Life Was Here Somewhere : Stories – Ajeet Cour


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‘He is just a boy, frightened, wounded and bleeding, in need of food and shelter. It would be inhuman to hand him over to the cops,’ thinks the narrator in the story ‘Dead-end’. Unless…could he be the terrorist who killed her brother Kewal? And if so, does he not deserve the same end?’

The opening story in this collection by a doyenne of Punjabi literature jolts the reader into facing uncomfortable questions—and each story that follows holds us in a similar grip. In ‘Walking a Tightrope’, the narrator is shocked to find she has a second maternal uncle. Why had his existence been kept hidden for so long—and who was more to blame—the uncle, or his tyrannical father, Bhaiyaji?

After the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her uncle, Mansukhani in ‘Unsought Passion’ forever thinks of men as ‘devils and pigs’—but does her childhood trauma give her the right to force her attentions on Raaj? And in the eponymous ‘Life Was Here Somewhere’, the narrator finds many lessons about life and human nature in a pile of garbage in front of her home.

In these fourteen short stories, which blur the lines between fiction and memoir, Ajeet Cour paints rich vignettes of life in Delhi, Chandigarh and the villages of Punjab. Effortlessly translated from the original Punjabi by the author, these are unforgettable stories—searing, moving and always deeply human.


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