Indian short story collections

Short stories fill us with nostalgia for simpler times when we used to listen to stories from our elders. Whether you want a quick read before bedtime or something to read on your commute, short stories are the perfect solution for your reading troubles. This list contains 11 short story collections by prominent Indian writers like Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Janice Pariat and Kanishk Tharoor. Several of these short story collections also seek to raise awareness on subjects like the plight of the homosexual community in India and the reality of caste discrimination in India.



Vasudhendra, Rashmi Terdal (Tr.)

Originally published in Kannada, Vasudhendra’s Mohanaswamy is a collection of short stories about being a middle-class gay man in India. The stories acquaint us with the emotional upheaval gay people go through, the humiliation they suffer, the harsh judgment of society, and the acceptance homosexuals so intensely desire. While ‘Gordian Knot’ unveils the relationship between the protagonist and his partner, ‘Bicycle Riding’ shows the protagonist’s attempts to learn how to ride a bicycle, which he thinks will turn him straight. An important milestone in Indian LGBTQ literature, Mohanaswamy certainly managed to shine a light on the plight of the homosexual community in India.

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Boats On Land

Janice Pariat

Boats On Land is a collection of 15 stories that will take you on a journey through North East India. The stories span from the 19th century to the present day and often contain mythical elements. ‘19/87’ and ‘Laitlum’ talk about the war between two communities, whereas ‘Secret Corridors’ is all about a love story blossoming in an all-girls Catholic school. With a multitude of stories about caste discrimination, inter-racial relationships and myths of water fairies, Janice Pariat effortlessly manages to capture the beauty of North East India.

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The Adivasi Will Not Dance: Stories

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s The Adivasi Will Not Dance is a portrayal of the grim reality of the Santhal community. The stories in this book are so raw and bold in their description that the government saw it fit to ban the book initially, although later they revoked it. In ‘They Eat Meat!’, a Santhal family in Gujarat is attacked by a mob during the Godhra riots, whereas in ‘ Eating With The Enemy’, a woman places her safety in the hands of her husband’s mistress. The story ‘November Is The Month Of Migrations’ where a hungry woman has to sell her body to a policeman in exchange for food is particularly hard-hitting. Through his stories, Shekhar has tried to make us aware of the stark reality of his people, with crude and realistic depictions of atrocities.

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Swimmer Among The Stars

Kanishk Tharoor

Kanishk Tharoor’s debut collection of whimsical tales spans decades and showcases a multitude of characters. The titular story, ‘Swimmer Among The Stars’ is about an interview with a woman who is the last living speaker of a long lost language. ‘Tale Of The Teahouse’ is the story of a city mulling over its fate as they await Khan’s raid and in ‘United Nations In Space’, the world leaders debate on where to reside on a post-apocalyptic Earth. These short stories which talk about everything ranging from history to an apocalyptic future are guaranteed to keep you hooked.

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To Die In Benares

K. Madavane, Blake Smith (Tr.)

Originally written in French, To Die In Benares consists of seven short stories that connect to Varanasi in some way and contemplate death and fate. A Nail On A Tamarind Tree’ is about a bunch of men trying to get rid of a ghost in a Tamarind tree. The story ‘A Paperboat On The Ganges’ is about racism at a school in Pondicherry, while ‘A Holy Cow In Varanasi ‘ is about a Frenchwoman’s experiences when she visits the city. Written in a dark and humorous manner, these stories also chronicle various Hindu myths and describe the many ways one can die in postcolonial India.

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A Day In The Life

Anjum Hasan

A Day In The Life is a collection of 14 well-devised stories featuring a variety of protagonists from retirees and young mothers to cyborgs and maid-servants. In ‘Nur’, a married Muslim woman tries to find out what her lousy husband is up to. ‘Sisters’ is the tale of two women from very different backgrounds and their unusual bonding. Trying to bring out the complexity and vulnerability of each of her characters, Hasan has managed to compile together a collection that everyone should have.

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When I Hid My Caste

Baburao Bagul, Jerry Pinto (Tr.)

Originally published in Marathi, When I Hid My Caste was Baburao Bagul’s debut collection of blazing short stories about the Dalit community. This book shone a light on the barbaric caste system and the atrocities committed against Dalits. One of the stories in this anthology talks about a man who tries to bring about social change while hiding his caste, while another features a Mahar demanding equal rights during religious ceremonies. There is also a story about a boy’s refusal to do the scavenging work made compulsory for his caste. Bagul’s stories do not coddle us; instead, they give us a raw and unadulterated look at the exploitation of Dalit community.

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Ambiguity Machines And Other Stories

Vandana Singh

Vandana Singh’s brilliant collection of 14 science fiction stories impeccably combines the past, present and future. In ‘Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra, an ancient poet is reborn as an AI. In “Peripeteia”, we find ourselves questioning the sanity of the protagonist who is convinced that the Earth has been created by aliens, and ‘Requiem’ tells the story of a girl who travels to Alaska in search of her lost aunt. Ambiguity Machines And Other Stories will surely keep you entertained, with its heady mix of culture and science fiction.

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Magical Women

Sukanya Venkatraghavan (Ed.)

Magical Women is an exciting new collection of stories about women by some of India’s finest contemporary female authors- Kiran Manral, Tashan Mehta, Samhita Arni, and Krishna Udayasankar, to name a few. These stories deal with subjects like love, rage, choices, chances and rebellion. In Magical Women, you’ll find a story about a puppet, a woman who ends up haunting Death for millennia, and a graphic designer fighting a secret that involves a tattoo, amongst other compelling tales that will delight and surprise you.

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All The Names They Used For God

Anjali Sachdeva

A collection of 9 short stories, All The Names They Used For God brings us tales from genres like magical realism, science fiction, American Gothic and horror. In ‘Logging Lake’, a seemingly normal camping trip turns into a horrific experience for a couple, whereas the titular story talks of a kidnapping that changes the lives of two Nigerian girls forever. In Anjali Sachdeva’s debut collection, “characters grapple with predetermination as they experience the brutal clash between expectation and reality.

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Shake The Bottle And Other Stories

Ashapurna Debi, Arunava Sinha (Tr.)

In this collection of 21 short stories, handpicked from over 3,000 stories written by Ashapurna Debi, we finally get a chance to read this prolific author’s works in English. Debi was known for her portrayal of the domestic lives of Indian women in a way no other writer had done. Her stories showcase the imprisonment of these women in their own houses and point out the hypocrisies of middle class urban Indian families. In her stories, submissive wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters transform into strong and rebellious women due to the cruelty and violence inflicted upon them. Shake The Bottle And Other Stories is not an easy read but an important one to understand the society we live in.

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Prasanna is a human (probably) who makes stuff up for a living. When she’s not sleeping or eating, you’ll find her in the quietest corner of the library, devouring yet another hardbound book. She vastly prefers the imaginary world to the real one, but grudgingly emerges from her writing cave on occasion. If you do see her, it’s best not to approach her before she’s had her coffee.

She writes at The Curious Reader. You can read her articles here