‘Tales that Entail’ by Jaseena Backer is an anthology of stories that are hard-hitting and realistic. Right from the first story, the author assures us that this is not going to be an easy read. The themes dealt with are weighty, revolving around domestic and marital violence, exploitation and molestation. Others border on possessiveness, neglect, low self-esteem stemming from an unhappy childhood.
However, in most of these stories, there is a tenuous thread hope that runs through them, as the protagonists suffer, claw themselves up, fight back and finally emerge into the light, triumphant. In the first story titled ‘My Life, My Choice’, it is retribution that plays a significant role. As the protagonist says, “When you craft your own life, you pick your own date.”
Another tale titled ‘The Arabian Nightmare’, which is “a medieval tale of exploitation, sexual abuse and polygamy”, the protagonist gathers strength to save herself and many others.
Often, the protagonists, who face humiliation and mistreatment, find saviours in their lives who lend them a helping hand, like in stories like ‘Blame Game’, ‘Lily’, ‘He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not’, ‘Khushi’ and ‘Paid in Full’.
Jaseena Backer does not believe in mincing her words. She makes her characters walk on thorns, and when they are just about to give up, she brings in hope and resilience into their lives. Does a family need a man to be happy? How important is respect in marriage? What completes a marriage? Can love, once lost, ever be reclaimed? These and many other soul-searching questions shine like beacons across the book, and the answers often appear in the stories themselves.
If I had to pick a few of my favourite stories, they would be ‘Paid in Full’, ‘Poetry on the Wall’, ‘Reclaiming Love’, ‘Kanyadaan’ and ‘Judge and Jury’, maybe because all of them reveal how life holds out a second chance, if only one realizes it.
‘Tales that Entail’ is a book that deserves to be read. Despite the printer’s devils that leapt out due to formatting issues, that is not the fault of the writer whose story telling skills are tremendous. Here’s to more power to Jaseena Backer’s pen!