20 September, 2012

#BookReview :: Love, Peace and Happiness: What more can you want? by Rituraj Verma

Stories surround us. Stories about people like us who make difficult and often complex choices that sometimes astound us. You must have come across some people in your own life who closely resemble the characters in these stories. Maybe you have gone through trying moments in your life too. For instance, have you ever been bugged enough with your partner to want to leave? Have you ever had to choose between love and money? Have you ever had to compete with your partner? Have you ever felt that your family weighs you down when it comes to choosing your partner? At times like these, havent you wished that things happened differently and that you could change how they ended? Now you will control how the stories in this book end.

Each story centres on the life of an urban middle class character caught in a set of circumstances beyond his or her control. A Hindu girl living in with a Muslim boy is suddenly in the glare of global media in a reality TV show, a divorced cynical man faces the prospect of committing himself to a prostitute, a highly talented small town girl must choose between life and death. All must resolve the conflicts within their beliefs. Read the way the stories end in the book, but if you dont agree with the ending, visit the website riturajverma.com for alternate endings. If you dont like the way the stories end there either, write your own, and if your ending is selected, see it in print in the next print run with your name in the acknowledgements. Hoping to change the world, one story at a time

This book is a collection of short stories that deal with the trials and tribulations faced by people of this century. It deals with the lifestyle and ideals that the modern Indians choose to live by. The focus is mostly on the relationships that are thriving or breaking up around us as a result of these choices. Nine short stories dealing with different relationships with few characters interconnecting each other.

First things first and for me characters always take the center stage as it is their life and their story that is played out through the stories. Each story had a strong character that dominated the story. They need not be the physical strength or the most vocal person in the story – yet they left their mark. For instance, Sneha & Shweta seemed to be dominated by their partners in the story – yet at the end it was them who made their presence felt through their ‘absence’. There were a few characters who managed to appear in each other’s stories. However, overall I felt that it was women in the stories who through their strength, gave the stories their shape and for that I must congratulate the author. It couldn’t have been easy for Mr.Rituraj Verma to have written a woman’s perspective on a relationship in the most natural way. He has certainly hit a bull’s eye in most cases where, I as a woman felt that I would have probably thought and reacted in the same way as the characters. 

Now, let me get the ‘not so good part’ out of the way. I received an ARC copy which had a few mistakes in form of missing words. It is nothing major. If you are one of those readers who read a sentence as a whole at a glance instead of reading it word by word, then you will probably miss them. The other thing that annoyed me more was the typical Indian fixation of IIT/IIM education and Sex. Apparently, the only way to give ‘weightage’ to a character in an Indian story is to give them an IIT/IIM certificate. And, what can I say about the fixation on sex. I have actually reduced reading modern & young Indian literature exactly because of this reason. Every other book talks about female body statistics, their bra sizes, illicit relationship, extra marital affairs… Really, is that all we care about? If this is today’s reality then I think I’d rather remain a spinster locked up in my room with a bunch of dogs (could say the old cat crazy lady – only I am not that old or that cat crazy!) than go out and interact with any such maniac!

Well, my rant is over. So, if you ignore the sex and the sexual innuendos, the stories also offer different angles on the many pursuits of human species – Love (yes, the emotion), Happiness and Peace. At the end of the day, we all look for these three in our lives. How we perceive it and approach is as different as the individuality in each and every one of us. They stories also cover the many aspects of our society – such as the caste system, the religious barriers, corruption, social pressure and general indifference of people. They still exist in this twenty-first century and the author has handled the topics as a matter of fact, which resulted in shifting some focus on such issues. Yes, once you look into stories, they have such depth in it that if you catch on to it, you will surely spare sometime to wonder.

Now, what struck me the most is the idea of alternate endings. As is the case with short stories, readers are often left wondering – what happens next or what would have happened if… But in this case, if you do not like the ending of a story, you can visit the author’s website for alternate endings. And if you are still not satisfied – well, write your ending and submit it on the said website. This serves the book with two purpose. First, I think the idea of alternate endings are perfect for readers like me who like to ‘wonder’ about a story way after it is over. Secondly, I also think that this is a brilliant marketing plan as well. 

About the Author
Rituraj Verma, born 28th June, 1967, is currently working as a freelance retail real estate consultant. He grew up in Delhi and Mumbai and cleared the IIT-JEE in 1984, in which year, he was also selected as a Special Class Railway Apprentice by the Indian Railways. His wife Smriti works for the Indian Railways and he has a son Arjun, aged 17, and a daughter Aradhana, aged 15. He was the editor of his college magazine, SAM, when he first started writing the book’s first story ‘A High Like Heaven’ almost twenty three years ago.

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