Temsula Ao paints a mirror of daily life in Nagaland

Padma Shri Award winner Temsula Ao has released a collection of five poignant stories from Nagaland in which she mirrors the lives of ordinary people beyond the headlines.

With its clean prose and gripping original tales, “The Tombstone in My Garden,” published by Speaking Tiger, reflects Ao’s deep understanding of not just the human condition, but all of life.

Besides “The Tombstone in My Garden”, the other stories in the collection are “The Platform”, “The Saga of a Cloth”, “Snow-Green”, and “The Talking Tree”.

Among the stories is one about Nandu, a coolie from Bihar working at Dimapur railway station. There was a dark secret about his foster son and now Nandu realized that what he had done out of love for an abandoned child many years ago had now become a grave threat to their lives because of that.

Because this boy, who for more than 17 years spoke almost all the languages ​​his “father” spoke, observed all the festivals and pujas as a Hindu, was in fact a Muslim on the other side of the border.

Nandu had discovered this quite by chance, during the first forced bath he had given the boy a few days after taking him home to his one-room accommodation near the railway tracks.

At first the boy seemed dumb; didn’t say a word but exhaled long breaths as if something was choking him. And he simply refused to touch water, much less take a bath as Nandu repeatedly told him.

So one evening, he proceeded to bathe the boy himself and it was during the forced bath that Nandu discovered the terrible truth: the boy had been circumcised!

Then there’s the story of a rare lily that refuses to bloom year after year because it’s been moved from its usual position in the flowerbed to an ornate pot.

Also, there is the story of a grandmother who finally breaks the silence over her mutilated funeral supeti as her grandson is exiled from the village.

Ao also writes about Big Father, a unique deformed grandfather tree, who becomes the guardian and protector of an entire village.
Then matriarch Lily Anne, the victim of racial slurs from her own mother because of her mixed parentage, resumes her position on the old sun lounger on her veranda to stare at the eyesore of her overgrown garden.

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