Saturday, 13 October 2012

Love, Peace and Happiness: What more can you want by Rituraj Verma - Book Review

Publisher's write-up

'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 even 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, haven't you wished that things happened differently 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 don't agree with the ending, visit the website for alternate endings.

If you don't like the way the stories end there either, write your own, and if your ending is selected, see it in the next print run with your name in the acknowledgements.

Hoping to change the word, one story at a time...'

'Love, Peace and Happiness: What more can you want?' is a collection of short stories written by Rituraj Verma. All these short stories are centred around people who are seeking the three aforesaid aspects of life, that is, love, peace and happiness and are having to encounter a set of problems during the course of the journey.

This book has certainly introduced a very new concept; it is easy to ruin any good story with an inappropriate ending. Hence, the author gives you two choices here – if you aren't satisfied with the ending in the book, you can go to his website and read the alternate endings. If you aren't satisfied with that either, you can submit your own, which would appear in the next edition, if approved.

The stories covered the various marriage related issues in its nine stories – a simple arranged marriage owing to parental pressure, inter-caste marriage, live-in relationships, love between people from different religions among others. I also liked the way how, although it is a collection of short stories, the stories aren't independent and most characters appear in more than one story and if not appear, at least mentioned (except for Sneha, a character from the first story, A high, like heaven, or so I believe).

The author also managed to successfully downplay the importance of money as being the panacea to all problems and how the above three things mentioned in the title could not be obtained by these.

From what I could interpret from these stories, the author is to be appreciated for being forward thinking, something that is desperately needed in a country where the majority of people are conservative fundamentalists.

This book would have been better had the characters had also been from different backgrounds – most of them were similar to that of the author himself, that is, they went to India's premier institute (for engineering), IIT and the only story where the setting was totally different was The practitioner of austerity, as story I thoroughly enjoyed. At times, I also felt that the ending was rather abrupt but regarding that, I've been given a choice to change it myself (which I shall not, since I'm a little conventional when it comes to books, retain it as it is).

The main problem with this review is the person who has reviewed the book and in this case, it is I. The author had sent a book review request via e-mail a month ago but I think the author would have decided otherwise had he known a little more about me. My answers to all the questions mentioned by the publisher is unfortunately, 'no'. I'm certainly not meant to be the book's target as I'm still a teenager and I was unable to relate myself to the characters and the issues and could probably understood better by people who are in the age group of 25 and above and because of this limitation of mine, I don't think I'd be able to give a proper rating to this book.

Given the option of reading the alternate endings or submitting your own, I don't think I'd do either of them, I'm willing to accept the book as it is, as aforementioned. However, I felt that all the Hanif – related stories, that is, The intimacy of space, The victim of many loves and The Facebook stalker could have been merged into a single story but I only have a control over the endings and this has its own pros and cons – you needn't have to turn the pages and there'd be a sort of continuity but at the same time, that would change the structure of the novel as such and short stories have their own merits too.

I'd end my review here and readers who came here expecting a very comprehensive review, I'd just have to apologise.

Have a nice day,

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