Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Don't Lose The Tender Touch

Don't lose the tender touch,
My friend.

I know life is unfair
I know you've known despair.
Life hurts and haunts and
Kills your joy
It messes and snatches
Your favorite toy
But like a stringent parent
It only means to teach
Lessons in love and truth
In bliss beyond our reach
You have it in you
It'll always remain
Don't lose the tender touch, 
My friend.

I remember the day
When you'd relentlessly pray
That when you woke up
Your love had come back
You opened your eyes up to pain
Reality seemed like a devilish trap
Not trap, 'twas but a test
With no wrong or right.
Go ahead, don't fear
Win the test of life
Love flows through you
It has no end
Don't lose the tender touch
My friend

Each failure, each step taken wrong
Is His attempt, in making us strong
Remove the facade
Let love touch you
The world is waiting
Kiss the brightest hue
I know a door has closed forever
But don't you hear the knocks on others?
Flash your brightest smile, 
Wear your heart on your sleeve
It won't break, don't fear
To many out there, you're precious and dear
Feel, and breathe and
Preserve the essence
And never ever lose the tender touch, 
My friend.

To all those who feel life has been unfair, this is my plea. Stop for a second, and count your blessings. You will never know how fortunate you are till you see another one survives on less than half of what you have been bestowed with. Gandhiji's Talisman has a relevance in our world. Consider yourself fortunate if you can touch someone's life and make him smile. Extend the horizon's of your life to accommodate those many people who love you, who want to be loved by you. Flash your warmest smile to them, and give them an unexpected hug, a careful kiss. Make them believe you'll be there even if you fear otherwise. Don't cage all that love inside you. Let it flow around, let it touch lives. If you've been hurt, you would know how feels. Being hurt should empower you for protecting someone else from hurt, for applying balm an someone else's wounds. Live and love. Its only one life which we all get, dear friend.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Friday, March 23, 2012

Love's Song Is Love

I did not just leap into your arms,
I leapt into a life anew.
You banished darkness with your charms,
But smiles I met were meek and few.
 I knew you'd save me from all harm,
My share of bliss, nevertheless, stands due.

I'm no one to give you chances,
You're none to give me pain.
Love's song is love,
Not a melody for loss or gain.

You think you can read my mind,
I still have a story to say.
Your love has been precious and kind,
In a unique, incomprehensible way.
I feel lost even when I rewind,
Why? May be you'll know someday!

I'm no one to give you chances,
You won't find my tears in rain.
Love's song is love,
Not a melody of unspoken pain.

Holding your hand was a brave risk,
It beckoned disbelief to my door.
You were perfect and pure and majestic,
But tell me, was I an eye-sore?
You built our home brick by brick,
I lent it soul- Did you ignore?

I'm no one to give you chances,
You're none to cage my soul.
Love's song is love,
Not a melody of broken hopes.

A girl's heart likes to follow,
Please lead, but don't walk ahead.
Her voice is soft and mellow,
Try hearing what can't be said.
Care, caress, pamper and let her know,
Make love with words, not just on bed.
Under your shadow, she seeks to glow,
Save her feelings from an imminent death.

I'm no one to give you chances,
You're none to shun me away.
Love's song is love,
Not a melody gone astray.

Sunday, March 18, 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)

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Record! By GOD Himself

Chasing milestones

I do not know if India will win this contest. Quite honestly, I do not even need to know. All that lingers in my imagination right now is the smiling and content face of Sachin Tendulkar giving his first post 100th century interview to Ramiz Raja and saying something remarkably simple and remarkably true.

"Chase your dreams."

The Master Blaster, who now is aptly dubbed the Azeem-o-Shaan Shehenshah of the Cricket Cosmos, is a national inspiration- least to say. And the only thing he had to share with a nation of a billion people who prayed for this moment fervently was simple aphorism. Chase your dreams. Simply because, dreams are meant to be chased. Remembering with humility his long wait of 22 years to hold in his hands the first World Cup India could call its own, Sachin delivered a gazillion sixes right to the heart of his frenzied worshipers. Here is a living legend, who said he had a dream, but also had the indispensable patience, perseverance, diligence and dedication to go after those dreams till the moment they came true. And come true, they did. A nervous, praying, fast breathing world was witness to it. I've lived the moment, I wish to cement it in my memory forever.

