Short stories and Novels are two different realms of literature, and have different takers. Though these are just generalisations, short stories have crisp plots; whereas novels have characters and narratives described in-depth, with plots that are long-winded, most of the times riveting and at times languid. While novels are the 50 over One-day International, short stories are the T20 matches of the literary world, so as to say in cricketing parlance. One such book is “Different Beads of the Same String: A Collection of Short Stories” written by Sujay Malik, which consists of 10 short stories that span a variety of contexts. The storylines range from the mundane to the extraordinary, and move through muddy villages to sprawling cities, and psychological perspectives to stark realities with élan.
Though the characters are drawn from a multitude of settings and find themselves in diverse storylines and distinct plots, their detailing is steeped in verisimilitude. The backdrop of the stories, though forms an intense and important support for the narrative, but it is the characters that marquee with aplomb. For in the story “And Then She Found It Again”, there is Anahita, a girl who is lonely and depressed, and falls in love with an older man. The sprightly transition from a lonely to a happy soul has been described well and speaks much of the author’s vivid imagination. In another story, “The Missing Link”, there is Michelle O’Keefe, a documentary journalist, who ventures into finding the missing son of an old couple. It is in these characters that one finds elements of internal conflicts and external confrontations, and these lead to stories that are a reflection of the lives and times we live in.
The cover of the book shows dots of myriad hues, and connotes the melange of perspectives that the stories provide; and the different colourful beads which have diversified, but are part of the same string portraying delightful well nuanced stories. The author has also shown the human character with all its conditioning, strengths and frailties. Also, he has taken cues from various events and incorporated them well in the narrative, be it the Kargil war or the Bhuj earthquake. One particular story “Feelijus”, that has a quirky name and an equally intriguing storyline, has been very well-written and is the best story in this collection, and can be a contender for various short story awards. The story is a thriller to its core, and is the perfect example of how short stories should be written, with its witty plot, twists and turns, elements of surprise and a cogent and well-meaning narrative.
The book offers a collection of stories that are witty as well as confounding, humorous as well as blunt, effervescent as well as subtle, and gritty as well as finespun. Though the stories are fictional, the realistic element that they bring to the fore is not elusive but fascinating. This is a book that certainly should be read for its adroit and diaphanous narratives and stories that offer an interesting journey set in contemporary Indian society.