Author: Temsula Ao
Every May something extraordinary happens in the new cemetery of the sleepy little town’s laburnum tree, with buttery yellow blossoms, flowers over the spot where Lentina is buried. A brave hunter, Imchanok, totters when the ghost of his prey haunts him, till he offers it a tuft of his hair as a prayer for forgiveness. Pokenmong, the servant boy, by dint of his wit, sells an airfield to unsuspecting villagers. A letter found on a dead insurgent blurs the boundaries between him and an innocent villager, both struggling to make ends meet. A woman’s terrible secret comes full circle, changing her daughter’s and granddaughter’s lives as well as her own. An illiterate village woman’s simple question rattles an army officer and forces him to set her husband free. A young girl loses her lover in his fight for the motherland, leaving her a frightful legacy. And a caterpillar finds wings.
From the mythical to the modern, Laburnum for My Head is a collection of short stories that embrace a gamut of emotions. Heartrending, witty and riddled with irony, the stories depict a deep understanding of the human condition.
I had bought the book way back in 2012 (I remember because I have this habit of scribbling the date I buy the book along with my name). But for reasons I really don’t know, I had not read it till recently. I was rearranging my books and was in the mood for some short stories after I completed To Kill a Mocking Bird. And that’s when I picked it up and I am really glad that I did. The author, Temsula Ao, is a Naga and belongs to my parts of the country. She is a Padma Shree winner in 2007 and has written many books.
Laburnum for my Head is a collection of 8 short stories and as the blurb says, they range from the mythical to the modern. The book starts with these lines –
“Stories live in every heart; some get told, many remains unheard – stories about individual experiences mad universal by imagination; stories that are jokes, and sometimes prayers; and those that are not always a figment of the mind but are, at times, confessions.
Because stories live in every heart, some get told, like the ones on these pages…..”
And with these opening lines, I was sure something nice and beautiful was in store for me. And I was not wrong. The language of the book is beautiful, lyrical and serene too. Out of the 8 stories, I loved Sonny, Death of a Hunter and Laburnum for my Head the most (and in this order). Each of the stories had something to do with the human emotions, the roller coaster ride we humans go through in different situation of our lives. The stories, while taking us through the hills and valleys of Nagaland, gives us a real picture of the times gone by and the effects that still linger on. At the end of each story the reader is made to think about the story and the things beyond that which has been not told in words.
Also, another thing which I loved about the book is its cover.
This is a book has a collection of stories which stays with the reader. 🙂