Is the ordinary really that ordinary? Is being ordinary easy? Is ordinary boring? These are the question's author Bindu asks through her characters in this collection of 13 sensitive and intriguing stories—Of Beasts & Beauty. The answer is a loud and emphatic “NO”.
It is through these stories that the author’s own notion of the ordinary changed. “Ordinary is the real color of humans. We cloak it all in mystery and label these humans, ‘beasts or beauty’. In the eternal game of evasion and lies! This discovery of the virtues of the ordinary emerged from the penning of these 13 stories,” says the author.
Right from its intriguing title to real, hard-hitting, and vivid characters coming alive, the book perfectly quenches the thirst of curious readers. With brevity and economy of style, we are presented with myriad shades of life, written in black-on-white.
Caught in the everyday rigmarole of life, the characters in Of Beasts & Beauty reveal that dealing with the primary challenge of being alive and getting a life, as they say, is out of, well, the ordinary.
Through its gripping and very well-crafted short stories Of Beasts & Beauty, the author takes us through the lives of the common man, where courage, faith, tenacity and resilience play out almost daily.
So, who are the beasts and who or what is beauty?
Depending on one’s own experiences in life, the reader might wish to label the beast of ‘The Longest Night’, a ‘beauty’. And perhaps question the beauty of the beast in the story titled ‘Beasts’. They may question the act of Moushami to ignore the ‘fall of man’ in her building in ‘Ha Mela Aahe’, or consider it an act of self-preservation. Or Mani, who works out what she must do with the ordinary monster, Russ, in ‘Meeting & Mating’.
Are there any clear answers on who is a beast and what is beauty? The author leaves it to the readers to decide. But she wants us to feel empathy for them, and also appreciate the “strength of their will and the depth of their courage”.
Or what happens when a loved one needs us, and we can’t reach them because of restrictions on travel? And one is not talking about COVID-19 here. “The pain of abandonment stays,” says the author. It is never easy, after all, to live with the thought that a loved one could not be with you when you need them the most, whatever be the reasons.
The stories in Of Beasts & Beauty take you on a ride that only makes you more aware of your surroundings; they nudge the reader into realizing that the milling crowds around them are of human beings, and not automatons. The reader should not be surprised if they are taken down the memory lane of their own experiences, probably long forgotten, or something hard to forget.
The 13 vignettes of life told with honesty, sensitivity and felicity, reveal the beautiful, the beastly, and the shades in between of a human.
One can’t help but marvel about the women characters presented in Of Beasts & Beauty. The women in these pages are strong, living lives more authentic than the make-believe world of ‘pop-feminism’, if you will, and having a greater impact on those around them. From ‘The Longest Night’ to ‘Munimji’, the characters appear very close. “They live as your neighbor, your friend, or your sister,” says the author.
They are ordinary, but one is a beast and the other, pure beauty. And the author wants the readers to decide “who is a beast, and which represents beauty.”
The best part is that they are resilient, and probably almost completely unaware about it. For them, it is a fact of life; song-and-dance can wait.
No wonder the book has got some wonderful reviews from book-lovers, who are members of Bibliobibulis, a society, where the only rule is “that you be constantly drunk on books”. “An inexorable tandav of the beauty and the beast in the tales of regular people caught in the warp and weft of everyday life and extraordinary exigencies...” says Translator & Interpreter, Swapna Roy.
In presenting the good, bad, and the ugly Of Beasts & Beauty breaks down the notion of perfect woman or man, forcing the mind to accept that the concept of beast and beauty is something rooted deep inside every human being.
Bindu has always found herself coming back to the black ink on white paper, having run a publishing venture with her family members and worked in the management of Bennett Coleman & Co. The book is her debut, a realization of her dream since long—of becoming a published author. She is already working on her first novel that is likely to be completed by 2021. As taught by Sadhguru, she practices Shambhavi Mahamudra twice daily, which keeps her in good spirits.
If you want to feel pain, exultation, agony, hate, and joy and, even for a while, be in the shoes of people flitting in and out of these thirteen stories from Bindu’s pen, then Of Beasts & Beauty serves a perfect quench.