Status: Read from May 07, 2018
My rating: /5
Author: Temsula Ao
Every May something extraordinary happens in the new cemetery of the sleepy little town – a laburnum tree, with buttery yellow blossoms, flowers over the spot where Lentina is buried.
A brave hunter, Imchanok, totters when the ghost of his prey haunts him, till he offers it a tuft of his hair as prayer for forgiveness.
Pokenmong, the servant boy, by dint of his wit, sells an airfield to unsuspecting villagers. A letter found on a dead insurgent blurs the boundaries between him and an innocent villager, both struggling to make ends meet. A woman’s terrible secret comes full circle, changing her daughter’s and granddaughter’s lives as well as her own. An illiterate village woman’s simple question rattles an army officer and forces him to set her husband free. A young girl loses her lover in his fight for the motherland, leaving her a frightful legacy. And a caterpillar finds wings.
From the mythical to the modern, Laburnum for My Head is a collection of short stories that embrace a gamut of emotions. Heart-rending, witty and riddled with irony, the stories depict a deep understanding of the human condition.
Temsula Ao is a strong voice from North-east. Her book Laburnum For My Head is a slim book with a collection of eight short stories. These stories are crafted beautifully with rich language and can be read in one sitting.
I loved the stories Laburnum for My Head, Death of a Hunter, Three Women, Flight, The Boy Who Sold an Airfield, first two being the best. The first one is the story of a woman who desires to plant Laburnum trees in her garden but all her efforts fail. She finally decides to plant these trees on her grave. The second story deals with the inner conscious, dilemmas and confusions of a brave hunter who was forced by Govt. to hunt what they wanted him to for them. ‘Three Women’ shows the interwoven lives of three women affected by one woman’s secret. Also, there are few stories on Naga’s predicament crushed between Indian army and the underground fighters.
The Naxal movement is the dominant theme of the stories. ‘The Letter’ shows the helplessness of the people caught in the crossfire of violence caused by the Indian government and the underground government. ‘Sonny’ shows the disillusionment with the Naxal movement. ‘A Simple Question’ shows the exasperation of the Naga people with the government. The stories depict how adversely the insurgency has affected the women and children of the region. Women trying to save their men from people in power. Children urging parents to pay their exam fees. A hunter can’t get an animal he killed out of his mind. There is a sense of loss and melancholy that runs through the stories.
All the stories are simple and pleasant read. The author was awarded Sahitya Akademi Award for this book.
About the Author:
Temsula Ao was born in October 1945 at Jorhat, Assam. She received her B.A with Distinction from Fazl Ali College, Mokokchung, Nagaland. She received her M.A in English from Gauhati University, Assam. From Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (presently English and Foreign Languages University,) Hyderabad she received her Post Graduate Diploma in the Teaching of English and Ph.D from NEHU. From 1992-97 she served as Director, North East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur on Deputation from NEHU, and was Fulbright Fellow to University of Minnesota 1985-86. She is a retired Professor of English in North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), where she has taught since 1975.
She received the honorary Padma Shri Award in 2007. She is the recipient of the Governor’s Gold Medal 2009 from the government of Meghalaya. In 2013, she received the Sahitya Akademi Award for her short story collection, Laburnum For My Head, given by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Literature. Ao is widely respected as one of the major literary voices in English to emerge from Northeast India along with Mitra Phukan and Mamang Dai.