Thursday, 9 June 2016

Book Review: Kismetwali and Other Stories by Reetika Khanna Nijhawan


Book: Kismetwali and Other Stories

Author: Reetika Khanna Nijhawan

Pages: 300

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Set against the backdrop of modern-day India, Kismetwali and Other Stories places the reader amidst circumstances that transcend place, purse and prestige. This octet of novellas offers a rare glimpse into the parallel lives of the privileged and penniless, converging on those astonishing moments when free will intercepts fate and the rigid divide between social classes is rendered insignificant. Each narrative showcases walas and walis of the working class - the common yet essential purveyors of goods and providers of service - as empowered individuals who take centre stage.

The shavewala, a humble barber, becomes an intimate collaborator in a love story that spans the seven seas; the malishwali, a long-serving masseuse, conceals her mistress’s shocking secret while offering a gift of revelation to another; the kismetwali, a clairvoyant of unremarkable pedigree, solicits cosmic benefaction for her affluent clients. These socially eclipsed characters are the true protagonists in every story.
General Thoughts: I was drawn to this book for months and months. I spotted it at Om Book Store and the vivid cover always drew me in. But for some silly reason I didn't pick it up. Boy! I am so glad I finally made the smart decision to get this delightful book. I loved it!

Things I Liked:

1. The writing was really good. Like, really, really good!!! I went in with no real expectations and was really impressed with the writing.

2. The people in these stories are lovely to read about. The people on the fringes of our lives, the ones we depend on but don't often think about. I loved seeing their world and their lives and seeing how they live and think. It made for very interesting reading.

3. I liked pretty much every single story in this collection. A sometimes rare feat for a short story collection to accomplish.

4. Several main characters in this collection, pop up in other stories as well. I liked this a lot. It was like getting a little more time with characters you enjoyed reading about. A little happy bonus if you will. This also meant a more fleshed out story and more depth in characters and plot.

5. The lengths of these stories varied too, and in my books this is a good thing be. Some were a little longer and while other were short and sweet and delightful.

6. Some of the stories had neat little twists in the tale--- a feature I enjoy immensely in story telling.

7. Apart from the various walas and walis in the stories, there are also characters from the other side..meaning people from the middle and upper classes. So you get to see both sides of the story and see the classes juxtaposed against each other.

8. I loved the humanity in these stories. Loved the acts of kindness and the generosity of these characters. And seeing that you don't have to have money and wealth to be a generous or large hearted person.

9. I loved how intrinsically Indian these stories are and how relatable they all were.

10. There are so many different sort of people we come across in these stories and from such varied walks of life--- a taxi driver, an air-hostess, a South Bombay rich girl, a defiant and disappointed daughter, a masseuse and so many more. There wasn't a dull moment in this read.

Rating: 4.5/5

I loved this book and I highly, highly recommend it.


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