Book Review::Urban Shots-Crossroads

Disclaimer (of sorts):
“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination”–Albert Einstein
There is a certain distinction between reviewingand criticizing and I’m not a big fan of the latter- simply because, the work of artists is an expression of their thoughts (What!!!?????).
I prefer to just sit back and enjoy their works and understand a whole new world from their perspective. The blurb of this book- “Crossroads”, promises a good read and I hope it is what it claims to be (Oh Man!! You are trying to be a saint????  No criticizing and stuff!!!! :-p…..)
P.S: I’ve rated the stories based on my liking for different genres. It’s purely based on the feel that each story gave on reading it. (Phew!! So, you are @least rating it!! I hope it’s not 5/5 for all of ’em!!! )
Some are very appealing to your taste, some others, moderately, and some, um,well, let’s not be very explicit and expressive about that, shall we??
On this note, we’ll begin our journey to the Crossroads????!!!???!!!

1) Everyone has a story (Gayatri Hingorani)
 “Yet, hers was a different story” (sic)
An intriguing tale that revolves around the life of Minu bai and her “memsahibs”, it brings out a subtle message of how each person has story, distinct in itself, and how in spite of the differences in the situations, everybody has to deal with the challenges that life presents before them.
 The emotions of a daughter-in-law, Komal, caught in the midst of family politics; the ultra-modern Priya; the anxious parents Mrs and Mr. Soneji , living away from their high-flying son; all have been well knitted along with the life of a poverty stricken and old conventional Meena Tukaram Tirade (a.k.a Minu Bai) . This story is worth a read for its simplicity and the relevance to reality.
Rating:: 3/5
2) Hako (Chandrima Pal)
There are some stories which retain their air of enigma long after you are done reading them. This story is one such. It leaves you with a feeling of emptiness and yet, it is complete.
Hako  (can we safely assume a Japanese connection?? J), a young boy and a creative story teller with a murky family background, disappears one fine day!!
What happened to his family? Why did he leave??
The questions remain unanswered except for the rumors which blame his father for his untoward ways. But, when Hako leaves, he leaves behind something precious for a friend in his vintage house……
A succinctly woven tale, it leaves an impact and speaks for itself….
Rating:: 3/5


3) Priorities (Written for Deepalaya)
“Service to mankind is service to God!”-well known adage
Aptly titled, this story comes with a hard hitting message.
How often do we think of the “Have-not’s”?? (As much as I regret to use this term, people belonging to this ilk do exist, sadly)
How often do we extend our kindness to the ones in dire need of succor?Are priorities confined to our families? Can’t it be extended to the needy?
This story triggers a volley of such rhetoric questions.
It revolves around a student who feels helpless at his inability to return the kindness of his maid who had taken great care of him during his illness. It also reflects the tendencies of people and their obsession with self with no regard for humanity.
It makes you reflect on the mentality of the society; it makes you think…
A well-intended Grey-Oak initiative!!
Rating:: 4/5


4) Getting off a Virar fast at Borivali (Vinod George Joseph)
“Try Karo, try karo,”three or four voices said in rapid succession.

“Try Karo, try karo,”the men around me chanted (sic)


The “title” is essentially the crux of the story. The author has given a very vivid description of his anxiety-filled transit from Churchgate to Borivali and how he succeeded in the herculean task of alighting from the train, maneuvering through the sudorific crowd.
Rating:: 2.5/5
5) The Crow’s Feast (Sanchari Sur)
A simple story.DOT.
This tale has been spun through the eyes of a kid with a childish craving for “ghee smeared rotis” prepared to welcome a holy man. It only ends with the kid deprived of his share at the behest of a Crow!!!!!!!!!!
6) Song Of The Summer Bird (Anita Satyajit)
A young girl with an ardor for books, frequents the library (where her dad works) and strikes a rapport with the watchman, there. Is her tryst with the old man, the song?? I could not relate the title to the story, but, nevertheless, it is well told.
Rating:: 2/5

7) The Power Cut (Maryann Taylor)

**I’m tempted to highlight words from this story which remind me so much of my school days when the “Surprise test” used to be a hot topic of discussion. I’ve often wondered as to how a test could be a “surprise” especially when the students knew well in advance about it:-P 😉 **

A boy wakes up to a power-cut in the morning and, after a daylong of activities, goes back to bed, under similar conditions (absence of electricity). Interspersed with incidents such as the squabble between his parents which results in his mother leaving the house, the math (surprise test), solo time in the terrace etc. this story is all about a boy’s day in Delhi when things stray away from normalcy. The boy dreams of a “normal tomorrow” as he dozes off to sleep…….
Rating:: 3/5
8) Mervin (Ahmed Faiyaz)
An eponymous work, this story is about a character, ‘Mervin’, who plays chaperone to a rich kid in order to meet the ends and realize his dream of becoming an artist one day. In the process, he meets and falls in love with a girl; is thrown off his work for petty reasons and ends up realizing his dreams…
Hmm, what else?? J
Rating:: 3/5
9) She Got off Easy (Sanchari Sur)
A woman, that too, a lowly born woman falls in love with someone belonging to a higher echelon of the society; gets pregnant and eventually marries the father of her child, BUT, not without receiving the scorn of the society and at the price of staying away from her parental home, forever. This story reflects the thinking of the society- a woman is a burden and marriage is all about “getting her off”.     

