Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Never Yawn Under A Banyan Tree by Nibedita Sen, narrated by S.B Divya.
I like folktales. I especially like folktales that come from other nations. I also like food. Thankfully, this story has such a combination. Today’s short story is Never Yawn Under A Banyan Tree by Nibedita Sen, narrated by S.B. Divya, as featured in PodCastle, originally in Anathema Magazine. You can listen to it here. It’s a fun story filled with food, ghosts, and culture-based folktales.
So let’s dig in, shall we?
Never Yawn Under A Banyan Tree
The story follows an old fable to Never Yawn Under A Banyan Tree, told by Meena’s Grandmother. However, her disbelief causes her to do just that, and a ghostly figure cannonballs into her stomach and forces her to eat until she saves the Banyan Tree that a restaurant wants to cut down, and to save the pret’s existence.
This is the kind of story I enjoy because it’s rife with myths from other countries that aren’t normally seen in western works. I love seeing fables from different perspectives and India and most of South Asia is a place full of history and mythology. This is a ghost story, but one that’s goofy fun rather than creepy and haunting. I feel it’s like something I’d see in an episode of a humorous TV show.
Plus the characters are fun, almost mirroring those in real life. Seeing the embarrassed girl, the confused boyfriend, the nerdy journalist, and of course, the old ghost who insists on his victim doing whatever he says. I love these kinds of stories and this one has that perfect kind of goofiness.
It’s not so much that they get in trouble, but that the pret is forcing Meena to eat because she has no choice. I love this twist and it could have gone a typical route. It kind of does, but it’s unique enough that it’s forgiven for doing it.
However, I felt there wasn’t that much pressure for Meena to succeed. Perhaps she’d grow fatter if she didn’t get the pret out of her or the restaurant owner who wants the banyan tree cut down could antagonize her. I did think that the stakes weren’t high enough and that there could have been more reasonable drama. Nothing too extreme, but for the kind of story, it could have done a bit more.
Hungry Ghosts and Banyan Trees
The whole story is one I’ve seen before with an Indian twist. A sacred, cultural part of their country is threatened, a young woman rises up against people set to destroy it, and a small being is trying to convince them to stop the bad guys from happening. Think The Lorax or something similar. The pret speaks for the Banyan trees after all. 😀
In all seriousness, I do like the sense of preserving culture. I’ll get to that in a bit, but it’s important that certain landmarks and historical sites are all we have of the past. It’s what we grew up with, cherish, and love most of all. I’m sure some people have that specific part of history for their world. Maybe an old abandoned building that people used to hang out in, or a tree kids play on that no one wants to get rid of.
It’s something relatable, because it means a lot to those affected by its removal. I had an old roller rink when I was young that was torn down and now contains a Lucille Roberts and a health center. Also a old movie theater that people still go to. We all have the neighborhood icon that everyone loves and I’m sure Banyan trees mean a lot to Indian people, but it’s still a good, universal message, regardless of where you live.
Past and Present Collide
And this all goes back to a country that tries to balance modern and ancient societies. A lot of cultures preserve their history and build tech around it. Most people in the US embrace tech, but some cultures like Japan, China and most of Europe, have that sense of history and culture that is unlike ours. Smaller buildings, temples mixed with skyscrapers, smartphones, trams, and restaurants like McDonalds, Starbucks and so on.
It also has a message of trying to preserve culture and history rather than abandon it. I feel all countries have their own identity and uniqueness about them, and one isn’t better than the other. Seeing a culture of myth and history interact with smartphones and laptops is what our society is today. All cultures are different.
I like the author’s weave of this. To have the focus be on myth with use of social media, journalism and a quirky love story that goes wrong is a perfect mixture and I’d love to see more of it. I appreciate it being a fun ghost story that isn’t spooky or sinister and is simply mischievous in nature.
This was a fun story to read and a memorable one as well. I did want to see more antics from this group and with the ghostly pret, but I did enjoy the story as it was. A tale of history, culture, and ghostly legends. Definitely give it a read.
So have you read it as well? If so, what did you think? Do you believe in ghosts? Has one ever cannonballed into your gullet and made you eat? Maybe I have one to >_>. Either way, comment below with your thoughts.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
If you have any suggestions for future topics and reviews, hit me up on my social media channels and let me know your thoughts. I always read the feedback, even if I don’t respond. Your feedback is what keeps me going, so thank you for supporting me.