Sunday, June 8, 2014

12 Strokes of Life - Book Review

12 Strokes of Life
By Durgesh Shastri
Review By Ila Garg

The anthology comprising of 12 remarkably beautiful short stories, 12 Strokes of Life, by Durgesh Shastri has been published by Gargi Publishers. All the twelve stories are well written and deal with the various different themes, all knit with the thread of Life as we know it.

Let’s start with the cover. One word – Attractive! :D Well, yes the cover of the anthology, 12 Strokes of Life, is interesting, and not a mess. It has got appraisals from many readers and reviewers. The man moving ahead through the desert is alone, what can be a better definition of Life? We are moving through an invisible desert too and yes we are completely alone in this journey!

The blurb reads as, ‘12 strokes of life is a collection of 12 short stories. From the hilly terrains of Matheran to the IT hub of the country, from the historically rich city of Bidar to one of the fastest growing cities of India, Coimbatore, these stories are set in varied locations. From an overconfident youth longing for success to a determined old man termed insane by neighbours, from a married lady in search of true love to a young girl fighting against all odds to overcome her worst fears, the characters are very much alive and can be related to people around us. 

The stories belong to different genres and try to send across a message to the reader which is though everyone paints a unique picture of life based on their experiences; it never stops to amaze us. After all, life has infinite strokes. Read the 12 strokes of life to know the hues and shades of the journey of a few.

Durgesh Shastri is currently working as an Assistant Professor in GND Engineering College, Bidar. His many short stories and poems that are published online have received critical acclaim from some of the finest writers of the country. He is a voracious reader.

Next, let’s talk about the 12 well-knit stories one by one. As I personally feel that without talking about each story individually, the review wouldn’t be complete and it wouldn’t be a justified review of this anthology.  

1. THE ANONYMOUS DONOR: This is a story of Kanha Agarwal and his wife Radha. The ending leaves the readers in awe mostly because of the suspense that is built up. The language is simple, engrossing, clearly a perfect story to start the anthology with. Quoting from the story, “The name Shiva appeared in their daily routine several times. She considered lovemaking a divine act, which put him off too. He considered sex to be a pleasure and wanted it to be wild.

2. A GRAVE MISTAKE: This story is mind boggling. A very common place subject, is tackled much intelligently, adding few elements of drama. The language is equally light, comprehensible, though engaging, and it takes you along with its characters. How Kunal shares a bond with his boss Saketh and how it becomes a grave mistake for one of them. Quoting from the story, “First three years had even earned him the best employee tag. Several girls at the work place and his locality were after him; his dynamic looks impressed them the most.

3. THE CAREFREE BUTTERFLIES: This story moves around the friendship of Suhasini and Charulata. How destiny changes their lives and how it affects both of them is well narrated in this story. This makes me feel sorry and inspires me to stay careful under all circumstances. Quoting from the story, “Someone was following her! Initially, she had ignored the dreadful thought. But, with each step forward, the dreadful feeling only grew stronger. She was already late from work that night. On getting down from the city bus, she walked straight for five minutes then took a right and a sudden left.”

4. DEEPAK’S SUPERSTITIONS: This story is essentially about the superstitions had Deepak had a firm belief in until things took a turn. I liked the way the story began. It is a nice read, with comical elements. It’s enough to tickle your bones and leave you with a smile in the end. Quoting from the story, “Never go for shave or haircut on Thursdays, Saturdays, & Sundays. This particular thought echoed in my mind. I looked at the calendar again for the 3rd time and reaffirmed that it was a Thursday indeed, and dropped the idea of a haircut.”

5. LAZY SUNDAY: Nice story, targeting at the reality shows that are soon gaining prominence in today’s fast paced world. The story moves around Cyrus and the Srivastavas, a family who was his Sunday companion. I liked the concept of the story and the ease with which it is delivered for the readers. It manages to make you chuckle at times too. Quoting from the story, “India’s got huge talent’ the talent hunt show’s auditions had begun. An 80 year old man was singing the famous ‘Kolaveri Kolaveri di’ in a shaky voice, dancing, and exhibiting his talent. He was accompanied by an old lady.”