10) The Gap (Saritha Rao)
A woman is strong, but she is stronger with a man beside her. A crisp tale which describes a woman’s insecurities while bringing up her teenaged girl child all on her own, it ends on a beautiful note of bonding between mom and her daughter in the absence of the man of the family and the emotional acknowledgement of the same……
Rating:: 3.5/5
11) Pity (Paritosh Uttam)
Experiences harden a man; disappointments and failures make him a cynic, a pessimist or in a stronger way, a sadist.
A man feels strange emotions at the sight of a happy couple on the beach which he later identifies for “Pity”. He is, but unable to stop himself from associating their “blissful moments” to his own, once upon a time. He is skeptic about their newly found love and mentally prophesies a life of constant trifles.
This is one good read which every man who has been through it can connect to (or so, I think)!!
12) Pasta Lane (Siddhartha Bhaskar)
The loneliness and longing for companionship, forces a bereaved old man to reflect on his life as that to his friends. He concludes that he has been a good man throughout as against his friends who’ve strayed from the path of loyalty into that of infidelity and tempts himself to ways unspoken of for his age.
Brought to guilt by the words of a waiter, he turns back on his way from the “Pasta Lane”.
Poignant tale which brings out the emotions of very nicely J
Rating:: 4/5
13) Mindgames (Manisha Dhingra)
She is a simple girl and he is a cool hunk in the college; destiny brings them together, but, the wife is struck with psychological problems and is haunted by nightmares; he deceives her into meeting a psychiatrist and goes through the elaborate procedure of filling forms……
The tale ends with a twist and it takes you by a surprise.
When possessiveness takes shape in the form of “Mind-games”……
A very nicely written story J
Rating:: 4/5
14) Look How Far we’ve come (Shreya Maheshwari)
“But those differences lurked underneath the veneer of our supposedly post-card perfect life, and in painful ways, broke us apart.” (sic)
The story of a couple (with a kid) who drifted apart in their relationship due to differences that could never be resolved…………
Rating:: 3/5

15) Paradise (Anitha Murthy)

From what I understand of the story, the servants decide to abscond after looting the house where they work. “Falling in love” seems like a part of the plot devised by the driver to get an easy hold of the keys to the treasury.
If you are a person driven by rigid norms and ethics, you might want to question the title: Why ‘Paradise’?? :-p
Rating:: 2.5/5
16) Crossroads (Ahmed Faiyaz)
The author and the editor of this anthology has chosen the title of this work for the book.
So, you expect something special out of this story.
Infidelity driven by lust seems to be the central theme of this tale which ends on the note of a jealousy driven act. An actress, a writer, a businessman and the complexities in their relationships:: that’s what this story is all about. It may not be the best of the collection, but, it definitely is a good read J
Rating:: 3/5
17) Virtual Reality (Vrinda Balinga)
The internet is a necessary evil. What happens when you fall a prey to its evil clutches, unwittingly?
Caught off guard by a visitor who claims to be the brother of her daughter’s friend, Simi is struck with doubts of his claims. Snooping through her daughter’s computer, she realizes that  her daughter has, but been a victim of a sinister pervert who exploited her innocence to his advantage.
The story ends with the mother feeling anxiety at the thought of her daughter’s security and comfort at seeing her safe for the moment.
“Virtual Reality” is a story well portrayed.
Rating:: 3/5
18) Footsteps in the Dark (Mini Menon)
Alice, a girl from a very humble background, deprived of her parents almost ends up a minion (with benefits) to a big-shot, only to be rescued by a social organization run by his wife.
Well described emotions J
Rating:: 3.5/5
19) Gautam Gargoyle (Shailaditya Chakraborty)
The ugly Gautam Gargoyle; the well qualified Malini and the relationship that they share….
A tale with a twist…..
The complex emotion of “love” expressed with a difference. 🙂
Rating:: 4/5

