The subject of women in literature has been in the limelight for a long time. Yet, most of those portrayals were of women by men. In Indian literature, there are only a handful of women who have entered the realm of writing and expressed women in the closest manner possible. Dealing with the psychological intricacies and the innate details of their personalities has been done only by a few women writers. New writing in this category is Nibedita Deb’s in her collection of short stories, “The Goddess’s Homecoming: Stories of Hope and Courage.”
The title may say one thing or the other. Still, the cover illustration clarifies to the readers the fact that this may seem an ordinary work on the surface. Yet, on closer examination, there are layers of meanings attached and a variety of themes that the author explores. There is the image of a face, which is half that of a woman and the other being of the Goddess. This indicates that all women are an incarnation of the Goddess Durga and the subtitle further clears the air, and the readers get ready to read something that is not just strong but equally powerful.
As the author tells the readers in the “About the book” section of “The Goddess’s Homecoming” that the work is “an anthology of short stories set against the backdrop of the most important festival of the Bengali community- Durga Puja,” every story bears the flavour of festivities and the situations in human lives in that light. Every story that Deb writes features women who work in their respective roles in a time when Durga Puja is round the corner. These women are powerful figures who can be representatives of women struggling everyday fuilfill their responsibilities, whether they are household or financial or taking care of children or working outside to take care of the family or anything as the situation calls for.
“The Goddess’s Homecoming” features stories of ordinary women of different backgrounds, which may be from villages to cities. But the one thing common for all of them is their love of the Durga Puja festival. The stories that Deb writes are short, and the action is swift, but they explore a variety of themes. These include the position of women in society, the importance of motherhood, the role of a woman in the household, the issue of drugs and other malpractices in youth, women, and prostitution, and children borne by that, and many others that affect women in one way or the other. There is also the presence of the concept of seasonal development in the first story, “Shoshti: The Sixth Element.” The author has interestingly titled the stories too, beginning with the number six going on to ten.
The readers who are unfamiliar with the famous festival of Durga Puja in West Bengal can find not just the flavour but the feeling of the atmosphere in the state at this time. They can get to understand the enthusiasm which people have and how well they celebrate it with equal zeal. To add to that, she keeps the language clear, simple, and close to the understanding of all kinds of readers. This makes sure that “The Goddess’s Homecoming” remains open to reading for all readers. The ones who like the genre of short story writing are bound to enjoy Deb’s work and may want to read more from her pen. At the same time, the readers who are more into voluminous texts would also find this work holding to their interest owing to the manner in which it is written.
Deb keeps the stories short, crisp, and focussed. The development of the plot is swift, and simultaneously, the readers get to hear the internal thoughts and feelings that the characters have. Whether it is about living with another wife of the husband or searching for a disappeared family member or realizing their true potential or anything, the readers get to listen and comprehend the personalities of the women too. Although the author has chosen the framework of short story writing, she still manages to develop her characters and show different shades of their personalities. The readers would observe this feature very soon when they start reading “The Goddess’s Homecoming.”