In an alternate universe, possibly in another lifetime, Schaum and Jerk are best buddies on MaggiNoo, a planet, with long tentacles. A plane where all kinds of crazy things appear forms the setting for the short story The Blooming, written as a play script by Australian author Kirsty Murray and award-winning Indian playwright Manjula Padmanabhan.
“Manjula told me she did not want to do something boring. So we decided to write the story in the form of a party game called Consequences, where neither of us knew what the story was. We took turns to develop it as we went along,” says Murray, who has co-edited an anthology of short stories for young adults especially women, titled Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean (Zuban Books, Rs 495).
The 204-page collaborative book, by young children’s authors in Australia and India, has stories about alternate realities and futures for women. “Anita (Roy, of Zubaan Books) and I were saying that we need to open up a conversation about equality, human rights, shared experiences. We were a bit depressed about the future for young girls. So all these ideas came into a plot for a project involving female writers from both continents,” says Murray, whose earlier work in India The Lilliputians, captured the journey of 29 young performers from Australia to Chennai (then Madras) in 1910. The incidents of the December 2012 gang rape in Delhi and the attack on a woman walking home, in Melbourne, the same year, were the initial catalysts for this book. “By the time we were writing our short stories, it had become about so much more,” says Australian author Isobelle Carmody and co-editor for this series. She has partnered with author Prabha Mallya for a short story titled The Runners.
The Indian authors include Amruta Patil, Vandana Singh, Annie Zaidi, and Prabha Mallya. The anthology comprises 17 fiction stories (10 short stories, one play script and six graphic short stories) spanning genres of dystopian literature, and speculative fiction. The book was made possible through a grant of US $ 40,000 by the Australian Arts Council. “It is meant to be a discussion around women empowerment. And it is not just for females alone, it is for males also, for people to think what does it mean to have half the world frightened of you and vice versa. But it is never about just one thing,” says Murray.