words became prose. My scribbles, notes and stories were not always shared but most often saved away somewhere, in scraps of paper, old notebooks, journals and diaries, sometimes in password protected folders that I have forgotten the password and then lo-and-behold, I stumbled upon them and get drawn in all over again! Most often, the first and perhaps only person to read any of the verses was my mother. In the nearly 2 decades I’ve lived away from her, she has said often that she missed reading them ‘before the ink has dried’.
Admittedly, many of these stories, poems and notes represent visceral and unfiltered thoughts and emotions. Collectively, they have been many years in the making, shared selectively and then buried away again. Their time has come, and I can hide them or from them no longer. To keep me on track with finishing the collection, I am going to share snippets with you, one every few weeks. Bear in mind, they are largely unedited. The snippets will go in no particular order, as the novella is episodic rather than sequential. As the stories come together so will the theme.
This collection of short stories has had many working titles - from favorite words to obscure phrases. As I wrote, the characters slowly emerged just like the beads in my grandmothers’ boxes: unique and part of a creation with their own stories. And one day I received a special set of beads, a symbolic gesture that was enough to put everything else into perspective, and so emerged a fitting title ‘Counting Beads’ – a collection of stories that thread and weave through the personal journey of a single protagonist, Ananta. I hope to self-publish them as my very first novella this year, ‘Counting Beads and Other Short Stories’.
Are you excited to skim through some snippets of these stories? I must admit, I am nervous.