A friend of mine is walking down to Ugrasen Ki Baoli, not particularly in a mood to celebrate, since this ton came against Bangladesh, who until recently were tagged cricketing minnows. The skeptics, as always, are around, digging reasons as to why today should not be Sachin's day, or more simply- Sachin Day. The fanatics are out too, relaunching with fervour their campaign to demand Bharat Ratna for Sachin. What do I think? I only think of that man, that greatness personified, and the kind of thoughts that will be flashing through his head. I placated my friend by quoting a tweet- "Worry not, Pakistan ko 101 ka shagun de denge", but honestly, who cares! It was important that this ton come against a nation like Bangladesh, because for all reasons one might find to belittle the very God of Cricket, one must not forget it is his very first ODI century against Bangladesh. Before reaching his 100th hundred, Sachin also glided past another milestone, that of maximum number of fours in ODIs. The Little Master has now struck 2000 fours in one days, trailing behind him is Jayasuria, with only 1500 to his name.

All these jazzy facts are but only a few entries into the whole record book that Sachin has gifted us with. The fact that he still maintains his composure with grace and amiability only goes onto add sheen to his accepted greatness. What happened today is no mean feat. A record par excellence it shall forever remain. When I saw his picture in yesterday's tabloids with his iconic mop of curly hair styled out into a suave new tuft of straightened hair, the man, as said the fashion experts, looked a whole five years younger. To the self proclaimed Cricket Gurus, today he proved that not just in his looks, but also in his strength and skill in cricket, he is a young-brave-heart. The Master feels as if a load of 50 kilos has been lifted off his shoulders. In a nation's eyes, he flies high. He does not need anyone's approval, or decorations. He was, is and shall remain The God Of Cricket. Today, as a nation we party. And why not, the Cricketing God himself has united us.

(Written with emotions gushing inside me. That is what his greatness can do to you)

Mellifluous Recollections

These days, my mind does not find much space for allowing imagination to undertake flights unto boundless horizons. The reason behind that is piling pressure of studies, accompanying which is the diabolical stress of performing. So, while my imaginations stand crippled, what my mind does indulge in are activities which help it stay calm and rooted. Very frequently, in order to derive calm from chaos, I find my mind ricocheting back when it hits stressful visions of future to a carefree and peaceful past.

Today morning, the first thing I observed myself doing was humming a tune. I could not identify it at once, but this tune has been an important and fond part of my past. I might have been in 4th or 5th standard when I had heard my music teacher singing the most amazingly melodious ghazal. I could understand the verbal meaning of the ghazal, but not the depths of that meaning then. I do distinctly remember resolving secretly to learn the same ghazal and sing it at least as good as, if not better than my music teacher. My diffidence did not allow me to ask him to teach me. My vocal cords had betrayed me roughly half a week back, when I had politely been informed that I should not try and get into the school choir. That I not only got into it but led it for my remaining years in school is an altogether different story.

This post, specifically, is for me to recollect the magical effect that ghazal casts. So well did I remember each note of the way it was sung, that even without having any recording, that ghazal stayed by with me for long. I did not try singing it till many years later, and if I were to judge myself, I guess its magic lay close to the first time I had heard it. More magical now was that I understood perfectly the beauty, gravity and depth which the poet sought to convey when he uttered these lines "Lagta nahi hai dil mera is ujade dayaar mein, kiski bani hai aalam-e-na payedaar mein"

In his last days
 Most of shayari aficionados would instantly recognize these lines as perhaps the most famous and significant of what escaped the quill of India's last Mughal Emperor- Bahadur Shah 'Zafar'. He was not known to be the ablest or bravest Emperor, but he did build a reputation for being a prolific shayar. 'Zafar', meaning victory, was his takhallus, or what we know better as, nom-de-plume. Zafar was sent to exile in Rangoon after the uprising of 1857, in which, a disorganized band of rebels had marched towards Delhi and proclaimed Zafar to be their sovereign leader. The ghazal that I am referring to was written by Zafar in exile and it poignantly expresses in a graceful language the agony Zafar suffered on account of being sent to an alien place, detached from his own people and homeland. He was later buried near the Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon. In these beautifully sculpted verses, Zafar expresses his dismay over not being able find his final resting place in Hindustan- his home and motherland. Without deliberating further, here are the evocative verses, forming perhaps my most favorite ghazal of all times.

