Book Review: Love Peace & Happiness: What More Can You Want? by Rituraj Verma

 

In the pages of this slick and colorful book lie wonderfully captured the lives of an impressive range of characters. The people in these stories, their life worlds and above all their strikingly individual attempts at finding a way out of crucial existential dilemmas they face is the reason the nine stories in this anthology deserve to be read, appreciated and pondered about.

Firstly, each of Verma’s stories are about a sufficient detailing of the predicament in which the protagonists are situated. Secondly, each story uses the technique of conversation and dialogue quite powerfully. As a result, we meet quite a good number of people from varied socio-economic backgrounds, read about who they are, get to know of what they think and ‘hear’ a lot of their justifications for the decisions and choices that they have made in their lives. Each story is ultimately about a tension that we aim to resolve so very often in our lives that  it begins to  seem unresolvable and hence banal. Verma takes us back to those ‘love marriage versus arranged marriage’ and ‘learning to say No versus learning to compromise and sacrifice’ debates.

These stories do not make a villain out of any of these actors and refrain from offering easy solutions to the deeply philosophical issues they raise. Interestingly, the book offers the readers an innovative option to rewrite the endings of these stories on the author’s website in the event of their dissatisfaction with any of the endings. The episodic nature of some of these stories and the detailed biographical element in others arouse equal amount of interest and one would have to appreciate the comfort and ease with which the author addresses an impressive range of emotional entanglements. Be it the plight of a failed love affair, anxieties and insecurities of a marital discord or the complexities of living in a joint family, Verma addresses them all with a studied  sensitivity.

Two stories that I specially enjoyed reading would be The Practitioner of Austerity and The Soul Mate Theorist.  The former reminded me of Ritwik Ghatak‘s classic Meghe Dhake Tara. Through a glimpse into the tribulations of its protagonist Aparna’s life, the story says a thousand things about the meanings of being a daughter, a woman and a civil servant from the scheduled caste whose life is ultimately nothing but a sacrifice that hardly anyone takes a note of. In what appeared to me to be a modern-day adaptation of the Rajesh Khanna starrer Amar Prem, The Soul Mate Theorist takes us to a bar where two college friends discuss women, love and sex. From the bar we are taken to the apartment of a sex worker where we meet her son. This story is a wonderful take on the static and constraining institutions that marriage and family can actually turn out to be.

The book is written with a specific audience in mind and does falter on its ‘appeal’ quotient. In a few places, the descriptions seem  trite and unnecessary. The reference to the internet pages where background research on the settings of these stories was undertaken could have been avoided. Overall, this is an interesting book- one that ideally can be read on one of those days when the mind is prone to some  retrospection and is willing to pause and take stock of all the puzzles that life has had to offer!

 

32 thoughts on “Book Review: Love Peace & Happiness: What More Can You Want? by Rituraj Verma

  1. It is an excellent review that puts the book under the lens dispassionately, bringing into sharp focus the environment, the characters, their worlds and dilemmas. Possible influences and comparisons have been suitably brought out.

    I don’t particularly care about changing the ends of the stories. It is more the stories than the ends that are material and I would rather write my own story than try to change the frazzled ends of a story penned by others: it implies de facto failure both on the part of the author and the modifier. Great work here, my friend!

  2. Interesting that there are internet references for background setting of the stories! I do not know how short story evolves. But it needs background material and research, this was not apprehended by me.
    Will try reading the book. Have included it in my wish list.
    Thanks.

  3. After reading this, I think, let’s try.
    Otherwise, I hardly read new authors whether in Hindi or in English.
    To go beyond the topic of the post (A very good review, obviously!), can you also suggest some new Indian authors in English worth reading? [I hate Chetan Bhagat and company!]

    1. As far as the ‘new age English authors’ in India wala ‘boom’ is concerned, I am absolutely in the same boat with you. It has only been recently that a few books were sent to me for writing a review and I had a chance to read them and hence can’t really say much about what is happening elsewhere. However I am curious to read some of Pankaj Mishra’s work. His latest “From the Ruins of Empire” has surely made waves. That is the book I am planning to read and review next. May be we can read it together and then discuss?? What say??

    2. Regarding ‘Chetan Bhagat and company’….I have not read enough of that genre myself. However, as a student of social science, I do find that phenomenon very interesting as an object of enquiry so as to be able to understand ‘what is it that has come to constitute the popular’ in our times? I believe that questions of this kind cannot be answered unless one tries to think dispassionately about the work of people like Chetan Bhagat and Himesh Reshammiya, and of Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan! The success of these people is definitely a matter of great curiosity for me! Let me see if it ever becomes possible for me to take that project up!

      1. Do take such a project Sir! We are living in times when people like Kumar Vishwas are hailed as great poets, Aseem Trivedi is the best cartoomist, Sohail Seth is leading the newsroom debates and Chetan Bhagat is the most selling and most read author in any language in India!

  4. I’ve just finished it and loved it! – what a wonderful insight into India and the universal complexities of male-female relationships …

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