Diwali in Muzaffarnagar by Tanuj Solanki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I got my hands on ‘Neon Noon’ (the debut book of Tanuj Solanki) accidentally (the review copy was sent by the publisher), but by the time I completed it (which was within a few hours), all my friends knew (because I told them vociferously) how much I loved the melancholic tale of love, longing & heartbreak.
Needless to say, when I came to know that the author is releasing his second book (which would be a collection of short stories), I knew I had to prebook my copy.
An unknown, unpublished author commits suicide while his friend ponders on the probable reasons behind it. An uncanny friendship between two teenagers which ends up with a feeling of guilt, remorse & regret. A fresh architecture graduate has bitten the ‘wanderlust’ bug, only to realize the realities of much talked about ‘Solo trip’. The title story- ‘Diwali in Muzzafarnagar’ which is a meditation on the lives of ‘small town middle class ambitiousness’, which manifests in multiple ways as the time passes. ‘Reasonable Limits’, which is a single sentence story, spreading across a few pages, nothing but a chaotic ramblings of mind. A girl had been sexually abused during childhood, but when she should try to forget those scars and just ‘let it be’ so that her present life isn’t affected? ‘The Mechanics of Silence’ where the protagonist learns about the ambiguities of life & the unavoidable existential crisis when she watches an old silent movie. A girl in her late twenties finds herself in the middle of corrupt bureaucracy and never ending paperwork, when she suddenly had to return back to her hometown and take the responsibility following the untimely death of her father.
Most of the 7 stories in this book are set up in the small town of Muzzafarnagar in UP (the home town of author himself). While stories such as ‘Diwali in Muzzafarnagar’ and ‘B’s first solo trip’ has distinct undertone & prose strongly reminding of ‘Neon Noon’, other stories such as ‘My Friend Daanish’ are written in extremely simple, straightforward way. What makes this book rich & worth a read that the stories are versatile, their central theme varies so does the prose & plot.
A word of caution- all these stories have already been published in various magazines & journals. So it might be repetitive if you have been following the author’s column.
A short read, nostalgic in most of the stories, while thought provoking in almost all of them.
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