It is critical to keep the mind alert and engaged. Reading short stories is a great way of staying entertained and connected to creativity.
When you don’t have too many distractions during work from home, and are saved the grind of daily commute, but are also bereft of friendly engagements and leisurely conversations — as we have been this last year — it is natural to start worrying that your growth is on halt!
Such a fear paralyzes me, as I do believe that our greatest duty to ourselves is to keep evolving, keep learning something new all the time. And an important way to ensure that is to be connected to creativity – to create, or to immerse yourself in the creation of another mind. Be it a good book, a great movie, a piece of art, poetry, a short story, a TED talk or a podcast – anything meaningful and beautiful enough to engage you with intensity.
Such an engagement is as important to me as breathing. But there are times between good books or movies when I start feeling at a loose end. Some days ago, when I found myself in this state, I decided to slot certain activities that engage the mind and imagination as daily musts. I eyed my husband steadily solving his daily Sudokus and decided that this should be one morning activity for me too – to keep the mind alert and fresh. Done! He was assigned the task of providing me with one Sudoku each morning. I am at it!
Around this time along my way came a wonderfully thick tome of Irish short stories edited by Sinéad Gleeson. Now, I have been a great supporter of this literary genre, and deeply regret its diminished significance. Novels have taken up all the space for fiction in today’s literary landscape. We have very few exceptional short story writers left across the world, with most awards recognising the long form of fiction and the Bestseller lists also edging out collections of short stories. Magazines, which once encouraged short stories, stopped doing so long ago! So, writers are only left with the option of publishing anthologies.
I resolved to not call it a day till I read one short story at least, no matter whatever other book I am reading, or any movie I may watch that day. Some of the world’s best and most memorable pieces of writing are short stories. How can anyone ever forget, once read, O Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’ or ‘The Last Leaf?’ Or, Guy de Maupassant’s ‘The Necklace’? It is the short story form that made them the legends these are! Indian language literature boasts many short story writers – Munshi Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Rabindranath Tagore, R Chudamani, Kamala Das, Ismat Chugtai, Amrita Pritam, Ruskin Bond, Anita Desai – thousands of gems to enlighten your mind and spirit!
Short stories convey unforgettable life lessons very effectively, focused and succinct as they are. At a time when we struggle with short attention spans and limited time, what better than a short piece of fiction? If well-written by a master storyteller, most short stories leave you thinking, with vignettes lingering in your mind and imagination for days after you finish one.
And that is the state you will find me in these days…
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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