Editor: Paritosh Uttam
Publisher: Grey Oak India
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Urban Shots is an anthology of 28 short stories written by 13 writers which talk about different aspects of urban life varying from relationships, love, friendship, angst and longing.
Part 1 - Relationships
(1) "Hope comes in small packages" by Kainaz Motivala of Ragini MMS fame takes an unexpected route to fight depression in marital life and recounts the coming back of care and affection between the couple. (2) "The right thing to do" by Paritosh Uttam (PU) is a short, punchy, no-nonsense story about the justice and equality, sophisticatedly written. (3) "Liberation" by Malathi Jaikumar (MJ) is one of my favourite in the book. It deals with the issue of marital abuse in a non-preachy, humorous way and ironically shows how religious bigotry can sometimes be not such a bad thing to have in your hands. (4) "Notes of Discord" by PU left me a little underwhelmed because even though i don't have a moral right to pass judgement on how to resolve conflicts in marriage, this one reeked of retribution with your better half even though it is of a milder form. (5) "It's a small world" by Ahmed Faiyaz (AF) is a loud, action-packed story but with lot of OTT sensibilities. Things were deliberately allowed to go out of hand, seems each of them wanted to pick a fight for one reason or another. (6) "Replay" by PU is a cute, little story portraying slice of Mumbai life, very relatable and equally poignant. (7) "The biggest problem" by PU is about the vicissitudes of life seen from the point of view of an old man living in a small apartment with little facilities at disposal. Very detailed, humorous and told with lot of panache and craft.
Part 2 - Love
(1) "Morning showers" by Bishwanath Ghosh (BG) is a slow, sensual story about post-coital moments between two married people (not to each other) who finally realise the uncomfortable psyche and their failed attempts at owning up to their actions. (2) "Heartbreakers" by PU is about 'setting up' of two people on a trekking trip by a group of friends. Short, but entertaining and engrossing. (3) "Love...in a fast lane" by AF is an almost perfect way to show how the relationships have devalued in the younger generation without feeling any guilt or inhibitions. (4) "Serendipity" by PU is the best story in the book, about meeting (or not!) of two people with a backdrop of 'Crime and Punishment', a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. (5) "Slow Rain" by Abha Iyengar recounts the tale of a married, bored-to-death housewife who is going through an inner conflict while pondering to attempt an extra-marital affair with a bookshop owner. Extremely engrossing.
Part 3 - Friendship
(1) "Apple Pies and a Grey Sweater" by Prateek Gupta, best story in this section, is about unspoken love between two people who still has lot to offer to each other emotionally, even after being together long enough. (2) "Love-all" by Kunal Dhabalia (KD) is straight out of Karan Johar school of scripting where Dosti hi asli pyaar hain and all that jazz. (3) "Moving on" by AF in its spirit is Dil to Pagal hain - Part 2, period. (4) "The Untouched Guitar" by Sahil khan is a standard college tale of I-loved-when-college-started-i-realised-when-college-is-ending types, you got the drift naa, cool. (5) "Between Friends" by PU, though not in the same league as his other stories in the book, still provide a moment or two of content and fun.
Part 4 - Angst
(1) "Just average" by MJ is a story of a women who has lead an ordinary life, only realising her inner strength when she finally stand up for a wrong doing in front of her. (2) "Stick figures" by Vrinda Baliga (VB) is a sweet little tale of dealing with child and their eccentricities, thereby learning from it. (3) "A cup of Tea" by PU portrays typical gender stereotypes of Indian men and women in their every day lives, though still sticking by to preserve the institution of marriage. (4) "The enlightened one" by Hasmita Chander is a dark, yet endearing portray of dealing with deep ridden guilt and trauma. It has a surreal, spiritualistic feel to it. (5) "Dialects of silence" by VB is the best tale in this section. It tells about the hardships faced by the parents in their love life and is told from the eyes of their child. (6) "The house in Ali Bagh" by Rikkim Khamar is arguably the weakest tale in the book. It tries to be too mystic, too philosophical and too cool all at the same time, ultimately making mess of a decent story.
Part 5 - Longing
(1) "Women in love" by BG can be described in two simple lines - Women in love can talk, talk and talk & no men can ever comprehend those talks. (2) "Effacing memories" by PU turns out to be too simplistic and the emotions are mostly contrived, the weakest story by the writer in this edition. (3) "Trial And error" by Naman Saraiya is best described by the quote at the end of the tale - Love and sex are the two things that make people hang up. (4) "Driving Down the memory lane" by KD is about a couple on a bike trip in one night and the possibilities they explored in their mind about each other. It left me asking for more and with due respect to PU, i think this has been mercilessly edited and could have been a real impact story. (5) "A Mood for love" by PU is a standard Bollywood triangular love story of 2 heroines and 1 hero, period.
I feel the best way to enjoy the book is to read each part in one sitting, arguably enhancing the experience of these short stories. If you try and read the book in one go, the stories towards the end may give you a feeling of emotional repetitiveness. Also, i don't know whether it finally came down to a production/financial issue to limit the number of pages, but the font-size of the book definitely needs to be one point up. The long portions without paragraph break in certain stories may be claustrophobic for some readers, as was the case with me at times. I am going with 3.5/5 for this anthology, Urban Shots. This book definitely deserves a shot!