This debut collection of short stories examines the complexity of human connections in urban India.
The Indian metropolis depicted in these 16 tales is a place of opposing forces. Amid the chaotic swirl of urban life, strangers are thrown together by chance while others are dramatically and surprisingly riven apart. The collection opens with a story titled “Receding Shoreline,” which describes an engineer and his wife awaiting the arrival of a dinner guest at an upscale restaurant. When the guest appears, what was first perceived as an innocuous dinner date suddenly becomes a pivotal moment in the couple’s marriage. The theme of unexpected encounters is pervasive throughout the volume. In the title story, the narrator makes eye contact with a young woman while battling rush-hour traffic in Bangalore. He then seeks out her red compact daily to enjoy a silent exchange. Other tales, such as “No Time for a Joke,” about riding in a Kolkata taxi, and “Everyone Needs Closure,” which features a college student returning home to Bengal, also focus on peculiar meetings but have chilling paranormal twists. Dasgupta introduces an admirable range of characters, from codebreakers to corporate climbers, all of whom have distinct voices and personalities. His attention to detail is epitomized by his tender portrayal of Nayna sitting in rush-hour gridlock in the title story: “Nayna’s hair was tied in a loose bun and carelessly clipped at the back. Unruly locks hung on her nape, and another caressed her cheek….The tail lights from the cars threw a red hue on her and brought a pang of inexplicable warmth in my heart.” The author is skilled at creating such serene moments of intimacy in scenes of chaos as well as equally unanticipated jolts that spring violently from quietude. His book bears the marks of a perceptive writer, although his preoccupation with the machinations of corporate life may not be for everyone, and his prose appears to burn most brightly when evoking the hubbub of Indian traffic and street life. Still, this is a delightfully idiosyncratic portrait of urban India riddled with sophisticated and unpredictable twists.
Masterful Indian tales showcasing slick, expressive writing.