The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

Book Review: Abhirup Dhar’s ‘Stories Are Magical’

By Sankha Ghosh

Title: Stories Are Magical
Author: Abhirup Dhar
Publisher: Hawakal Publishers, 2018
Page count: 176 pages
Price: INR 350

The summer reads have always been special. From the days when we got to put our hands on the long awaited Chander Pahar or a Charles Dickens during summer holidays after the haughty exam days are over, my mind has developed something similar to Pavlov’s salivation syndrome with respect to the climate and the book-on-offer even after several summers have passed since then. And the offer this year happened to be a cornucopia of short fictions – Stories Are Magical by Abhirup Dhar. In his latest venture, Abhirup takes you through different arrays of emotion and characters with each of his story varying widely in its genre and shade. Throughout the book, you come across perfectly white collars to the crusty sleeves, piety to impiety and an angel to a grievous angel. You have it all.

As he starts the book with a mushy romance set against the backdrop of a beautiful hill station, the immediate next only takes you to something dark and fearful. The first story seems to be from the sets of a Hindi romantic film. Cliché but mint-fresh; old-school but refreshing. The ghost or supernatural are probably the most challenging genre. But with a gripping narrative and a tight plot, the story, “Once Upon A Ghost,” was a hook enough. But as they say, it’s only love that remains the book trod in the romance once again. But away from the chick-lit genre, there is romance too. There is love in nostalgia. There is love in our past; in our ignorance or, may be in our arrogance. Love exists. And we ride on the highs and lows of all these wistfulness through the story, “A Walk Through Memory Lane.” The story remains lingering in the warm nook of our hearts for long.

Being in Mumbai for a long, I happened to meet some people who aspire to grace the silver screen once with dream in his or her eyes or for that matter I met many who once aspired but their dreams shattered in course of life. As you sit with any one of them for a drink or two in the evenings outside the Mehboob Studio, you get to hear many interesting stories about the rise and fall of yesteryear actors. Some you may know. Others you may not. But it never matters. For tinsel town has never failed to provide that dose of voyeuristic inside-story you would love to hear over a drink after a hectic day of work. “The Reunion” serves you that. Orderly. With that exact dose of drama, rivalry, ego, revenge and love. And, a rags to riches cliché. A potboiler, indeed. But, I never knew the craziest ride is ahead of this in “Two Plans And A Murder.” An ode to the master-duo of the thriller films in India, it’s a perfect tribute to their craft. With twists and turns in every page, the story provides a perfect suspense thriller material. It’s told without any pretentions. Again, the author manages to make the narrative interesting and gripping till the last word of the story. Every page has a revelation to make and every character has a grey shade. This noir is a real treat to read.

But, if there is a reason strong enough to pull you towards the book, it’s “Woof!” Original and captivating, this is a sweet story of a couple much in love, told from a dog’s perspective. Percy here is a clear and reliable narrator. She narrates the journey of an adorable couple with much heart in it. Without going deep in character exploration like Garth Stein or for that matter his inspiration for The Art of Racing in the Rain – the poet laureate Billy Collins’ The Revenant – Percy never gets into a conflict. She remains sweet and warm. She is happy with the protanopia and doesn’t aspire like Garth’s Enzo to move on to the next stage of his evolution as human. She remains happy with her master and his family and being a pet. And, it climaxes romantically in a submerged city on a fateful in the city of dreams. The author has kept the narrative strictly in romance, probably, owing to his grip in the genre. And it never fails in getting the reader hooked. Yet with the narrative inventiveness, introduced nicely in the early pages, it led me to expect a more compelling story with full-grown characters, which somewhat is restricted to being half-baked at times. Like the concluding noir, despite being matured plot-wise, it seems a bit hurried towards the end. Even if it falls in the category of an out-and-out mainstream thriller with a femme-fatale in the main, it required a bit restraint towards the end for a better reader experience in unfurling the plot twists. But in the first story, when the boy and the girl talk holding hands on a bench meeting after a long one-and-a-half decades falling for each other once again at the Sunrise Point of the serene Kasauli, you can hear that violin play at the back. And by the time you read the last line of the story, you know Abhirup has hit a home run. But Percy (the little sweet dog of “Woof!”) should have told us a bit more. As her story heads towards the climactic ending, your heart will long for more. And, that’s where the success of the author lies. And I, in my unconscious, murmur an old but an apt quote of Tagore, “Sesh hoye hoilo na sesh”, meaning an end that ends the story but doesn’t mean “The End!”

Stories Are Magical available here.

Bio:
Sankha Ghosh is a banker by day and writer by night. An avid observer, an alternate thinker (really!!!) and strictly opinionated, he is loathe to discuss himself in the third person. But again, he can be persuaded to do so from time to time.

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Women as the ‘displaced’: The context of South Asia’, edited by Suranjana Choudhury, academic and Nabanita Sengupta, academic, India.

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