I received Equinox by Madhuti Maitra as a review copy from the author herself as a part of the Book Club review programme. The story revolves around a short story competition and why people participate in it.
When Indus Publishers announces a short story competition, it affects the lives of the ensemble cast in unexpected ways. A jaded journalist, a bored housewife, a starry-eyed ambitious girl, an army colonel, an impoverished divorcee-all enter the competition for pressing reasons of their own. They emerge with only slightly deeper pockets than they had but far richer in experience. Social issues are explored in an engaging manner, entwined in the lives of the characters-this is indeed the way of life. The novel also promises an enchanting look at the diversity in India; the characters belong to different Indian states and embody the peculiarities of the people of that region. Equinox and its checkered characters step to music of their own; many readers will find that it resonates with their own inner music.
A short story contest, less than 3000 words, is announced by Indus publishers with the deadline as September 22, the autumnal Equinox. The participants have to be Indian citizens over eighteen and the story should be based in urban or rural India. They have nothing to lose but a cash award of two lakh rupees, if they win.
The characters (in the order of appearance in the book):
Johny Kutty, in Allepey, is uncharacteristically stationed in Kerala. He needs to travel, to write and feels that this something to do while he waits for the property papers to be ready.
Ruchi Sharma, an English graduate, lives with her parents in a one bedroom apartment in Mumbai. She visualizes herself creating and writing gossip about film stars, and when her friend mentions the story contest, she gets interested to participate.
Monica Joshi Kapoor, is a housewife in Mumbai, both her teenaged children are in college and her house is run like a clockwork by the housekeeper.
Col (retd.) Vikram Singh has moved to Mussourie after the tragic deaths of his son and wife. He is encouraged by his fellow walker to write about the wars and decides to write while he is cooped up indoors in the rains.
Maya Sinha, is a divorcee living in Delhi, on the lookout for a government job as a lecturer and does commercial writing on the internet. She has honed her writing skills and is determined not only to participate and but also to win it.
The Souzas own a cosy café in Pune and read during lull periods. They decide to participate because the prize money is good and they need it for repairing their café.
Ramona Das hopes to justify her position as commissioning editor of Indus Books Ltd with Equinox the competition and Equinox the anthology. Meher Azam is her assistant and Raghu Advani works in the legal department of the company.
It is the month of June, and it is monsoon time. Different people from different parts of the country are ready to participate; after all, it is only 3000 words. All of them have different reasons and they are all thinking…..
How much work do the publishers put in? how many entries? Who wins the money and who loses? Read on….
There are plenty of characters in the book and the author has mentioned them in the beginning of the book and as the story moves alsong, a little more is revealed about them. They write and rewrite the stories until it is time to submit and also develop emotionally in the book. There are stories within the main story, some in the form of love letters and some in the form of normal fiction. Some write about people they know and some write about their experiences.
There are no chapters in the book, so if you want to pause while reading pause along the starry line. The flow is good and the language very simple. The author has deeply gone into the nitty gritty of writing a short story for the first time. The stories that the characters have written have been mentioned in the book in different fonts, making it easy for the reader to understand.
She has also mentioned something that the new generation does these days: Whattsapp.
I found the book to be a quick read.