Lagta nahin hai ji mera ujaday dayar mein
Kis ki bani hai aalam-e-na payedar mein

Bulbul ko baghbaan se na sayyad se gila
Qismat main qaid likhi thi fasl-e-bahaar mein

Kehdo in hasrtoon se kahin door ja basein
Itni jaga kahan he dil-e-daghdar mein

Ik shak- e-gul pe beth kar bulbul he shadman
Kante bicha die hain dil-e-lalazaar mein

Umr-e-daraaz mang kar lae the chaar din
Do aarzo main kat gae do intezaar mein

Din zindgi ke khatam hue lo sham ho gai
Paon bichha ke soainge konj-e-mazar mein

Kitna he badnaseeb hai ‘zafar’ dafan ke lie
Do gaz zameen bhi na mili koo-e-aar main

Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Into Dreaminess and Back

It was an evening quite like today. The scent of the wet earth still lingered in the air. Yesterday, rain was the devil. It had in it's power to destroy what was going to be the most memorable day in the life of this bride But today, the rain humbly withdrew from the limelight. Today's star was going to be this girl, sitting pretty with her hand in his', still counting her heartbeats. In those heart beats she was counting time till when she would finally becomes his', when she can  would finally drop carelessly into his arms.

That night, was her night. I was lost somewhere in the grand crowd of eager faces, each of whom smiled for her happiness and comfort. I did too. It was an evening like today. The musty breeze seemed to be my only companion. I had come wishing for her happiness, but in that crowd, I had found myself to be terribly lonely. It was only the bride's face which was familiar. Rest were unpleasantly strange. My imaginations were running amok. Someday, in near, yet distant future, I shall also adorn a pedestal much like her's. To a sprawling acreage of lush greens, I shall also be the shimmering queen.

But for that day, I was lonely. In the unending multitude of heartbreakingly unfamiliar faces, I only had the naughty breeze for company, which also devoted attention to tickling the ribs of small bright lanterns suspended from each tree in the magically illuminated garden. That naughty, musty breeze might have remained my only companion had fate not been in a playful and yielding mood.

Tired searching for a soul warming cup of coffee from the mad array of exotic delicacies competing for attention, I could finally locate a near empty table which seemed friendly enough to accommodate me. I did notice a lone male figure occupying the seat across my own, but that his features would be breathtakingly gorgeous, I had not expected. Had I even meekly expected, I would have stayed away. A dreamy romantic and a hapless single are a lethal combination for a girl who suddenly finds herself in such a titillating zone. Boredom also plays its role in necessitating a leap of heart in thinking "now begin the bright times".

Was I crazy when I shared the first smile? I promise, I did not do it knowingly. His beaming, spotless face evoked a smile in my heart, which promptly ran to my lips. He smiled back. Effortlessly. No, eagerly. This, because, as I later realized, he was my male counterpart at feeling lonely in the deluge of people. Like me, he knew no one else. Like me, he had no company. Like me, may be he too needed someone like me. Yes!

The conversation began with pleasantries. It moved onto polite inquiries.  Name. Occupation. Weather. Food. Ambiance. The bride. The groom. The match. Back to occupation. And then, inevitably, life. Why I said inevitably? Because a part of me told me it would. He had small eyes, hidden behind rimless glasses, which became smaller when he smiled. He never stopped smiling. Consequently, my once sombre face too, did not stop smiling. Worries about reaching home early dissipated into the cold air as I concentrated on how dapper his black suit over a black shirt looked. Did I say dapper? Casually graceful would be more like it.

I am not a shy talker. I must've been talking a lot. I might have said something which made him remark- "You know, sometimes, its just fair that we count our blessings. Those lines of worry which crease your face will disappear in a nano second then." I did not know why he said this, but that is when I kind of came back to senses. What seemed titillating till now was seeming genuinely nice and warm. There was something about his happy countenance; he made me want to smile. It sounds mad, but it also made me want to show my sadness, for he seemed like someone who could still make me smile. There was an enormous amount of positivity radiating from him. What most soothed a nervous girl's heart most was that he was not being kind to me. He prized my chance company as much as I did his'. And this I know, because he was not interested to even look up when bride and groom readied themselves to command attention from each pair of eyes as they exchange the garlands of sacred flowers. He would have much rather continued the conversation, but I did not want to miss one of my favorite rituals from a traditional Hindu wedding.

I stood there, watching them lovingly garland each other. I loved the clandestine glances stolen. I loved the delirious applause filling my ears. I loved seeing her turn red as he claimed her hand back into his. I loved all this, and yet, I wanted to get back to that one conversation which I knew would ease me through the dreariness awaiting with open arms at home. Somewhere, in the middle of that celebratory commotion, I was commanded to head to the gate. My car awaited me. It was late. And I am a girl. A nervous tingle on my spine saw me running to the gate after saying a quick and polite bye. Nervous. I did not think of it earlier, but how many people had seen me laugh and joke and talk with this virtually strange guy in this crowded, yet lonesome place?

