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About the Book

 

The first in the Urban Shots series, this scintillating collection of contemporary short stories by authors from diverse backgrounds offers a glimpse into the fast-paced and complex urban world we occupy. Each story captures a slice of the urban landscape and lucidly explores themes such as relationships, friendship, domestic violence and longing—all set against the backdrop of the glitz and chaos of modern-day living.
‘Apple Pies and a Grey Sweater’ reveals the power of true love; ‘A Cup of Tea’ pokes gentle fun at a middle-class couple’s lacklustre marriage; and the grim ‘Liberation’ showcases the courage of a woman to break free and tread a new path.
Edited by bestselling author Paritosh Uttam, Urban Shots: First Collection is a heart-tugging experience in love, regret, acceptance, hope and freedom, among other things.

 

 

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About the Editor

Paritosh Uttam

Paritosh Uttam, is a writer and a software engineer. He is the author of Dreams in Prussian Blue, and the editor of Urban Shots and Urban Shots Bright Lights.

About the Authors

Edited by Paritosh Uttam, bestselling author of Dreams in Prussian Blue, also the contributing author of 10 stories in this collection, the collection includes diverse voices and writing styles. It includes stories by Bishwanath Ghosh, bestselling author of Chai Chai, Ahmed Faiyaz, bestselling author of Love, Life & All That Jazz…, along with accomplished writers - Abha Iyengar, Hasmita Chander, Malathi Jaikumar and Vrinda Baliga. It includes stories by Rikin Khamar, Debutant Author of The Lotus Queen, Kainaz Motivala, Bollywood Actor ofWake Up Sid fame, popular bloggers - Naman Saraiya, Sahil Khan, Kunal Dhabalia and Prateek Gupta.

Excerpt from Urban Shots

SERENDIPITY

By Paritosh Uttam 

Leather-backed Crime and Punishment slips from drowsy fingers, strikes the floor plangently, nudging the sleeper from intermittent slumber into wakefulness. He looks vaguely upwards at the wall and as if in anticipation, the clock answers in twelve metronomic chimes. Surmounting inertia after a brief struggle, he sits up in the four-poster and surveys his surroundings.

Shoes, socks, shirt and underwear embellish the carpet, the last three turned inside out. Dark olive green Budweiser has found its niche amidst the legs of the dining table and the chairs. The uncluttered portion of the table exposes its grimy face shamelessly to the sunbeams the curtains have failed to keep out. Grim resolutions of reprimanding and dismissing the maid-servant gestate within Abhishek.

Self-exhortation succeeds in pushing him into the bathroom where he stands before the mirror coaxing toothpaste out of the tube and finds that his face is in no better condition than the room he has just scrutinised. Dark half-rings support his eyes from below, overgrown moss-like stubble smothers his cheeks and jowl; his hair stand in uprising against the comb, daring it to lay them down again.

Abhishek flinches from the apparition in the mirror, but then boldly accosts him. "You spineless invertebrate," he begins You are twenty-seven, single, have a bank balance of six figures (seven, counting your stock options) and can make yourself look presentable unless you are against deforestation. Surely even you realise that there is something missing in you?"

But the apparition is no pushover; it is ready with its laterally inverted answers. "That bank balance," it responds, "which you throw so disdainfully at my incorporeal face, has come about because I battle deadly traffic from Marathalli to MG Road every morning, and also stay back late nights working to meet impossible deadlines to please my boss. How then, pray tell me, do I find the time to look after myself? Only during weekends can I indulge in pleasures like reading, drinking and watching TV."

It ignores Abhi's cynical chuckles and murmurs of 'excuses' and continues, "Yes, I know what is missing. A girl, woman, female, distaff-that is what is lacking, a feminine presence. There are colleagues in the office, but I don't want to talk Java Beans and Active Server Pages and Object-Oriented Programming concepts, I want to talk about…" he indicates the tome spread-eagled on the carpet, "about Dostoyevsky. I want to wake up in the morning, turn to her supine form beside me, shake her shoulder gently and ask, 'Why do you think Raskolnikov killed the moneylender?'"

"The question why Raskolnikov killed the moneylender," she tells the class, "is to be seen as a specific instance of a larger question-can one kill another for the sake of a principle? But the fundamental question that Dostoyevsky poses here is whether evil means ultimately justify noble ends. What do you think, Ganesh?"

Ganesh has been keeping himself updated with the progress of the India-Australia match with his GPRS-enabled Samsung Corby and would rather have answered a query on Sachin Tendulkar's cricketing statistics. Gently tossing her braid over her shoulder, she glides on however, without expecting an answer. She knows she is not the teacher who galvanizes her students into action, or one who inspires respect, but one who barely passes muster.

She passes muster because she ignores proxy attendance, never flunks students, who in turn do not bother her in the class. It is a give and take of mutual indifference for she knows they are not vying for a B.A. degree in BES College, Jayanagar, out of choice; that most days they spend in computer training classes in the hope of landing a job in one of the thousands of IT companies teeming in the city. Thus, she paces countless steps up and down the aisle until the class ends, in her grey sari that makes her look as uninteresting as the flat tone in which she reads out a passage from Crime and Punishment, which she has chosen as part of the Reading the Novel syllabus.

Predilection for Dostoyevsky and Russian literature wins her the epithet Comrade Protimov in the staff room. It is there she takes her unvarying two chappatis-rice-dal-curd-pickle lunch prepared by maternal hands, because her culinary skills, like the didactical, only pass muster. She prefers not to walk twenty minutes in sun or rain to her house where her mother will pound her continually with well-intentioned homilies on the merits of connubial life.

Piscine odour assails her olfactory senses causing her to wrinkle her nose in disgust, the reaction noticed by her staff room neighbour Mary Verghese, whose lunch box is the source of the offending smell. "Why don't you take non-veg?" she goads Protima.

"Because I think it is a sin to kill animals for one's food," the vehemence in her reply surprises both speaker and listener. But Madam Verghese rallies strongly with what she is convinced is an irrefragable argument. "But don't you kill plants for your food? Are they not living?"

Gamely, Protima attempts to carry on what she knows will end a futile exercise. "The issue here is of conscious and avoidable cruelty, not…" but her opponent's sneer halts her in mid-sentence.

"…not quibbling about what is living and what is non-living," he finishes, pushing his plate away, which fortunately he has emptied, and so doesn't lose his lunch along with his temper. "Fish is nothing but the vegetable of the sea, indeed!"

Nisupta Biswas withers under his fiery gaze. And this is the girl, his colleague, on whom he had decided to bestow affectionate looks, instead of indifferent glances because… because their cubicles are adjacent, they are thrown in together for hours at work, and have lunch at the same table in the cafeteria.