Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: Love, Peace and Happiness by Rituraj Verma

I have written earlier about how I have fallen in love with short stories (all over again) in the past 2 years with the number of short stories that I read every month constantly increasing. So when Rituraj Verma dropped me an email with a request to review his short story collection, I did not have to think twice before replying in a 'Yes'.

The title of his short story collection, 'Love, Peace and Happiness' gave me a 'Chicken Soup of the Soul' kind of feeling. I was expecting mushy emotional stories that would touch the heart and probably bring a tear or at least wet the eyes … (which reminds me that it has been a loooooong time since I read that kind of stuff … need to check if I have any Cecelia Ahern unread at hand)
It is a nice collection overall; with the novel concept of alternate endings available on the internet for readers to get more value out of the book. If the reader is not satisfied by the ending in the book or the web, they can suggest their own.
The only thing I would like Rituraj to change is that he should provide short '' links to the alternate endings on the web. Long URLs are a major turn-off and people don't type long URLs.
Since it is a collection of short stories, even the review of the content gets split across the 9 stories. Some were good, some ok'ish while some did not make any impact on me.
In fact, the very first story, A High like Heaven, did not make any sense to me. I did not like it. It had elements of all 3 – love, peace, happiness – but personified by their absence. It was a story of a marriage where all 3 seemed to be absent. The story was unsatisfactory to read and sets a sad pace and start for the book. I would have expected the best of the 9 stories to be placed up front.
The second story was a very interesting one. I actually liked it. The highlights of the story, The Emotional Cripple, were the conversations the protagonist has before and after his marriage. Before marriage, the conversation is with a friend who 'guides' (or may be misguides) him on the path of 'how to get married'. The second conversation is after his marriage where his mother 'guides' him (properly this time around) on the path of a successful marriage. Overall, the story was well-written but there was a certain amount of erotica in the middle of the story which seemed totally unnecessary.
There is one story, The Intimacy of Space, which has a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy eloping and not getting married. They are in a live-in relationship. They are going through the struggles and troubles of life when an offer of participation of a Bigg Boss like reality show comes their way. This introduces a very interesting cast of characters in the story and the climax is pretty much predictable. This plot had the potential to be a full length novel but the short story ends abruptly and much is left to be desired from the story as well as the author.
The story, The Practitioner of Austerity, is about a girl born in a 'lower caste' family and cursed by her situation where she is the brightest amongst 8 children. The weight of responsibility comes on her shoulder over a period of time; driving way any chance of love or marriage. A marriage proposal brings her to cross-roads of life where choices seem to evade her. Put all this struggle in a socio-political background and it makes a very interesting story to tell; although, once again the climax of the story disappointed me. But then, I guess it was meant to imitate real life which does the same.
The story, The Night of the Affair, about a one night stand 'almost turning' into a love affair is written in a very interesting manner and one feels for the characters involved. The characters who have come together for a one-night-stand with clear understanding of no-future together whatsoever interact emotionally and verbally through the night getting emotionally involved. You identify with their emotions. The story has a very Jeffery Archer style surprise ending. It is beautifully written.
Two friends come together over drinks in a bar and discuss their lives and theories of 'soul mates' in the story "The Soul Mate Theorist". An interesting conversation between the two, with prostitutes walking by their table; distracting one and saying hello to the other. One of them leaves and goes home with a lady while the other goes home without. Both have a short phone call towards the end of the story thanking each other for providing useful 'eye opening' insights into life and relationships.
The story, "The Victim of Many Loves", is about a girl who commits suicide. She has troubles with her relationships and her psychiatrist visit reveals a few strange things to her about her own self. 
A man mourning his lost love for over a long period of time discovers his lost love on Facebook; while also coming in contact with a clairvoyant lady. He has been in physical relationships with other women but never connected emotionally as he felt he had no love to give to anyone else. "The Facebook Stalker" brings out the individuals tryst with himself and his emotions. Strangely, the story did not really have any 'stalking'. 
I won't write anything about the "The Pursuit of Perfection". You have to read all the stories in the book and then read this last one to experience the surprise package the author holds for you.
Having read and written about the stories in the book; its now time to turn to the books so called 'USP' that is the alternative endings on the website. Frankly, I had my expectations up and maybe that was why I was disappointed once again. There was hardly any alternative ending that I liked and I am too lazy to write my own and send it to the author.
Overall, the book is a nice read. It is emotional. You feel for the characters. You identify with them and often find yourselves wondering if it was you in the story.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is open enough to the new ideologies of relationships and is interested in emotional stuff which touches your heart.

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