The short story in English is alive and well and living in India. Several Urban Shots anthologies of short stories have been released here by Grey Oak/Westland in the last two years. This anthology, The Love Collection, edited by Sneh Thakur, is a worthy addition to the collection.
Contrary to what one might initially suspect, this is not escapist romantic fiction. Although the stories deal with love of the romantic type in its many manifestations, this fiction is rooted in harsh reality. It is none the less enjoyable for all that. Each story is comfortably short and can be read during lunch hour or coffee break.
There is a variety of situations to deal with when it comes to love in urban India. The girl in a northern town, debating whether to marry the man she loves instead of the man who could give her an affluent life. The ‘happily’ married man who regularly meets a girlfriend for a quiet date. The earnest young man in a southern city who consults an astrologer regularly to discover God’s plan for his future and believes that he met his wife as a result. And many more. Each situation unique yet somehow familiar. If you live in India, as I do, these characters could be your neighbours and colleagues.
Some stories tug at your heart. One, set in Pune left me particularly moved, as it concerned the bombing at the German Bakery which occurred in the recent past. That was quite apart from the killer twist at the end of the story, which took me completely by surprise.
Since this is an anthology of fiction and not a novel, there’s a veritable choir of writing voices. I particularly enjoyed the work of Ahmed Faiyaz, who happens to have three very distinctive stories here.
I noticed some technical flaws. That poignant story about an ageing couple could have been drastically improved (in my humble opinion) by losing the first one and a half pages. Characters don’t leap off the page when they don’t speak until half way through page two. Readers don’t need to wade through interminable narrative. They learn about the characters by seeing them speak and interact. Another story, in which the main character makes love to a ghost didn’t convince me either. A ghost is a spirit, not flesh and blood and even if paranormal romances are becoming popular, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief to enjoy the story as much as I wanted to. I’d have been convinced had the writer dreamed the lovemaking instead of ‘doing it’. Also, I detest point of view (POV) shifts in short fiction. Having to jump from inside one person’s head to another’s,breaks the flow, for me at least. Thankfully, it occurs in this volume only occasionally.
Stray flaws notwithstanding, I still say this book is paise vasool. An attractive yet discreet volume which can be easily carried around to keep you entertained on the bus, the train and the waiting room. Pick up your copy today or grab it online here.
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