Almost a month go when I received this story book, Down the Road, to write a review of, I thought I’d read it cover to cover within 2-3 days, maximum a week and get the review out. But as it generally happens with story books, it took me a month passing through the mixed bag of the good, the bad, the okay, the innocent and almost every type of story that could be there connected to schools and colleges. And the good part is, that I enjoyed most of the time I gave to the book.
As the cover of the book says, it has twenty eight stories written by sixteen authors. Out of the twenty-eight, eight are written by Ahmed Faiyaz, one of the editors for the book, two each by Ira Trivedi, Paritosh Uttam, Rohini Kejriwal, Sneh Thakur and Malathi Jaikumar, and one each by Aashish Mehrotra, Naman Saraiya, Sahil Khan, Vibha Batra, Ranjani Iyer, Prateek Gupta, Nikhil Rajagopalan, Chinmayi Bali, Abhijit Bhaduri and Kunal Dhabalia.
Among the stories, while some are good, some are not-so-good too. There are short stories and there are long ones too. The first story by Ahmed, Down the Road, is an average one. The story is good and enjoyable as long as it goes but then the end may not be much of an interesting thing for this one. While Ira Trivedi’s rather short Rishi and me is almost opposite and keeps one intrigued about the end. Again, Ahmed writes an intriguing Knockout, a short and simple but very lovely Reason and a short okay one called Welcome to St Gibbs, in the first section ‘Attendance is Compulsory.’ The section also has a touchy Sorroricide showing the ‘other side’ of some people, a likable Smells like Home and two average tales by Naman Saraiya and Sahil Khan, but Ira Trivedi seemed to have an upper hand with her second story The Music Room that is even more touching than her first.
The second section Festivals, Elections, and Placements has a very sweet, innocent and mature The Cafe with No Name and a deep political One and One Eleven among other stories. Ahmed’s Well-Placed tells about the placements on MBA colleges and Setting gives you a picture of filmy as well as real life, and of the difference. No, the story has nothing to do with movies.
Lights Out has Malathi Jaikumar’s well written and interesting The Worm that Turned and a similar looking Dare to Bare, while Chinmayi Bali writes about something very important in a not so subtle manner. Nikhil’s Just a Moment is a nostalgic thing though Rohini Kejriwal’s Learning and Unlearning looks like a heard-many-times story with a little different packaging.
Abhjit Bhaduri’s Strangers in Strange Places gives a good start to Looking Back, and though I found the start a bit confusing the story was likable with the end it had. But the surprise comes as Ahmed’s Time which turns out to be almost beating Abhijit Bhaduri’s start. While the next story, Remember Me looked like a shameless promotion of Ahmed’s novel Another Chance, the next story, An Accidental Start by Kunal Dhabalia turned out to be one of the best stories on the book. I suppose the stories should have ended here as Rohini’s Growing Up looked more like an essay than a story.
Anyway, as far as the two essays at the end are concerned, Sonia Safri’s Fiction on Campus was not so good, and I’d say a bit biased as it has named number of books but not Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone, kind of an impossible thing. The one thing I liked though is that the essay mentions Ruskin Bond and RK Narayan there and names Narayan as the beginner of campus fiction. The other essay, Bollywood on Campus by Aseem Rastogi, though, is a good one even though it starts looking more like a list of movies after some time.
Overall, Down the Road is a mixed bag which has some good stories from some read and heard-of authors, but the best part is, it has some really good stories written by some very new people in the field. I wish luck to them all.