“The aristocratic and fashionably slim lady at the door of an elite ground-floor apartment looked warily at the twenty-six-year-old before her…….” with this opening sentence in the first chapter – ‘The young visitor’; the author Richa Gupta opens our heart to varied characters most of whom we see around us.

Each story describes people from different walks of life – from a young love-worn Kevin of the future to Parul, a housewife with free-thinking ideas in a stifled, conservative family, from a guilt-ridden Alex to secretly jealous Cynthia – each character stands out in the environment it is placed in.

Each story is beautifully crafted with contrasting characters like Kanika and Kanta from different socio-economic backgrounds, Tiya and Bijoy with different levels of commitments and Rakhi and Mamta varying in their sense of loyalty and age.

Through each of the stories, she takes you to different lifestyles – like the drawing rooms of people in upscale Delhi to conference halls of corporate offices to the one-room tenements in the slums of Delhi or Kolkata.

Reading this book is going to a colourful village fair without missing the confines of our home and hearth.

Ms. Gupta’s stories are not about the protagonists alone, it is about the masters and mistresses for whom the protagonist works that adds beauty to the stories.

The decisions taken by the women protagonists – like Tiya in the story titled ‘Watershed’, Namita in the story ‘Diagnosis’ and Inaya in the story ‘The Choice’ are wonderful – not pathbreaking or revolutionary but very simple and practical decisions that are life-changing.

Richa, with her lucid writing style, also touches on the impact of adult decisions on young, impressionable minds – like the young Aban, not able to comprehend infidelity or the youngest child in the family – Bunty wanting a happy ending for the poverty-ridden story of Moira or willingness of Kyra to relocate with her mother.

The stories in this book are neither preachy nor do they force you, as readers to make value- judgments.

You get to visit the rational and logical thoughts floating through Anay’s mind, minutes before she decides to take her life, you get to understand that she is emotionally weak and you get to compare it with the mind of her husband Alex, who is confused and guilt-ridden but emotionally stronger.

You get to appreciate Ravi – the strong and supportive spouse of Bhanu – who speaks volumes with his deafening silence and who expresses deep love for her with his minimal conversation and concern.

You get to appreciate the conscience-ridden parents – Mamta and Ravi in the story ‘Theft’ who find a practical way to get their daughter to accept reality.

Richa takes you to different points in people’s lives and she leaves you there as an invisible being to observe the characters in the household – you witness the mundane chores in Parul’s household, the dull life of Jamila and the life in steel, cold corporate offices with measured amounts of warmth and love.

Some stories have suspense woven into them; the last chapter ‘Knots’ is not to be missed and stories where things are left to your imagination – like how did Kevin’s application to cohabit gets approved in one city and not in another; or how did Parul support her daughter in her dreams?

The characters are wonderfully sketched especially, Bhanu for resilience, Alex for dealing with his inferiority complex, Ashok Nigam for his secret love affairs – a few that remain in your memory long after the book is read.

All the characters you meet in this book have depth and all the stories have a proper closure. I would certainly recommend you to get in and get out of the relatable yet surreal ‘slices of life’ of different people.

Happy reading!

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