Sushma Joshi (Kathmandu, Nepal, 1975) was long listed in 2009 for her collection of short stories, The End of the World for the Frank O'Connor International Award for Short Stories. She is also a well regarded documentary film maker. She was educated in her high school years at a school run by British missionaries. It was here she developed a passion for literature and decided she wanted to become an author so she could speak for the people of Nepal. She received grants that allowed her to obtain degrees from Brown University and The New School of Social Research in New York City. She also was awarded a writing fellowship by the MacArthur Foundation. She is also an Asian fellow. She is the leading author from Nepal writing in English with an international readership.
We are fortunate in that five of her short stories can be read online for free. (There will be a link at the end of this post.)
"The End of the World" (2009, 7 pages) is the title work in her collection of that name. As the story begins, a local religious leader who has a large following announces that the end of the world is coming in two weeks. It seems this is a fairly common practice among Holy Men who perhaps are not getting the attention or respect they feel they deserve. Some of his followers take it seriously and are thrown into a despair driven religious frenzy of devotion to their faith. Women rush to the stores to stock up on supplies they need to prepare last meals. Teenagers tell their parents they do not see the point of doing their homework if the world will end in two weeks! (Any parent of teens could see that coming.) Some react with cynicism and derision to the claim the world is coming to an end. I will leave the rest of the story unspoiled other than to say that the world goes right on spinning.
"I Woke Up Last Night and I Cried" was selected for inclusion in the 2010 anthology of short stories, New Asian Writings. In three pages Joshi does a great job letting us see the life of the wife of a worker from Nepal whose husband is working offshore in Saudi Arabia. The husband has been gone for six years now. For the first few years he sent money home regularly. Now the wife has to beg for anything. The wife has very mixed emotions. She loves and pities her husband and she also nearly hates him now. She sends him a letter one week asking him to come home please and says they would be happier together in poverty than with him gone. The next week she will send him a letter telling him not to even come visit her or their children when he comes back. The emotion in this story is real and made me think of the millions of men and women from the Philippines who work offshore to support their families and the very large emotional cost of this.
The stories of Joshi can take us into a world most of us can only glimpse on CNN or The National Geographic Channel.
"The End of the World" and three other of Sushma Joshi's short stories can be read at East of the Web.
"I Woke Up Last Night and Cried" can be read here.
You can follow her blog also.
Her collection of short stories, The End of the World is listed on Amazon. The Kindle edition is only $4.99.