Monday, March 5, 2012

Crossroads (Urban Shots) - A Review

Now this is quality stuff. Genuinely. I do not know how many times did I find myself touched and connected and affected by the short stories compiled in this yet another brilliant anthology under the Urban Shots series. I do know, however, that this is one book I will strongly recommend to all book lovers out there, for the 30 stories told by 26 odd authors in this book are fresh, and textured interestingly. And as I stated earlier, this book is a quality affair. A pleasant, yet intense journey.

A glimpse through the foreword written by Rohini Kejriwal reveals to you what this book potentially would be about. As professed in the prologue, this book turns out to be a collection of tales on some very interesting and diverse characters, and mostly pivoted around a centrally important or watershed incident in their life. The simply yet elegantly told stories go beyond just that one incident and often make you stop and think. Each story here is a world of its own. Each character revels in a distinctness of his own.

What is truly commendable here is the selection of stories, due credit for which goes to the Editor Ahmed Faiyaz. This is perhaps the fifth book associated with him which I am reading, and I can now safely proclaim- he is one author who simply does not know how to disappoint his readers. Through this compendium, interestingly titled "Crossroads", Ahmed strings together some intense stories, each uniquely drawing you into the lull of its narrative. These are stories which find their roots in the urbane locales of India; each inspired by a different facet, human or physical, of the carelessly burgeoning and increasingly complicated urban existence of new age Indians. Some characters here pace too far ahead, much too quickly; yet others tell their tales about coming to terms with the world whizzing past them. There are stories here of complicated love, compromised relationships, pulverized identities, pressurized psyches, crushed innocence, thankless altruism, and unrewarded commitments. So many thoughts and emotions have been depicted in these 30 urban stories with such finesse that a constant eagerness to move onto and investigate the contents of the next story keeps you gripped throughout. An added beauty to all these tales is the fact that most, if not all of them are not easily predictable stories even though they build on situations one hears of or faces in real life.

Having been thoroughly satisfied by this outstanding collection, I was reflecting happily on a lot of them to pick my quintet. I have to admit, that selecting only five from a potential 30, each one of which stood as a strong contender to be included in my favorite five, was a task ridden with fond anxiety. After much thought, here are the five stories I found best..

1. Mindgames by Manisha Dhingra
A tale about psychological setbacks, one which turns ripe only at the very end. This was my absolute favorite from the lot.
2. Gautam Gargoyle by Shailaditya Chakraborty
Brilliantly written, beautiful wordplay and extremely intriguing plot. A complex take on what you might be tempted to dismiss as a rather mundane phenomenon. Understandably, this one was the Editor's pick.
3. Songs Of The Summer Bird by Anita Satyajit
I loved this story for its simplicity and  poignant portrayal of a misunderstood but well meaning library watchman. Simple sometimes is richly beautiful.
4. Jump, Didi by Sharath Komarraju
Dark, complex, intense. This story reveals itself to you in layers;. each new layer a whole new dimension. This story is about the innocent baby sitter next door and her forbidden sercrets.
5. Footsteps In The Dark by Mini Menon
A girl, penury, needs and exploitation. A sensitively told story of an aspect of our corporate society we need to feel ashamed off.

Also, Crossroads by Ahmed Faiyaz, the story which lends its title to the book is easily one of the best you will come across. Depicting love, lust, desires and commitments in a seamless manner, this story essentially themes around the concept of infidelity in urban relationships.

As a last thought, this book is one of those which makes me believe that contemporary Indian fiction has come of age. That said, there still are a lot more avenues to explore and experiment with. Crossroads is one book which has something to connect with everyone of you. 3.5 stars on 5 is what I will award it with.

And yes, the cover is totally gorgeous too. Quite prophetic of the gorgeous content waiting to be unveiled.

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