“I hate all these people…I hate them because they’re young. I hate them because they’re talented. I hate them because they’re fresh. As I read these stories, I could feel my hatred growing.”– Shovon Chowdhury
In his delightfully amusing ‘Foreword’ to the book, Chowdhury, author of The Competent Authority, sums up exactly why one must procure a copy of D.U. Love, the latest to be published by the avant-garde Vigilante Publications. Edited by Sami Ahmad Khan, Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and author of Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia, this book is a collection of twenty-four cross-genre love stories located in the hallowed portals of Delhi University. D.U. Love was launched on September 3rd 2014 at Hindu College. The anthology includes the prize-winning stories of the “DU Love” Competition (adjudicated by Chowdhury and Angelie Multani, Associate Professor, IIT Delhi) held in March, this year; ‘Moon’ by Rosheena Zehra, ‘Define Love, Divine Love’ by Anisha Sen, ‘She Loved Poetry as Much as a Cat Loves its Own Fur’ by Jayati Das and ‘Jocasta’ by Somrita Ganguly.
Love, they say, is the essence of life — hence we cannot help but play on. To love, they say, is to be on fire — hence we cannot help but burn on. The twenty-four young authors — students of DU and JNU — through their cross-genre short stories explore love in its myriad dimensions. They see love not only as a fulfilling, satisfying emotion but they delve deep into its seamier side as well – its madness, its all-consuming passion, its violence, its doubts, fears, trials and tribulations. Explaining the concept behind the contest, Khan Salman Mohd., Assistant Manager, Vigilante Publications, points out that they were aiming at newness with this competition, “We wanted to give the students a chance to play with ideas and I am extremely happy that the entries surpassed our expectations.”
The authors, in this anthology, also, fascinatingly blend the genre of romantic fiction with — yes, hold your breath — science fiction, thriller, horror and mythology among others. Sami Ahmad Khan says that it was a conscious decision on the part of the Vigilante Publications to come out of puritanical subjects and ways of writing and ask authors to contribute cross-genre short stories, which blend love with other narrative forms, fusing different story-telling modes, because they were seeking to “do something novel, to experiment, to synthesize, to create newer forms, while giving fresh voices a stable platform.” Khan beams as he makes a case for DU’s first conscious attempt at cross-genre fiction — “There are no losers when genres are fused — only winners!”
DU, dear readers, and fellow scholars, will never, therefore, look the same again, nor will falling in love with and in DU be the same — with these psychotic killers, wronged lovers, avenging ghosts, rising dead, cold vampires, talking cats, infected zombies and unfair gods loitering in the D-School canteen or walking down the quiet corridors of Hans Raj, the familiar banality of your everyday setting is bound to now appear a little creepy, a little eerie, a little extraordinary. Writes Chowdhury in his inimitable style, “Why were the characters so fascinating? … All I ever had in college was bread pakoras and cheap cigarettes. Each new story was like a dagger through my heart. I was barely recovering from ‘Moon’, when I was attacked by ‘Jocasta’. Just when I thought it was over, along came ‘Define Love’.”
An anthology of this sort is always welcome. It gives voice to the hitherto unheard. Arghya Sengupta, whose short story ‘What killed Manas Srivastav’ finds pride of place in the book, is excited about his first literary publication. “When I write”, opines the second year student, studying History in the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, “I write to be published. Vigilante Publications provided me with an excellent opportunity to showcase what I love doing the most. When I see people buying the book that I have contributed to, my morale gets an enormous boost.” With at least some publication houses, coming out of the clutches of corporate market forces and trying to tap in the wealth of talent that this city is a storehouse of, and helping to channelize this vast reservoir of creative energy, the future of our literary endeavours looks decidedly safe and happily quirky.