WRITING STYLE: 4/5
“Then we saw the value of speaking face-to-face, in a city that hardly spoke. We cherished our little time. Our conversations grew deeper. We set them free. And returning home felt less shackling.”– Ameya Bondre, Afsaane
Having read two amazing short story collections last month – City of Screams compiled by the best-selling author Neil D’Silva, and Bijnis Woman written by the famous Bollywood director Tanuja Chandra, I had hoped to up my game this month as well. Luckily, I struck gold with author AmeyaBondre’s debut collection “Afsaane”.
The book is an assorted collection of 11 short stories that touch your heart and relate to you in the most extraordinary of ways. Read on to know more about my thoughts on the book and how was my experience of reading it.
I always make it a point to read the introduction, author’s note, or preface at the beginning of the book, and I must say this because it is true – after a long time, I have come across a book whose preface was really good. I’ve seen most authors brush it off as a mere formality, but not Mr. Bondre.
That preface was so interesting to read and it gave me many more reasons to dig into the book. It was like a sneak peek into the soul of the writer, and I loved what I saw. From the Hemingway quote to the writing workshop, from the title of the cover to the conversations that stay with us, I felt that the author was talking to me directly – and I simply loved that!
What to expect?
Expect a book that makes use of a beautiful language. Expect a book that narrates extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Expect a book that is a treasure trove of simple and beautiful stories that will speak to your heart. Expect a book that is a collection of 11 short stories on vastly different themes. Finally, expect a book that makes you ponder and reflect on the journey that is life.
Who can read?
“Afsaane” is written in a language that can be read by beginners, but I believe it is regular readers who would most likely appreciate the subtle beauty of Ameya’s words and the esoteric meanings that many of them carry.
The stories and their themes
The characters and the stories are such that they will be relatable to most readers. The stories will especially appeal to urban couples, married with children or without, city dwellers, dreamers and strugglers, and lovers and friends. The themes are in sync too – from death to divorce, from hope to heartbreak, from struggle to ambition, and from addiction to loneliness – these themes speak to the modern Indian reader in more ways than one.
My personal favorites
Though all the stories are beautiful, there are two that especially manage to stand out – Trapped and A Healthy Home.
Trapped because it is a story about a very relevant and urgent issue – addiction. Also, because it is told from the perspective of drugs. Yes, you read it right – drugs! This is so unique that I spent almost half an hour marveling at the sheer beauty of it.
A Healthy Home because it shows us ground realities of an underprivileged Dalit mother who battles poverty, patriarchy, and tradition to make sure that her child has a healthy life.
I love the fact that the author makes you work hard to understand the stories, the context, the characters, and their perspectives. He doesn’t spoon feed it to you. Instead, he teases you, lures you word by word, sentence by sentence. The first page of every story is always a tease, offering very little. You will always find yourself going back to read a page here and a paragraph there, just to make sure that you got it all right.
What amazes the reader in me is just how deep the author’s understanding of the full spectrum of human emotions is. Whether it is a poor Dalit mother trying to make the best of her circumstances or the new and confused father of an adopted baby, the author manages to nail each perspective.
What did I like?
Ameya is a muser and that is quite visible from his writing. Some of the stories contrast personal relationships and everyday situations with the most unusual things and when you sit back and try to reflect, you realize the sheer beauty of it.
For example, in a story about divorce, the couple filing for divorce takes a ride through the forest, and I just love the way he likens a relationship to teak trees and tea farms. How teak trees stand tall and proud, basking in the glory of the sunlight that caresses their being, but they stand apart, isolated from their kind, commanding their own space, but not quite belonging. In contrast, the tea plants are crowded, but they patiently wait for their share of light, they adapt and stand wisely, never swaying, but basking in collective glory.
This is just a single example of the beauty of Ameya’s words and his reflections. The reader in me always took a step back after each story, to reflect upon the story and its hidden meanings. To put it succinctly, each story is a lesson in philosophy.
Another aspect that I highly appreciate is the cover of the book. Never before I have seen a cover that is so reflective of the stories that it contains. Each item that finds its place on the cover is connected to a story. The sheer ingenuity of it doesn’t fail to impress me.
What could have been better?
Though there is something to take away from every single story, I did not like how the writing and the words overpower some of them. The story is almost as important as the writing, but in some cases that is not the case to be. The effort is more on narration than on the plot, and as such, some of the stories seem a little lackluster from a pure entertainment point of view.
Is the book entertaining?
That depends on who is reading the book and with what kind of expectations. For me, the book offers a lot, but not entertainment. The storylines needed a little more work in terms of providing a hook, offering twists, and keeping the reader invested in the lives of the characters. Throughout the book, I expected beautiful writing and I got it, but what I didn’t get was an interesting storyline that will stay with me long after I am done reading the book.
In the end
In the end, “Afsaane” is a collection of short stories that are relatable in their themes and remarkable in their depth. It is a book that attempts to anchor our generation down with its esoteric lessons and its philosophical musings. It is a book that manages to speak more and tell less; a read that is both profound and deep.
The final verdict
Should be read.
Pick the book if
- You are looking for short story collections to read.
- You love poetic writing and philosophical musings.
- You love stories that make you ponder and reflect.
- You enjoy books that narrate extraordinary tales of the most ordinary people.
- You enjoy books that relate to young Indian readers – married couples, young urban professional, dreamers, aspirers and many others.
Skip the book if
- You are looking for stories that are fast-paced and adventurous.
- You are looking for a 5-star read.
- You don’t enjoy writing that is too descriptive and overwhelming.
- You don’t enjoy writing that overpowers the story that is being told.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of “Afsaane” using the link below.