Harsh Snehanshu, 25, had been writing short fiction for more than three years when he was approached by a publishing house to put ­together an anthology. "The timing was perfect. I was free for a couple of months with no other projects in hand. I had been following a bunch of excellent writers on social media, and that's how I found some of the first few contributors. Off the 27 contributors, we discovered around 18 of them through online submissions," says Snehanshu.
The book, true to its title, Mango Chutney, is a chutney of genres, writers and of writing styles. From horror to humour, contemporary to crime, fantasy to sci-fi and thriller and even a story translated from Hindi, the tales have been carefully selected to render the mix of sweetness and tang.
"Our contributors are diverse: from the age of 14 to 56, from published authors to first-time writers, from housewives to management consultants," he explains.
In the End of a Weekend
Seventeen year old Delhiite, Ruchika Goel, also the youngest contributor, wrote a tale in which the setting is directly inspired by two eating joints in Paschim Vihar. "Once I knew my ­characters, I looked around at people a lot. In fact, I don't know how many of my schoolmates were carefully scrutinised over a week," she says.
Anuj Gosalia, 27, of the Terribly Tiny Tales fame, says, "Wintersong is the story of an ageing man who deeply loved his wife while she was alive. Now, in his fading days, as his heart bleeds of loneliness and despair, he finds warmth in the affection of his young niece. "My story walks the thin line between incest and familial love," he says.
From L to R (clockwise): Editor Harsh Snehanshu, Purba Ray, Abhishek Asthana, Sakshi Nanda, Anuj Gosalia, Ruchika Goel
The 37th Milestone
Abhishek Asthana's story is about a doctor who goes for a dengue check-up camp in a tribal village, and experiences something really strange. "One reader couldn't switch off her lights at night after reading the story, and slept with the lights on, because she was too scared to get up from her bed," says Asthana of Twitter's @GabbarSingh fame.
Angels and Demons
Appearances can be deceptive, as Purba Ray found out in her story. This tale attempts to break stereotypes we associate with people. "A social activist need not be the epitome of human virtue, a suave male speaking impeccable English need not be a ­gentleman and not every shady looking man is dishonourable," explains Ray.
On the Other Side
This story by Sakshi Nanda, 31, begins with a scene from a panic-ridden night in Lahore during the partition. The real ­incident from Nanda's own family's history is about a couple escaping with their children. The second part is fictitious and is set in New Delhi's Rajouri Market. "While people settle down, the psychological bruises often get passed on to younger generations through oral storytelling. This story was told to me long back, but stayed with me, to be re-born," says Nanda.