Urban Shots - A book review

With the magic of Kahani in the air, the powerful film directed by Sujoy Ghosh, a story set in Kolkata was exactly what I wanted to read. But I did not know that I will find ‘For convenience’s sake’ – most of which happens in the ever-inviting Flury’s – in this book that I was picking up to read. Well there it was and it was a delight to read. The story is filled with hard-hitting lines like “Perhaps you find it soothing for your ego when people point at you and say. ‘That’s Prashant, he could have gone to the U.S., but he did not because he wanted to stay here.’……..‘Since you opt for a materially less comfortable life, you feel morally justified in all your thoughts and actions'.” Paritosh Uttam, has written a sharp small piece that hangs in the air long after you move on to the next story. I looked up his previous book titled ‘Dreams in Prussian Blue’, published by Penguin and it looked like another promising work.

Well, you must be wondering what is this book that I supposedly ‘picked up to read’. Let me tell you. Edited by Sneh Thakur, Urban Shots is a collection of 31 love stories by 27 authors. Inside, you will find familiar names like Naman Saraiya, Ira Trivedi and Malathi Jaikumar; and alongside you will find lots of stimulating new voices. Take Varsha Suman, for example. She has penned this racy story called ’32 B’. Like you, I instantly thought what the author wanted me to think. But no, this was not a bra size, but rather a flat number. Though hardcore chic-lit-y (what I love to call the Kinsella school of humor), Varsha kept me rolling in laughter throughout. I could not quite figure who the poor guy was, landing at our girl’s doorstep in the middle of nothing, laboriously playing the knight in shining armor and then chucked out in the morning along with her puffs of smoke; but I didn’t really care. Varsha interested me with whatever I needed to know to, à la Sophie. Not surprisingly, ‘32B’ was the Tossed Salad pick from the shortlisted stories in the Landmark Grey Oak Urban Stories competition!

I enjoyed Kailash Srinivasan’s ‘High Time’ because of the dialogues primarily. Take a boy trying to make sense of his life, put together a mom ready to emotionally blackmail swearing to die if he disobeys, a father wielding his principles like a sword, an aunt who loves faariners and an obnoxious who epitomizes the ABCD variety – and you have all ingredients of a fun tea-time read. And like I said, the dialogues! Natural, funny and effortless, for me they were the star of this story. Interestingly, ‘High Time’ was the Bookchums pick from the shortlisted stories in the same Landmark Grey Oak competition. I also loved ‘Closure’ by Rajni Gupta and ‘Pause, Rewind, Play’ by Shoma Narayanan. Quirky and well written, both kept me guessing till the end.

The book overall is quite a good mix of short stories. The strength lies in its ability to offer a striking snapshot of urban life and the various slices of emotions packed here and there. Though I have to admit, some stories were too slow or non-consequential for me, dragging and slowing the overall pace of the book. But again, perhaps the reason was that I had just finished a massive Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky – yes, the Russian genius, the writer of iconic novels, brilliant short stories and incomparable essays – and that too nothing other than arguable his best and best known, ‘Crime and Punishment’.

If Urban Shots still kept a book-worm like me engrossed, I consider it time well spent :)

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