I am grateful to Magic City Morning Star for providing me with this wonderful opportunity to tell its readers about the dimensions and literary power of "The Bark of the Cinnamon Tree"
"The Bark of the Cinnamon Tree" is a collection of eighteen short stories with multiple themes and ideas, difficult to put under one genre. There are stories of murder and mystery, romance and separation, satire and allegory offering a gamut of emotion touching and thoughtful, which people across the global stage, overriding all racial and cultural barriers would be interested to read and enjoy thoroughly because they are all basically human stories.
'Love and its trials' is the keynote that rings throughout the whole book emitting a kind of warm scents like the cinnamon tree woods. To some people this book reflects the theme of multiculturalism, fusing British and Indian culture together in one receptacle of a hot cauldron. However, my sole intention was to write about people focusing on the complexity of their psyche, not about culture. Of course there are some stories strong with the flavour of Indian culture in the presentation of their settings and characterizations, but they are not meant to exemplify the ethos of Indian culture. They are there only for the interest of the story. In whatever way a reader wants to interpret the book, it does not lose its absorbing power and appeal even an iota, because each story reveals human nature in the complexities of today's social environment..
I want to turn the main focus of the readers on the theme of love and its complexities. The book deals with different kinds of love - parental love, romantic love, spiritual love, narcissistic love, love for one's convictions and culture, love for one's nostalgic past and faith. There is not enough space and time to touch upon every story of the book revealing their magical power to arouse the interest of all my readers in this short article. I am concentrating only on a few here.
The first story "An Arranged Marriage" is the story of excessive motherly love of Mrs. Bose, who does not hesitate to produce a false bio-data of her daughter matching it with the bio-data of a prospective groom with good looks and decent income so that she can earn a good marriage. Mrs. Bose completely ignores the ethical side of the whole issue. To her the wellbeing of her daughter comes first. Whereas, Shumi, her daughter brought up in modern Britain, alienated from her cultural roots, readily turns down the prospective groom for the pursuance of her love for freedom and idealism. Mrs. Bose does not want to give up easily. She is ready to travel even to Africa to bring back the wayward daughter of hers to the path, she thinks right for her. She uses all her diplomatic ploy to claw her daughter back to her cultural roots. Mrs. Bose is almost like the mother of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. These two mothers from two different ages and cultures are not very much different from each other.
The story called 'Trailing behind a shadow' deals with several modern issues -- both social and political. To me it is a story about the survival of a lonely woman in a foreign country through a series of adverse situations. She could not rise in life and stayed at the bottom of the society in Britain and was disowned by her own family in India, but she survived for the exuberance of her love for life, as an inspirational mother figure in the centre of a large and loving family. Should she be condemned for her failure or glorified for her enduring power? -- I am inviting the readers to dive into the situation and find their own answer. This story dwells upon various other themes too, like multiculturalism and class system in today's society. Multiculturalism was a taboo one time and the society at that time was not ready to accept it as a natural progression of life. The story here shows how the insular society gradually opened up, readying itself to absorb somebody new and different into the current of its bloodstream. Romola was accepted by her adopted country at the end, but she remained there at the bottom rung of the social ladder. Romola with her womanly wisdom accepted her low position in life happily. She said to Kate "There must be somebody like me at the bottom to hold the ladder up and keep it steady..' I want to put emphasis on the concept of multiculturalism which many people often take as an indication of the loss of identity,. In stead of loss, I think, it indicates the growth of man's true identity as man in a newer and broader dimension.
Most people enjoy reading romance and its ultimate fulfillment in marriage or in its failure in the tragedy of death and separation. Most love stories in this collection are like little gems sparkling with laughter. In Pandora's box, Parnasree and Pallab hardly say any word of endearment to each other, but the deep affection they harbour for each other is obvious through the exchange of their insinuative retorts. They are both scientists, but they are young and prone to fall in love and make mistakes as well.. However love is not all amorous. There are complexities as well, resulting in misunderstanding and separation. An incubated dream deals with the complexities of love and its trials which turned one tender-hearted young man into a murderer and subject to psychotic analysis. The Dark stranger dwells upon the similar theme. The romance which could have turned into something pure and ennobling became the central cause of a ghastly murder and finishes with a ghoulish ending. "April is the cruelest month" is a pure romantic story. The victory of love and life over death is the central theme.
"Dolls and Marionettes" is the story of obsessive parental love which turns one couple to the extent of eccentricity when they treat their daughter as if she was just a pretty doll to play with, but ironically at the end they both turn into a pair of marionettes in the hands of their daughter.
'An imperfect baby' is a deeply moving story which deals with the ethical dilemma of a couple - whether to have a Down's Syndrome baby or to have it terminated. Both parents are torn apart with anguish and affliction.
'An afternoon tea with the elephant-headed god' is a grim warning to the mankind for their insatiable hunger for more and more by exploiting the hard working ordinary people's unfailing devotion to their religious faith. I like to point out here that love for money and love for god both inflict an alcoholic effect upon the life of most people.
In 'Winter's tale' through the cover of a fairy tale story I have tried to expose man's eternal quest for achieving permanence and how it ends up in its futility. Tuhina, the winter queen wanted Time to stand still for her so that her beauty remains untouched by its ravage. Her narcissistic love turned her into a crystal statue at the end which is more like a death.
This book is significantly rich in variety in contents and vibrant with evocative imagery. I hope each story like a piece of cinnamon stick would be able to arouse the interest of my readers, stimulating their desire to read on more.
Ashoka, a born writer, came of a highly literary of family in Bengal. The quality of her writing had achieved some touch of professionalism when she did her Master's in Writing in Sheffield Hallam University, under the supervision of the award winning writer Jane Rogers. Ashoka has been writing over twenty years. Ashoka uses many literary forms in her writing -- from flash fictions to serious novels, from non-sense rhymes to lyrics, from long narrative verses to contemplative philosophical discourses. She is also an artist enjoys writing for children too and produces her own illustrations. The drama and conflicts of her story which always ends with a happy resolution and high morals are loved by almost all young readers. Her first book "An Untouchable King" published by AuthorHouse is hugely popular and is on sale now on Amazon. The readers can visit her website: www.ashokasen.co.uk and know more about her artwork.
In this anthology of short stories, Ashoka Sen articulates the meeting of British and Indian culture in the UK, bringing together English lyricism and the richness of Indian folk tales and legends. Woven into stories that take place both in India and in Britain, threads of urban fantasy and magic reveal the heartbreak and hope of the human condition.
"The Bark of the Cinnamon Tree"
by Ashoka Sen