On my way back home, I felt silly for feeling all that I did. Sweet silly. I felt grossly silly for not knowing why I did not exchange numbers with him. We had clicked decently well, it would not even have been awkward. No regrets, facebook is the great savior of today. All I need to know about anyone to permanently invite him into my life is his name. I knew his'.

At night, a night like today, with chill pricking at my bare arms, as I sat with facebook friend finder open in front of me, I decided against 'finding' him. He was the perfect stranger. Straight out of books and poems I had read and fantasized about. He will only remain the perfect stranger if I abandon my pursuit. Meeting new people, good people, people who survive only as fond memory, is a dreamy concept in retrospect. I like the dreaminess of it  I closed that chapter there. Now I only revisit the pages when the blur in my memory turns inviting.

PS-Few days back, he 'added' me. I cursed facebook for interfering with my dreams from the past. Did I add him too? Well, I still am a nervous romantic and a hapless single. Should I?

Tuesday, March 6, 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.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Three To Tango!

Three amazing accolades have been showered on my blog in the past few days. Today's post is dedicated to not people around me, but to Nascent Emissions itself- for being my one constant companion, my voice, my outlet, my part-identity, my memory bank, and much else! Here are three reasons for me and my blog to party!

#1 Blog Showcase at Indian Top Blogs
Indian Top Blogs, an Indian Blog Directory, recently reviewed and showcased Nascent Emissions among their chosen and recommended blogs. Needless to explain the reason behind my happiness!

#2 Second Versatile Blogger Award
D. Nambiar, a not-so-docile female, who claims her purrs change into roars the moment she is taken lightly, conferred on me the much prided upon Versatile Blogger Award. This is my second such award, and as special as the first one. Since I have done a similar tag earlier, I will not get into following the procedure, except for Rule #1, which mandates that I thank the blogger who sent this award my way. So, dear D. Nambiar, heartfelt gratitude to you for considering me worthy enough. You are a fine blogger yourself, and so I attach much value to the feedback you leave for me. Hope I live up to the expectations this tag brings with itself. Love!

#3 The Liebster Blog Award
And this, most recent one comes my way from a blogger who identifies himself as Destiny's Child. I am more of a writer, and I kind of suck when it comes to following other blogs religiously, but his' is one blog I try and catch up on whenever I get time. As is customary, I would first like to thank Mr. Destiny's Child for bestowing on me such an honor. If I have been able to find out correctly, 'Liebster' is a German word which translates as 'beloved' or 'sweetheart'. Given that meaning, I feel this tag is extremely special. For those who still have not, I will recommend you visit Destiny's Child for some very nice reads.

I am not going to nominate five blogs publicly, because the blogs I hold very dear are all published by veteran bloggers I draw inspiration from and look up to. These are few writers who review my writings regularly, again, not publicly, and help me evolve and improve as I move ahead. I am silently going to dedicate this tag to all of them. When they read it, they will know its them.

I'm very happy for being able to reach out to you all. A writer, I reiterate, is nothing sans his readers. I hope you all will keep dropping by to find something here which clicks, which touches you. Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


If you are incapable of tears, you will become incapable of laughter. A man of laughter is also a man of tears- then a man is balanced. They both go together. And out of this togetherness of polarities a balanced being is formed.

I have with me a screen shot of my success from about half a year ago. I also have with me a screen shot of a success my name does not feature in. In other words, I have with me a screen shot of my failure. A moment back, I was looking at them together, hoping for some divine vision to alight upon me. None did. I shut both the screen shots, and started laughing. The last I checked, that laughter was genuine.

Three days ago, I was crying. What could have been one of the most important days of my life had turned out badly. I was not able to shine in the one exam I pinned my future hopes on. Cry, I did. In fact, I wailed. But that, I was supposed to. I did not cry because I felt depressed. I cried because a castle that could be had just gone poof. And I could do nothing now to make it real. 

There is only an extent till which we can try; and try we must. With honest and diligent efforts behind me, the tears did not last for long. In fact, some sudden alacrity filled me. Now that this one door had closed, that too not forever, I had with me the opportunity to explore numerous others. Also, I could sense in me an urge to undertake shorter trips on hitherto avoided destinations which my dreams are made of. Stronger resolve, greater hunger. And a smile of my face. 

