An excerpt from the book, Strange by Shreya Sen-Handley...
“Huh?’ barked the policeman who’d originally interrogated old Jay, almost apoplectic. ‘So, he’s been slipping you songs and not body parts? He lured you into dingy carparks to ply you with music, not drugs, and NOT sex?’ The youngest of the children looked at the policeman horrified that he had said the S word. Hadn’t the same man lectured them two weeks ago about avoiding pervs? The kids had never imagined that was why everyone was making such a fuss. The very utterance of the scary word, however, caused a seismic shift in the room. The focus of everyone’s distaste shifted to their bungling police force that had handled the case so badly. The parents announced that they were dropping charges. They would communicate that to the missing family too, that of the girl who’d been sick since the incident. They were confident the latter would go along happily. Back to being perfect, untampered families, they felt bad about having put the misunderstood man through the rigours of arrest and incarceration, even though they didn’t like his clothes, his taste in music, or the fact that he was taking money, however small (since they hadn’t noticed any missing), off their kids. They wondered if they should invite the unfortunate fellow to dinner. They had heard he had once been one of them, with a picket fenced home and a white-collar job in IT. His wife had left him apparently, taking their children with her in an acrimonious split, and it had all fallen apart for him. Perhaps if they embraced him to the bosom of good society again, he might cease and desist from his minor crimes…” Please click on image to read the rest of this excerpt from the short story ”Beyoncé and Jay-ji’ in ‘Strange’, HarperCollins, 2019.
“Like many women, I have known psychological, sexual and physical abuse. The knowledge of what goes on in our ‘everyday’ lives beneath the unruffled surface that patriarchal society forces us to maintain is key to why women write horror, crime, and the supernatural so often and so well. We not only know what lies beneath, we have learnt to cope with it, gently and silently building up to a startling dénouement, both in our lives and our fiction.” says Sen-Handley…
EC: What draws you to the strange, the surreal, the ominous and the macabre?
SSH: ‘Strange’ ideas come to me quite naturally, I suppose, because I’m neuro-atypical. To think within the constraints of convention or ‘normality’ is a stretch because my brain is wired differently. But I also feel that the mainstream that seeks to exclude those they perceive as ‘different’ is secretly not that well-adjusted or ‘normal’ themselves. That all of us have quirks and angularities that we deny, or are unaware of. I sympathise with both the overt misfits and the secret ones. I have empathy for those who find that life, and their own nature, and the lack of understanding from the world around them, have derailed their plans of leading a contented, conventional life. A ‘normal’ life. But as we acknowledge differences more and more, whether in sexuality or culture, or anything else, perhaps we see that there is no such thing as ‘normal’. My imagination teems with those on the margins for reasons of genetics, ostracization, illness, economics, and more, and in my work they find a home.
it is a haunted world we live in right now. Our deserted public spaces are peopled by wraiths, not just of those who have tragically died in the pandemic, but all of us who have retreated from the world, living a shadow of the lives we once did.
The homes of those who live alone or in unhappy domestic situations are echoing wells of loneliness, and maybe even fear. Even in happy homes, the ghosts of extended family and visiting friends can still be seen flitting around corners.
In their passing on from our lives, though not from this world, they have taken on an otherworldly sheen. Our home in Sherwood forest, where the past incessantly rubs shoulders with the present, is now infested with them.
At least, that was the (im)possibility we were forced to consider when, as the summer progressed and lockdown laid root, our nights suddenly filled with voices…
Starting with a front page story in India’s top newspaper The Hindu (please click on pic for story), the story of our opera (and a bit about me) trended online for days before travelling to Asian and Arab news sites, such as these in Vietnam and Iran!
Shreya Sen-Handley, the first South Asian woman to write a libretto for an international opera, celebrates the contribution of Indian doctors in the UK’s National Health Service. Please click on the picture for the rest of the article!
Please click on pic for further details. Besides the two slots on two consecutive days this weekend, and the fact that I will be reading from my international opera for the first time, I will also answer any questions you want to send me live at the time. See you there!
“Author Shreya Sen Handley is known to be a strong emerging voice for women. She penned the award winning book ‘Memoirs of My Body. Her recently released book is ‘Strange’, a collection of twisted short stories, which the legendary Ruskin Bond has described as “masterful”. She is also now the only Indian woman writer to have written an international opera. It is a Welsh National Opera production which will be staged at six of the biggest theatres in the UK….”
(Please click on pic for full article on me and my lockdown reading ~a lot of it with my kids, at the moment)