Swapnamoy Chakraborty :: Two micro-stories

From the  Bengali--

Bengal government, for his novel Abantinagar, and the Ananda Purashkar, for his novel Holud Golap [The Yellow Rose], Chakraborty has built a reputation for never writing on the same theme twice. His work is both critically acclaimed and well-received by readers. Holud Golap is a seminal, monumental work about the LGBT community and its relationship with larger society.

Swapnomoy Chakraborty: An Introduction

 The two stories are from more than 100 very short tales written for magazines and journals, then collected in the volume Anugalpa (Atom-Sized Stories). It is a form that Chakraborty has often wielded in recent years to make sharp, ironical observations on the interplay between individuals and the polity. 

            This form was made famous, several decades before flash fiction gained popularity around the world, by the 20th c Bengali writer Banaphool. In Bengal, it probably owes its origin to short humorous sketches, in the best Dickensian tradition, which mordant social observers used to write in Bengali journals in the nineteenth century. Rabindranath Tagore, who began writing short stories around the turn of the century, was probably the first to employ the format in fiction: his collection of short-short stories Lipika is, arguably, an early version of microfiction.

            Another Bengali short story writer who consciously employed the shorter-than-short form was Narendranath Mitra (1916–1975). Unlike his regular, conventional, stories, in his short-shorts he used to leave the ending and the beginning to the reader's imagination, writing only what came in the middle. 

            Chakraborty has been experimenting with the form well before the social media led to an explosion of microfiction and flash fiction in Bengali by amateur writers.


The Tattoo

 He was shot in the shoulder. A hammer, sickle and stars were tattooed on his skin next to the wound.

Where did you get the tattoo? I asked.

At the fair.

Are you a party member?

I was.

Who shot at you?

They did.

Why did you leave the party?

To keep my land.

We’ll have to operate on your shoulder to get the bullet out. The tattoo won’t survive. The stitches will cover it.

Can’t you save it, doctor?



A Problem from Developing Economies

 Haridas lives in a rubbish dump. Scavenges for food.

He has found a remarkable instrument in the garbage.

A pipe.

Inserting rubbish at one end of the pipe brings out a finished product from the other.

Haridas stuffs rags into the pipe. A sanitary napkin emerges.

He puts in scraps of paper, and a sheet of art paper comes out. Splinters of glass are converted into a wine-glass. Rocks and pebbles emerge in the form of glazed tiles. When Haridas inserts bits of plastic, a teddy-bear appears at the other end.

Haridas simply cannot get what he wants. A lungi to wear. A gamchha to dry himself. Damn.



--Translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha


Arunava Sinha translates classic, modern, and contemporary Bengali fiction, non-fiction and poetry from India and Bangladesh. Thirty-four volumes of his translations have been published so far in India, the UK, and the US.