I always feared failure. I think I feared the ignominy associated with it. I also feared assimilating myself and standing up all over again. The same is now giving me a reason to look ahead with brightness. As one of my friends said, " I am glad you did not peak so soon." I, too, am glad I did not. With no major disappointments in my arsenal, I felt if I was equipped enough to be by my own in the world out there. Continued success makes people risk averse, so quoted Namita Bhandare in yesterday's HT. Even when I was not looking, answers were coming my way.

The tears have now lived their life. The smile and excitement are increasingly becoming subdued. The resolve to turn it around for myself is maturing steadily. Now is not the end. Now is the time to begin.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Love Collection (Urban Shots) - A Review

Love is sacred, yet to many lost and caught in this web of society, it remains forbidden. Love is universal, yet to most who devote all their senses to its pursuit, it remains elusive. Love is ethereal, yet it is defeated more often than not by considerations real and pragmatic. Love is love, yet in this one word lies a myriad of emotions ranging from happiness to anger to jealousy to possessiveness to sorrow to calmness. Love, as we see and feel it around ourselves today is simple and complex at the same time. The variegated hues of this simple-and-complex phenomenon and its diverse manifestations- some lovely, others ugly- is what is explored in another brilliant anthology published as a continuation of the Urban Shots series. This offering of short stories is aptly named- The Love Collection.

The above paragraph surmises with flair the moods, thoughts and emotions I underwent while reading the stories picked up by editor Sneh Thakur to be published in this compendium. Compiling 31 stories by as much as 27 different authors must have been a daunting task for Thakur (who quite adorably refers to herself as 'pint size Rapunzel'- a description I cannot quite get over), given that 'love' is an emotion all of us like to talk/write about. It serves perhaps as the first motivation for nascent writers to put pen to paper. Not guided by a uniformity of writing style, guided solely by a common emotion running through the 30 odd stories- the book could have faltered on many aspects- the most important being monotony or stereotyping. Love is not always dreamy. It is not always like a bollywood movie. And much as we would like to argue, in real life, it is not always depressive and unyielding. This book does well to explore the many shades, including the greys, of love and compile them in neatly. Each story stands out on its own. I could not compare or hold any two similar in the essence they portrayed. For this, the editor and the various authors deserve a proud pat on the their back.

Having stated in clear terms that I loved this book, two or three stories left me sorely disappointed. May be because they did not appeal to the dreamy lover in me, may be because I hate to associate depressiveness (almost clinical) with love. Very rarely does it happen that I leave a whole book unfinished; much too rare is the case with short stories. In this book, while there were stories which I devoted time to rereading, there were some I did not feel like finishing. That said, I would still strongly recommend this book to readers of contemporary Indian fiction. The stories contained in this book are stories about characters whom we meet in real life, characters we identify with, characters we hope we would meet someday and characters we thought existed only in stories. Exploring diverse backgrounds, wading through different emotional topographies, these stories are perfect to discover and understand and even amuse oneself with varying facets of love. While in some stories this emotion dominates, in others its subtle; in yet others it chooses to lurk around the periphery.

Importantly, reading for quite sometime titles under the Urban Shots series, I have come to realize that short stories are the perfect, breezy metro reads that can fit into demanding schedules of the day. You can leave anywhere, pick up anywhere, and still not feel lost. If the book lover inside you feels suppressed unwantonly because of compulsions of material world, The Love Collection might be a good place to start at. 3 stars on 5 it is for me. My quintet from this collection-

1. Making Out by Hina Siddiqui
The Editor's pick, and appropriately so. The title explains much, and hides much for what this story might be about.
2.Strangers by Ahmed Faiyaz
Begins normally, ends eerily. One of Ahmed's best short stories I have read.
3. Twisted by Lipi Mehta
You thought it was simple, but actually it was not. Exploring a different side of love.
4. The Jhalmuri Seller by Bhabhani Shankar Kar
The simplicity touched me. Simple, but beautiful and a little more than just a tale of nascent love.
5. Reality Bytes by Anitha Murthy
Will touch you, I guarantee. This was one of those I reread.

and I would also mention one which does not leave my mind, for it was one of the only which pandered beautifully to the romantic within me- A Girl Can Dream by Ayesha Khanna.

Once again, a very satisfying read. 

(Reviewed on request from Grey Oak-Westland)