I am just wondering what the purists will have to say about this book where the title is in English, the author’s name is written in Hindi… and the 14 short stories inside use English phrases and words almost where any of the urban and rural reader would while communicating in his daily life.
This is why this review reserves a pat for Divya Prakash Dubey or DP and for the sort of innovative thought process that has gone into the conceptualising of this book. DP takes pride in admitting that he is an able marketing manager who is also able to write… and not the other way round. I’d agree with that because the short stories, once you emerge from the euphoria of seeing Hindi and English converge with so much ease, are rather mundane and most of them leave you with a sense of a feeling of inadequacy. We’ll come to this later. But let me just say here that DP has a way with marketing an innovative idea in the world of publishing… and hopefully, will make his stories dive deeper into the subconscious world of human interactions and not just remain content to report incidents.
So the stories do make you feel as if you’re reading a news block in a Hindi daily that has been stuffed with dialogues and made to appear infused with masala. Yes, there will be a lot of readers who will love the titillation that this kind of incursion into creative retelling of incidents give… but then the serious reader will be left groping and with a feeling of something sorely missing. So what is it that is missing? The blurb of the book describes them as ‘13 short stories and a true incident. Whether it is highs and lows of a relationship, chaos and bedlam of school life, petty or harmless office gossips, or the buzz of a salon; all stories are strongly steeped in reality and yet they take a superb flight of fancy in the hands of a master craftsman.’ But then this is what the blurb writer says… and is not entirely wrong. The stories do resemble ‘harmless office gossip’, take you into the heart of the shallowness of school life as we all have felt at one time or the other, ambles into situations of common occurrences… but nearly always stop short of making that crucial incision to lay bare the vital truth that the common man in each of us is in search of. Yes, the author does make us jog with him into the reality that we see around us, rejoice the capture of perfectly sane and valid incidents, but then loses insight.
Yes, what the stories lack is that incisive insight that I searched for even in that story where Savita, the maid, finally gets married to one of the tenants… this and the other stories capture the ripples well but you need to go deeper in search of that elusive vision that transcends a mere incident and transforms it into a masterpiece. Even the story with the title ‘Terms and conditions apply’ is one which glides through incidents but yet makes the characters look unreal. ‘This cannot happen this way…’ is what you think… or ‘The story has a lot of blanks that remain unfilled…’ Well, the feeling that persists is that the author has missed converting a mundane incident into a perceptive truth that would’ve made the story immortal.
This feeling does remain with almost all the stories. There are spots where brilliance shimmers only to get lost in the dense traffic of unedited incident reporting. So the author does need to get over the urge to simply report an incident and tell himself that his job is done. The truth is that once the report of an incident is ready, the job of a perceptive author begins. This is why we say that journalists are nothing but third rate story tellers. The author needs to ask the over-zealous journalist within him to lie low once the reporting is over… and then allow the author to stir some life into it all!
The book is all about ‘this is how we speak’ but the stories need to rise to become ‘this is how I want to think’…
Details of the book:
Title: Terms and conditions apply
Author: Divya Prakash Dubey
Publisher: Hind Yugam
Language: A mix of Hindi and English
Price: Rs 95/- (in 2013/2014)
The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.
07 April 2014
This review was also published in ‘The Education Post’ dated 07 April 2014…