6. THE LOST LADY: This left me in utter shock, especially its climax. A story that will appeal to all readers and will leave you asking for more. A lady that turned the whole office upside down, surely a story not to be missed! The language is interesting and flow is maintained. Quoting from the story, “I instructed the old lady to wait in the lounge and not to create any scene until my return. She ordered me to return in the next 30 minutes. There was a huge clock hanging on the wall. She sat there staring at it.

7. SWEET REVENGE: I was tongue - tied and out rightly appalled as I continued reading this one. I felt really ashamed of the society in which we are living these days. Highly sensitive story line! Brutal reality of our society has been brought to the fore by this story – Poor exploited by the Rich. I had goose bumps by the time I reached the end, though at the climax we see the things taking a turn and that will leave you with an evil grin. Quoting from one of the letters in the story, “It was dark, starless night. I sensed an unusual calmness in the surroundings. How would he take revenge? How painful it would be to receive a powerful hit on the head using a beer bottle? Will I be alive after that?

8. COMMUNICATION DISASTERS: This is the story of Sumit, a 23 year old unemployed engineer and his struggles to get a job. A nice and crisp story overall. Quoting from the story, “Seven months had passed without any success. The number of unsuccessful aspirants in our group was now reduced to twelve. All of them had an aggregate percentage of 55 or less. Many others who got a job had lesser aggregate than me.”

9. A MAGIC LOST: A tale moving around how a man overcame his shortcomings. It also made me a little sad. And perhaps the element of realism is its USP. A decent read. Quoting from the story, “The wind is always a crucial factor during kite flying. It was always available in the desired direction and in optimum levels, thus taking the kites to greater heights. Though I was always proud of my kites flying high in the sky, I doubted if that would be possible without the necessary support from one of the five vital elements of life.

10. ROMANCE IN MATHERAN: One of the best stories. It makes you emotional, and somehow you wish you could change it. Staying true to its title, it’s a blend of love and sufferings and utter devotion to the lover! The ending will leave you in tears. Quoting from the story, “Those words drained her excitement. She was on the verge of breakdown but controlled herself vastly. She promised herself that the day was not meant to be spoilt. She wouldn’t ruin his mood by shedding tears of pain, for she knew that the day would never come back in their life again.”

11. THE UNANSWERED QUESTION: A thrilling tale, moves at a comfortable pace and lets the readers feel every word. It makes you laugh and wonder at the same time. A roller coaster of emotions ranging from suspense to eagerness to reach the climax. Quoting from the story, “A man in his fifties boarded the bus and sat next to me. He was whitish with slightly brownish hair indicating that he dyed them regularly. He wore a white shirt untugged over a dark blue pant. His wrist watch was missing. He wore a grim look and was carrying a suitcase. I greeted him with a smile, but he ignored.”

12. THE UNFULFILLED WISH: A perfect ending for this anthology comes in the form of this story! It was an interesting story and laced with manifolds of emotions. Nice read for sure. Keeps the readers hooked, has ample amount of love, sacrifice, and apt emotions! It redefines the word ‘FOREVER’. Quoting from the story, “She knew that it would be impossible for him to live without her, but she wanted him to live on. She also knew very well that he would have definitely fulfilled her wish.”

Starting with an aptly written foreword by Harshita Srivastava, the book engulfs you within with its stories making you laugh, cry, and sometimes gives you a feel of being a detective while at other times it makes you feel helpless or strengthens your hope too. It takes you along into this journey of Life.

My personal favourites:
  • A Grave Mistake
  • The Carefree Butterflies
  • The Lost Lady
  • Sweet Revenge
  • Romance in Matheran
  • The Unfulfilled Wish 

Overall, it qualifies as a nice anthology especially for the readers who want something fresh to read!

Buy the book here: Homeshop18

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