'Correcting misconceptions about Assamese women'
In the recent past, many writers have acquainted the rest of India with the composite culture of the north-eastern state of Assam through their writings. "Black Magic Women" (Penguin) makes a similar attempt with a stark difference.
Author Moushumi Kandali brings her characters out of Assam and places them in the mainstream, capturing their struggle to retain their inherent 'Assameseness' as they try to assimilate at the same time into a larger picture. The title story, "Black Magic Women", is about how mainstream India perceives the Assamese women, who powered with the art of seduction and black magic, are made to endure social discrimination that can range from racial slurs to physical abuse. Juxtaposing two different eras, it is a historic-fictional re-telling of gender bias chronicled in the early 19th-century colonial reportage by a British officer. The stories make one pause, think and debate issues that range from racial discrimination to the politics in the entertainment industry to sexual harassment to the existential and ideological dilemma induced by the complex socio-political scenario of the late eighties. Using a generous sprinkle of fable, myth, and various metaphors, they deliver a powerful punch to the reader. "Here is a bunch of exceptionally powerful stories that work at many semantic planes and reveal the range of Moushumi Kandali's concerns as a writer. Moushumi deals boldly yet suggestively with social and political questions. Her handling of the erotic is mature, her symbolism fresh, her style enchantingly lyrical and profoundly meditative. Here is the new voice of Indian fiction, daring, philosophical, intensely poetic," says critic, poet and Sahitya Academy winner K. Satchidanandan. Moushumi Kandali is a bilingual short story writer, art historian, and translator. Her stories have been published in several national and international literary magazines and edited anthologies such as "Oxford anthology of North East Writing", "Penguin anthology of fifteen classic Assamese short stories", "The Greatest Assamese Stories Ever Told" and many others. She has received several prestigious awards for her creative writing. Her stories have been translated into German, Korean, Spanish, and others along with several Indian languages. She has published four collections of short stories, three research books on visual culture and art, and two books of translation so far. Her doctoral thesis had been a pioneering attempt at mapping and documenting the entire modernist discourse of visual art of north-east India. Before joining the current position in the department of Cultural Studies in Tezpur Central University, she had taught in the School of Culture and Creative Expressions at Ambedkar University of Delhi for several years. Translator Parbina Rashid is a senior journalist with The Tribune, Chandigarh. She has translated a number of books from Assamese into English like "Painting of the Sky & Other Stories", "Ballad of Kaziranga" and "If A River and Echoes from the Valley. Her latest translated story has been included in an anthology titled "The Greatest Assamese Stories Ever Told". She has been associated with Sahitya Akademi, Delhi in the capacity of a translator and book editor. She hails from Guwahati and is currently based in Chandigarh.