When I saw Winter Evenings by Navtej Sarna up for review on Blogadda, I had no second thoughts about picking it up. A book on short stories is always a welcome change from long drawn novels. In all these years of reading, I've probably read a couple of books solely dedicated to short stories; one was Jeffrey Archer's - thereby hangs a tale and the other was a book by Sudha Murthy called Wise and Otherwise.
What drew me to this book was the premise; the plots described in brief did sound really interesting and intriguing.
The book is a compilation of 19 short stories, which are more like vignettes spread across the world. Each story is unique, it talks about the life of ordinary men and women cut across different segments. Every story has a different emotion attached to it. Guilt, despair, love, greed, loneliness, despondency are all described in detail.
The stories are set in different places; Geneva, Moscow, Shimla, Delhi, Paris and Bombay.
The stories sound very real and practical. Some stories hit you hard, while some of them fail to make an impact.
What stands apart in each of these apart from the author's simple style of writing is the description of different landscapes. If you put your mind to it while reading, you can imagine yourself walking alongside these characters.
Language isn't complicated or fancy. The words are used very sparingly, it gives the reader a chance to interpret what the author is trying to convey. I quite liked the way he's put across his stories. Some stories are conclusive, while others just hang in mid air. I don't know if I was the only one who couldn't come to a conclusion.
Here are a bunch of stories that caught my attention (In the order as published in the book):
Winter Evenings: Story of 2 men from different backgrounds, living in a small town, who are forced to endure each other’s company. They yearn for other people and better experiences; will the onset of summer of change their lives?
Raya: A dying woman calls up a young official with the same name looking for a man whom she met a 50years ago. Will a young officer be able to able to fulfil the wish of a dying woman in Russia?
The superintendent’s Formula: What happens when an honest-to-God superintendent is lured by greed into the world of bureaucracy and bribery.
Madam Kitty: A man appoints an old lady as a nurse to take care of his ailing mother. He
initially finds her a little off the track, what happens when he unravels her true identity.
A Death in Winter: Story of a Grandson revelling in his grandmother’s strength and tells us a story of a woman who survived the partition, of the scars which never healed and of the event that haunted her until it eventually took her away.
Delhi: Story of a young couple entwined in the vicious cycle of money brings happiness.
Masterpiece: Story of a painter who reminisces about finding paints during wartime. A widow offers him, paints left behind by her husband. In the end, she hands over a box of expensive paint, which had been set aside by her husband to paint his masterpiece. Will the painter paint his masterpiece with it?
Brute: A young official is head over heels in love with a young woman. He pursues her till the very end, but she isn’t ready to tie the knot yet. He gifts a German Shepherd pup as a parting gift. The dog grows to be wildly possessive of her, never letting another man come into her life. What happens when the lady falls in head over heels in love?
Rumki: Story of trainee spent in a distant village, who gains the respect of everybody in the town. He sets his eyes on a beautiful girl named Rumki, he wants to do his bit for the betterment of her future. Will he succeed?
Barrier Beach: A heart-broken man on a vacation trying to get over his heartbreak meets a woman who intrigues him. But what happens when she confesses that she is an elegant escort, a high-class prostitute.
On the whole, the book was definitely enjoyable. Some stories could have been a little crisper. I would have also loved a little bit of conclusion in each of these stories.
Do read it if you like reading vignettes and short stories.
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