I tend to read chick-lit and short stories as “fillers” between two heavy books. Chick-lit because they’re light and generally feel-good stories. They rarely linger with you too long. Short stories, on the other hand, are always a joy to read. A few pages and the story is done. Perfect for times when you’re feeling kinda restless and not in the frame of mind to read an entire novel. (That happens very rarely around here, but it does happen!) Final Cut by Uday Gupt is a collection of longer than usual short stories.
Each story is entirely Indian, with settings and social structures that are unique to India. The other thing that’s wonderful about the book is that most of the stories, though modern, are firmly rooted in the past.
Hodson’s Gold, for example, is set in modern times, but draws its roots from the Indian Mutiny of 1857; The Last Supper has its roots in the time when the British East India Company was trying to get a foothold into India; and Friends is rooted in the naxalite movement. Buddha Purnima is the only story that’s set entirely in the past, sometime after the fall of the Maurya dynasty.
I loved Will Reena?, the novella included in this collection. It’s a beautiful story of a childhood romance and a young boy’s rise from poverty to success on the basis of his own hard work. The way the story is structured, it’s hard to tell what the question being posed to Reena really is right until the very end – and when you do realize what is being asked of her, you have to go back to re-read pieces of it to see if you can maybe find a clue hidden somewhere in the story now that you know the end. Brilliant!
The writing is very good and there’s quite a variety in the stories being told. What I really enjoyed was the twists in the stories – most often, you never see them coming. Some of the stories have a bit of flab, but that’s a very minor flaw in an otherwise lovely collection. My favourites? Friends, Final Cut, It Happens Only in India, and Will Reena?
All told, it’s a book I’d recommend to lovers of short stories and Indian authors, and to those who are looking to read something different.