Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Happy Birthday! by Meghna Pant

On the jacket:

Happy Birthday! (Random House, India) is a beautifully written, compelling and emotionally intelligent collection of short stories by award-winning novelist Meghna Pant. These finely nuanced stories provide a rare glimpse into the complex and mysterious inner lives of human beings.

A dedicated friend undertakes one last labour of love for a childless woman. Nadia - married into money - finds herself facing uncomfortable truths about her comfortably numb marriage. A Mumbai slum-girl dreams of speaking words valuable enough to be translated into English. An American tourist seeking nirvana sets off a sudden chain of events when his bag is stolen, and destiny plays her hand. A retired civil servant of modest means struggles to support his snooty foreign-returned daughter.

Meghna Pant’s knife - sharp stories are compelling, emotionally intelligent and provide a rare glimpse into the strange workings of the human heart. They evade neat categorization and
are the perfect read for all curious spirits.

"These are stories with a large heart and a keen eye, deeply aware of the complex, sometimes uncomfortable realities of India, its many layers. Meghna Pant knows how to create characters that will surprise and move you." 
– Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni 

"Deft, merciless and expertly-tuned parables for the new Indian century."
– Jeet Thayil


Anyone who has been reading my blog over the time knows, I adore short stories and believe anyone who can write good short stories, is truly a good author. I haven't read Pant before, but I am glad I finally did. What a plethora of short stories!

The Gola Master, Hoopsters, Happy Birthday!, The Gecko on the Wall, Friends, Lemon and Chilli, The Message, Clip and Cane, The Bailout, Shoulder Blades, Aster Ashes, Dented and Painted Women, and Shaitan - I read one story a day. I could have finished the book in a day but right after I read the first story, I knew this book has some strong, retrospective, stories. I read one a day, so that I could soak in the plot for the rest of the day. Simple plots from our everyday life, yet not too simple; we know these events happen in our lives and around us, but they are not so obvious. It's those apparent, but not so obvious events that happen in and around our lives, that Pant has picked and weaved tales around. And, brilliantly so.

A beautiful book, and not just the cover; every story in Happy Birthday!  will leave you thinking. Very difficult to pick a favourite, but I think The Gecko On The Wall touched a raw nerve in me, somewhere - reminding me again, how much we take our parents for granted, and how far they can go, just to keep us happy. But then, every story will touch a raw nerve; different ones.

Rating: ****.5/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.] 

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