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The Hive is an independent Publishing Group that has at its edifice the showcasing of aspiring and budding talent in the realm of literature. “A Second Cup of Tea” is the 6th anthology to come out of the Hive stable. A sequel of sorts to an earlier anthology (A Tea With a Cup of Honey), the book encompasses a clutch of short stories whose main message lies in emphasizing the adage “every cloud has a silver lining”
While incorporating spoilers in a review would not just ruin the lustre of a book, but would also be tantamount to tarnishing the luminance of its authors, it would be extremely remiss if allusion was made to a handful of veritable gems contained within the confines of this compelling anthology.
My personal favourite is “Nothing Fishy About It” by Narayani V. Manapadam. Cupid strikes in the unlikeliest of places and amidst a setting which some would find malodorous – a fish market. An ebullient and egregious Partho, goes hunting for the famous hilsa breed of fish and in the bargain, finds love in the form of a damsel armed with two kilos of prawn and a tattered bag. How a bewitched Partho pursues his alluring dream forms the bulk of this hilarious, yet warm story.
“Roots Among The Rocks” by Srivalli Rekha is one of the most poignant stories in the book. Set against the backdrop of Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the bastion of the magisterial Vijayanagar Empire, “Roots Among The Rocks” is the losing and reclaiming of a pure and unadulterated legacy. Armed with a letter handed over to her by her lawyer, Hema finds herself in Hampi, besieged by a state of catharsis. A vital and missing link connecting Hema to her parents as well as a mysterious benefactor might just lie in a magnificent temple with regal and ornate carvings, according to the letter. What and who Hema finds within the confines of the temple will either make or mar her future and alter her entire persona.
Jumi Das ingenuously blends a steaming cuppa with sensational sorcery, in “A Cup of Tea”. Riya’s professional life is made a living hell by a lecherous and leering boss who treats the feminine class as objects of absolute lust. Just when she is at her wit’s end, Riya’s intrepid mother reveals a splendid ace tucked up her sleeve. Or boiling atop a stove rather! A piping hot cup of tea brewed in just the right manner and accompanied by the correct incantations hold the key for solving Riya’s insufferable predilection. But for the tea to work in tandem with sorcery, Riya needs to lure her perverted boss in paying a visit to her dwelling….
Anshu Bhojnagarwala’s protagonist Mitu, finds her otherwise staid and uneventful life coming apart at the seams, when her husband of thirty five years, Sanjiv, announces in a nonchalant vein, his decision to move away from her to pursue an affair with Kiran, a svelte and gorgeous Kathak dance teacher, a decade and a half younger than Sanjiv. ‘Rejuvenation’ deals with the travails and triumph of a woman who decides to take matters in her own hands and stand up to whatever fate and adversity have to hurl at her.
“The Scent” by Priya Bajpai takes her readers back in time. Anen is a skilled embalmer who works his magic by taking recourse to natron packets, salt cinnamon and linen rolls, aromatic oil, saw dust and even mud. When the Queen dies, Anen is summoned by the hery sesheta (master of secrets supervising the process of mummification) and given the weighty mandate of making the macabre, mesmerizing. This process takes extraordinary patience and skill, for a single lapse might mean the end of Anen. A life that is not even worth mummifying! During the embalming process, Anen stumbles upon an inscription that has the potential to alter the life of Anen and his wife, Asru, in unimaginably lucrative ways. But for the transformation to happen, Anen must indulge in a transgression, the penalty for which is execution. Will Anen take this dangerous gamble?
‘A Second Cup Of Tea’ is not just a bricolage of the humorous and the heart warming. It is The Hive’s paean as well as platform for precocious and latent talent that is waiting to be ‘harvested’. A genuine harbinger of good tidings!