Penning a short story with ingenuous settings is a Herculean task. The writer has to maintain a proportion in all aspects without any single aspect being given too much space. I have always preferred a short story collection to a novel because I can read the stories in any order. In addition, it has a variety of themes and characters.
My new encounter is ‘Slices of Life’, written by Richa Gupta. Earlier, I had read her novel ‘Skeins’. Broadly speaking, she understands and depicts women in her work. Even in 'Slices of Life', she voices the pain and views of women that we tend to ignore. She delves into the heart of the women she represents in her collection.
The collection includes 12 stories that are average to extensive in length. The first story deals with a common problem faced by urban women: finding an honest maid to do housework. The focus of 'The Young Visitor’ is well divided between Kanika and Kanta. The former belongs to an affluent family but lacks a maid to do routine chores like cleaning and cooking food for all. Somehow, Kanika manages to hire a young woman Kanta, but soon, her infant son becomes problematic for all. In the end, both ladies get into an inextricable mess. It is one of the most powerful stories in the entire collection.
The next story, ‘Future Love Story’, is all about love in a world where technology plays a major role in deciding the fate of people, even the matchmaking being done on the basis of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The collection has different types of stories with different characters and backdrops, thus keeping monotony at bay. It brings out various aspects of women, varying in intensity. For instance, the story ‘Bridal Wear’ is an engaging read about the dilemma of women when they prepare for special occasions like a wedding. I cherish how the author presented the subtle competition among women in physical appearance during a marriage or a ceremony. However, it is a casual story, so is 'Diagnosis'. Otherwise, the other stories are not only informative but also meaningful.
The pace of the stories is a bit slow but after some time they appear to be taking shape. The author introduces us to characters with their idiosyncrasies; and after some time, the reader begins moving with them in their world. From the rich to the poor to migrant labour and slums, the author depicts characters from all sections of the society to weave a wonderful collection.
Richa’s narration and language skills are simply superb. It’s a collection with depth. 4 out of 5!
Next Read: Skeins by Richa Gupta