20) Baba Premanand’s Yoga Class (Paritosh Uttam)
Wrongly accused of making lewd gestures at a woman, a doctor finds himself ostracized from the society, all in the blink of an eye. Having lost his customers along with his reputation, he lives a life of a tainted doctor until the day when the accuser redeems his lost esteem by apologizing for her misunderstanding and even going to the extent of entrusting him with the responsibility of delivering her child.
A story, well told.
Rating:: 4/5

21) Wrong Strokes (For Deepalaya)
Given the fact that this story is intended to pay a tribute to soldiers who protect the nation at the cost of threats to their own lives, it falls a little short of making an impact that is expected. The story is about a big-shot cricketer who is unable to make it to the funeral of his friend and soldier who was responsible for his success. The story is well written, except that the focus is a little astray from that on the soldier. The only point where you feel the impact is when the “Guilt” of the cricketer is expressed.
Rating:: 2.5/5

22) The Last Week (Venkataraghavan Srinivasan)

Women are a man’s weakness. At some point, his senses are clouded of their sensibilities and a man falls for the trap of extra-marital temptations, but, till what extent does he let that fantasy go?
Ramesh’s last week at work is marked by a woman who lures him with her charms. He almost falls for it, but recovers just in time to get back to his family.  
Rating:: 3.5/5

23) The Pink Slip (Malcolm Carvalho)
Which is tougher? Getting fired or conveying that bad news?
A succinct tale of a project manager, whose job is to fire programmers from work during recession, is faced with a similar predicament towards the end. He resigns himself to the fate. After all, what goes around, comes back, doesn’t it?
Rating:: 3/5

24) Plummet (Avnee Rajesh & Pranav Mukul)
A heart wrenching tale of a child who craves for understanding and love from his parents, who  instead, weigh his abilities on a scale against that of the society’s demands…..

Deprived of the attention, he decides to end his life.
I’ve read a lot of stories on similar lines and this one is yet another, in this genre.
Rating:: 3/5

25) Tainted Love (Rohan Swamy)
The story of Chanda- a prostitute who lives with optimism…..
Though well narrated, you get the feeling that you’ve read this story somewhere.
Maybe, it’s because of books like “Memoirs of a geisha” which have dealt elaborately in genres such as this, the story falls a little short of making the deep impact that it could.
Rating:: 3/5

26) Hunch (Karthik K)
Mumbai::Local Train::Suicide Bombing
The author has adopted a “back-and-forth” narration style, vacillating between 2 incidents, keeping the reader glued to the pages until the very end. The denouement, where the scenes merge to one fits the plot quite beautifully without hiccups. While the story might be based on trodden lines, the distinct story-telling style makes this one good tea-time read.
Rating:: 3/5

27) Rajasthan Summers (Ayesha Heble)
Call it hallucination or illusion or phantasmagoria or just simply apparition; when you do experience it, the feeling is that of eeriness.
Delayed train in a remote village forces the protagonist to take shelter in a hotel and en route, he experiences the incidents of a night that happened exactly 1 year ago: the marriage procession from Jalandhar, the hotel receptionist who directs him to another hotel and the realization of reality the next day that the incidents were, but, ghostly figments of a tragic past.
Rating:: 3.5/5

28) Childish Love (Reeti Gadekar)
For reasons that I’m not able to articulate, I was never able to bring myself to finish this story. The story seemed haphazardly written. Maybe, this might appeal to some, but, I had trouble reading this one.
I might pick up this story some day and finish it, but, that day is not today.
 Rating:: *to be rated*

29) Jump,Didi (Sharath Komarraju)
A girl counts her steps to the terrace and deliberates on her relationships; her unconditional love; her friend who has a life of her own; a moment of insanity….
Rating:: 2/5
30) Categories (Rohini Kejriwal)
“Because it feels good to know that there is someone else who falls in the same category as you, whom you can, therefore relate to” (sic)
The author has given ample explanations including an introduction and conclusions of sorts, giving the reader a very clear picture of what she intends to convey. This is a well-articulated narration of “love” that blossoms between a girl and a younger boy and how it ends between them.
I would rather call this one a story woven in the form of an essay J
Rating:: 3/5

In a crux:
This book is a collection of simple stories: each one different from the other.
Except for a few stories, it is almost possible for a voracious reader/ a movie watcher to guess the end. The plots may not be original and the stories might be based on existing lines, but, due credit has to be given to all the authors for narrating their tales in a style that can be defined only as their “own”.
If you are looking to while away an hour or two: This book is a good option to resort to J
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4 thoughts on “Book Review::Urban Shots-Crossroads

  1. Sanchari says:

    Hey Swetha,I am so glad you got my story, "She Got Off Easy". A lot of readers didn't, which kind of hurt. But you did! Thank you for the wonderful reviews of both of my stories. Sanchari

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