This calming anthology titled “Tea With a Drop of Honey”, is exactly that! An enrapturing, flowing tapestry of life punctuated by tributaries of emotion that instill hope, induce smiles and infuses optimism. The collection of alleviating and ameliorating short stories acts as a much needed antidote to the unprecedented times battering a section of the population physically, and assailing the rest, mentally. A surge of optimism courses through the reader as she reads the stories, and at least for a fleeting duration, finicky time seems to stand still and serene. Whilst it would be doing a great deal of injustice to both the talented bunch of authors as well as an eager set of readers to dwell into each and every story that forms a sprightly bouquet, it would be remiss if I was not to bring to the attention of the reader a few of my favourites from the lot. This in no way, detracts from either the quality or the content of the ones not referred to here.
- To Sculpt a Dream – Srivalli Rekha
This is undoubtedly my personal favourite. Srivalli selects the oeuvre of historical fiction and ‘sculpts’ (no pun intended) her story with an adroitness that is downright exemplary. The exploits, enervation, and energy displayed by a budding sculptor Malayan, as he inspires to summit the apogee of his craft, is captured in a remarkable manner by the author. The plot is tight, narrative easy on the eye and the sequence gripping. Woven around the entrenched ‘Guru-Shishya’ tradition, “To Sculpt a Dream” is a glorious tribute to passion and perseverance. Malayan is a true Karma-yogi!
- The Raipur Reading and Writing Club – Meha Sharma
This story oozes confidence, bristles with positivity, and cocks a snook at the ingrained dogma that age is a barrier for giving wings to one’s innate calling. The geriatric trio of Geena Tripathi, Binita Majumdar, and Vinod Hotta, go about ‘reclaiming’ their life, in a manner that warms the very cockles of the heart. Aiding and abetting them in their ambitious endeavour is the literary world of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Can a Book Club unshackle self-imposed fetters and a reluctant movement of pen on paper unearth latent talent? Meha addresses these questions with triumphant results.
- My Big Fat Punjabi Divorce – Ell P
When one starts writing keeping in mind her audience, the end dictates the means and the result is invariably a restrained effort. However, it is when one starts writing to herself, that all inhibitions are rend asunder. This is exactly what Ell P does in this racy, raucous story that simply poleaxes its reader with its climax. Chintu, is the eyesore of her family and every other human being who is within 100 miles of her vicinity on account of a sordid separation from her husband. When she is invited to her sibling’s wedding as an afterthought, she knows she is in for some extremely uncomfortable encounters. Insults galore-liberal admonitions-references to a steamy video tape- later, when Chintu’s ribald and risqué mother-in-law decides to take matters into her hands…. READ THIS!
- The Pigeon Man Sings – Mark Blickley
The death of his wife Anna transforms Wendell Mandanay into a broken man. Oblivious to happiness and impervious to hygiene, his life is a beer keg whose swallows and gulps define both the man and his personality. A weary walk to the liquor store acquaints him with a flock of pigeons gorging on garbage…. If you do not believe in Providence, you MUST start placing your trust in pigeons! This concise and lucid story is a standout in so far as its originality is concerned.
- The Murphy Conundrum – Pallavi Sawant Uttekar
What if the father of “Murphy’s Law”, irked by an indiscriminate use and abuse of his tenets was to rouse himself up from his grave and engage in a bout of preaching? This is exactly the premise underlying the humorous and compelling story penned by Pallavi Sawant Uttekar. The unfortunate human being at the receiving end of the Murphy Sermons is none other than the man’s great-grand daughter. How Sir Edward Murphy changes the contours of his despairing granddaughter makes for both engaging and pleasurable reading.
- The Heimlich Maneuver – R Pavan Kumar
One can never stop either laughing or smiling as she goes about reading this wonderfully crafted story. Simple yet stunning, sparse yet rich, “The Heimlich Manoeuvre” is a resounding testimony to its authors story telling abilities. Ajay gets the fright of his life when the Vermas (his parents) make an unexpected appearance at the front door of their house, cutting short their pilgrimage due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Ajay’s girlfriend sits, unbeknownst to his parents, in his bedroom. Can Ajay smuggle her out of the eyes without the prying eyes of his parents detecting her presence? Would his father and mother discover the girl and the does all hell break loose? You will keep coming back to this witty tale.
- Much Ado About Nothing – Sarves
A wickedly humorous tale with wonderful word play as its bulwark, “Much Ado About Nothing” is a must read both for its plot and for its language. Flawlessly handled and fabulously constructed, Rodney’s singularly unique experience in a tavern with a writing tragic takes the reader on a literary as well as satirical twirl. Escaping the sharp tongue of his perpetual nag of a wife, Rodney, looking for a much needed respite heads to the tavern. What he finds instead is a talkative playwright….
- The Adventures in the Quest for her Pot Bellied Seahorse – Namratha Varadharajan
The travails and tribulations of a woman forced to meet a never ending procession of suitors in encapsulated in a splendidly captivating manner by Namratha Varadharajan. The contours of her story is as unique as the title assigned by her to it. The obnoxious behaviour and ostentatious demands of the entourage accompanying the ‘groom’, the shenanigans of the groom himself at times, all combine together to make a veritable spectacle of the woman, getting whom married away, serves the singular purpose of her parents. A delightful story that hides within its explicit humour a subtle revelation.
- Razon de Ser – Priya Bajpai
Alessa and Alejandro represent a couple, incorrigibly in love. While he is an inveterate hiker and trekker, she is a grumbling and hesitant follower. When an unimaginable tragedy strikes, life itself comes to a standstill and the world seems to have come to an abrupt and apocalyptic end. How hope springs eternal forms the bedrock of Priya’s endearing and enduring story. A cathartic plot, a bleak setting and a stunning climax regales the reader.
- All Because of You – Supriya Bansal
Easily the most assuring, affirmative and empowering story in the book, “All Because of You” holds forth in a beautifully reverberating manner the story of Dwija Devi, a transgender. From the depths of despair to the pinnacle of achievement, the story of Dwija Devi is inspiring. Long after the covers have come down on the anthology, this story will linger in the minds of the reader.
Some other notable stories include “Table No.9” by Varadharajan Ramesh, where a table in a Coffee Joint narrates its experience, “Kingdom of Kitchen” by Arti Jain, the mere perusal of which will leave one salivating, and “Light and Darkness” by Sowrabha Karinje that dwells in a poignant manner on inter-faith relationships.
“Tea with a Drop of Honey” – an invigorating beverage for the soul!