Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bright Lights (Urban Shots) - A Review

This is the third compendium of short stories I have read under the Urban Shots series, and it is the third time I have experienced overwhelming satisfaction with what I read. I have spent considerable amount of time with these three books in the past month, and not a moment spent with them has gone waste. I am not a reader who sprints through books. I am one who like to take her time, understand, absorb and feel- and each story I have read under the Urban Shots collection as a whole had a distinct emotion to fill me with.

Talking of Bright Lights in particular, the very first thing you need to know about this book has been very well put forth in the prologue (by Naman Saraiya). Each story, handpicked by Editor Paritosh Uttam, also one of the authors in this collection, has a flavor which needs to be savored. So the first thing, which you must know and follow with this book is that you have to give time to each story for reaching your heart and mind once you are done reading it. Trust me, it happens on its own. The moment you finish one story, it might touch you so deeply, that you would want to close the book for a while and just reflect. If stories, most of which are written by nascent authors, can evoke such a response in its readers, you can be sure that what you are reading is nothing short of a precious collection of words. Are you one of those who cherishes building a library with the best contemporary fiction collection? Urban Shots- Bright Lights is what you simply cannot do without.

This book contains 29 stories by 21 writers, most of whom are debutantes. Occasionally, you will come across familiar names, like Ahmed Faiyaz, Sneh Thakur and Paritosh Uttam himself, but most of the writers are fresh, and so are their writings. The stories in this book cut across cultures, across feelings, faces, incidents, musings, recollections, realizations and much else. Few stories attempt to touch, few attempt to teach; but almost all attempt to give you a personalized glimpse into the life of a common, yet unique Indian inhabiting one little corner of the crazy cultural panorama that the Indian landscape is. The stories in Bright Lights cast illumination on incidents serious and sensitive, and also narrate tales with undertones of pleasant humor. Generally, I hold a proclivity for intense and emotional stories, but this time, I was bowled over by a light and humorous story by the name of Father Of My Son by Roshan Radhakrishnan- a finely narrated tale of the innocence of childhood, the role and relationships of parents, the balance which needs to be found while performing multiple roles and justifying multiple relations in a family and eventually, the love which defines, binds and sustains a home. I have read and reread this story and it still makes me smile.

I will give this title 3.5 stars on 5, also admitting, that I found it a touch better than the previous books - Croossroads and Love Collection- both outstanding by themselves. The quality of stories is magnificent, and so impeccable is their selection that this book stands out as a compelling read. My absolute favorite from the book I have already mentioned above. Besides that, my quintet from the remaining 28 stories is-

1. Amul by Arvind Chandrashekhar
Innocent reflections of a 10 year old afflicted with a terminal illness. Touching, to say the least.
2. The Raincoat by Rashmi Sahi
An ode to each mother, who sacrifices everything for the sake of a little smile on her dear child's face. Sensitively narrated.
3.You Eternal Beauty by Naman Saraiya
A struggling author in love with a city- a city which is his muse. Beautifully written, perhaps one of the best stories in the anthology in terms of beauty of expression.
4.Good Morning Nikhil by Ahmed Faiyaz
A slightly spooky way of conveying how the presence and blessings of our elders never desert us. Simple, only till you reach the end.
5. The Wall by Saurbh Katiyal
Dwells on a lethargic psyche, a man who has stopped seeing purpose in chores and activities surrounding him. It is a phenomenon all too common, but happening at a psychological scale, it misses the notice of most. Original thought. Flawless execution.

As a final thought, the cover of this book is bright and beautiful, an apt premonition of the content waiting inside to be explored.

(Reviewed on request from Grey Oak- Westland)

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