- Publisher: Saptrishi Publication, Chandigarh, India
‘Bhukh Eon Sah Laindi Hai’ (‘Hunger Breathes Like This’) is Deepti Babuta’s fourth short story collection. Most of the stories are about women and their lived experiences in urban environments. Every short-story title is provocative, conjuring up images from individual and collective memory. They are genuine voices of women. They give agency to females in relationships dominated by powerful males. The title story is photographic. It personifies hunger in its many forms. Brilliantly crafted in a fantastical style, it is at times a shocking commentary on human desires. The nightmarish dream in the story is triggered by the Pulitzer Prize winning, iconic 1993 photograph, “The Vulture and the Little Girl” from the Sudanese famine, by photojournalist Kevin Carter. The unbearable image of a famished little girl in her final breaths and a vulture poised to devour her is contrasted with the photographer’s professional dedication to take a click of this horrific moment. The photographer did not save the dying girl. The searing memory of the same led to his suicide. Readers are jolted to recognize that our uncontrollable desires for material things and power are like a hungry vulture ready to devour us.
‘Awkhi Ghari’ (‘Painful Situation’) is an outstanding example of exceptional literary crafting. Lyrical and rhythmic in style, it offers the reader unforgettable word plays. An abusive lawyer and husband betrays and abandons his devoted wife and their son for one of his stenographers. The teenage boy has a brain tumour and collapses while running. He is in intensive care for months, going from one surgery to another. The mother is at her wits’ end trying to find money for his next surgery. To her utter surprise, her husband shows up at the hospital and hands her a cheque. She looks at it and freezes as she notices the signature on the cheque is her husband’s now common-law wife.
The Central jury says, “the author is richly gifted in the poetic power of her expressions, drawing the reader close to the heartbeat of the characters.”
Quote from the book:
“The fight of hunger with hunger is as old as human life on earth. If hunger is not satisfied at the right moment, another hunger will devour it faster than in the blink of an eye. I stalk hunger and hunger stalks me. Hunger inside and hunger outside. Hunger everywhere, all around. The camera’s lens is driven by its own hunger as it pursues the small, slow crawling Ethiopian girl. Camera becomes the vulture. The shutter clicks, snapping an iconic photo and satiating its desire. But Kevin’s (Carter) soul is shaken.”