Dr. Khusi Pattanayak
Dibyasree Nandy’s debut offering Studded With Rubies – A Hundred Short Stories, is an easy read that feels like a smooth long drive in a moonlit night. Each story in the anthology revolves around an interesting premise, takes up a contemporary issue and dishes out an evenly paced narrative.
Nandy shows a knack for picking up subjects that borders on the greyer zone – multiple personality disorder, power, gender bias, sexual crime, existential crisis, concept of freedom, environment, human emotions etc. Her fictional world is familiar and yet not. It is highly unlikely that one would not have encountered any of her materials in day to day life – in pavement, as newspaper headline, as meme, as statistics, at protest march – but whether one chose to ignore it or failed to ponder over the same is a different issue altogether. In her stories Nandy places poverty, pollution, planets, swords, solitudes, misery and mental health in a manner that stifles the readers momentarily, but not long enough to lose perspective or feel uncomfortable. The candidness of the stories spring back within no time highlighting an unbridled earnestness.
There is a generous presence of blood in the anthology – sometimes as metaphor, sometimes as mere description. This probably makes sense, because when one is talking about ruptured spirits and cheerful hope in the same anthology, blood helps to connect the past and the present, the ideas and the actuality to create a seamless confluence of imagined reality. The stories don’t have any unexpected twists or shocking revelations yet they are not predictable either. Most of the stories end on a calm and peaceful note where the loose ends meet their rightful knots and uneasy atmosphere feels relaxed helping restore the emotional and the narrative equilibrium.
Nandy’s writing is lucid which makes reading a pleasant experience. She has incorporated some engaging sentences in her work, which are memorable both within and without the context. For example, ‘Solitude is like quicksand’; ‘The world needs no ideal society’; ‘Complacency is tranquil’; ‘Fresh beginnings and new promises are pipe dreams’; ‘I am but a phantom’; ‘Countries aren’t motherlands. Mothers are countries’ etc.
There are some surreal and symbolic moments littered in the collection that helps build a distinct voice which is uncomplicated but effective. To Nandy’s credit, she avoids falling into the trap of clichés and creates some unorthodox moments.
Despite the creative effervescence, one can distinctly sense an awakard hovering of Bloomsian ‘anxiety of influence’ like a Dorian Grey here or a Mystic River there. There are few others too; but that does not take away the fact that Nandy displays enough promise as a budding fictionist who knows how to handle her characters and appears to be in control of her material. Not underestimating the intelligence of the readers is a virtue, hopefully Nandy will take that into account as she walks into the world of fiction writing exploring newer territories in her future anthologies.
2nd July 2022
DIBYASREE NANDY (M.Sc and M.Tech) is a resident of India. She began writing in 2020 during the lock-down period of the pandemic.
DR. KHUSI PATTANAYAK is a PhD in English Literature with over 13 years of professional experience in both academia and industry. A polyglot, she has a number of published books, articles and translations to her credit. A cine-scholar, she was featured in TEDx Thought Break. KP has swashbuckled from Middle-Earth to Earthsea while enjoying Márquez , Kafka, Neruda , Seth, Christie in no specific order . She is the Patronus Charm herself. She is Prose and Art Editor of The Pine Cone Review.