Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reviewing Conversations

Conversations are a part of our daily grind - the memorable moments and also the ones we'd rather forget. Some are stimulating, some are mundane. They capture thoughts of the speakers and the silence around them captures the unspoken expressions. One kind word can warm three winter months says a Japanese proverb. At the same time, the wounds by words are deeper than those by swords. It is this magic of words and situations that Rajeev Nanda has beautifully captured in his first fiction book "Conversations". 

The book is a collection of short stories. The setting is always urban and contemporary. The stories span from dreams to truths. It is a book that has benefited from crispy editing. While the first story ‘Splinters’ talks about dreams and how the protagonist has lost track of his own. The next one is still surreal with its conversations with God. There is a struggle with idealism in ‘Soldier’.  ‘The Taxi Ride’ is fiction within fiction while stories thereon have taken a touch of reality. The graduation from lofty heights to earthy depths is brilliantly assembled. Short pieces of poetry strewn amongst the stories add value to the book. At the same time, lines from these poems can be quoted by themselves:
E.g. from ‘I Have’
“I have a lifetime full of joy,
     But, all I need is a moment of ecstasy”.

The poet has penned universal experiences in ‘Darkness’:
“This one idea that was aborted,
Sits in my heart like a lump,
Like a still child in a womb.”

In the last poem, the ‘Misfit’ says:
“I kept quiet to contemplate,
Mirror and the reflection expectantly wait
I turned and walked away;
The mirror and reflection shattered lay.”

Coversations is a book that makes you think what would you have done in the protagonist’s place. It teaches without preaching. It is not a mystery thriller that binds yet it allures the reader with reality, which is a staggering feat to accomplish. The enigma in some of Rajeev Nanda’s stories reminds me of Anton Chekhov’s works - The questions hanging in the air after a story has ended. 

While the setting is urban, it is also very contemporary. Some of the stories are also based in the U.S. Rajeev has shown struggles within families when issues like adultery and extra-marital affairs arise. While the issues are not new, he has changed the angles. Whether his characters are fence sitters or on either sides of the line – there remains an element of unease and introspection. Incidentally, there is a poem called ‘Introspection’ :
“If I never talk to myself,
      Whom can I expect to speak to me?
If I fail to own myself,
      Whom can I expect to take charge of me?” 

In his stories, there is death but not grief. There is depression but not sorrow. There is envy but not jealousy. To experience these, read the book.
About the book:
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd
Price: India: 195              Elsewhere: US $14
ISBN: 978-93-81115-12-1
About the author:
Rajeev Nanda completed his graduation (B.Sc) in general sciences from D.A.V College in Jallandhar, Punjab (India) in 1984. He did post-graduate diploma in Computer Science and other professional certification courses in software & technology from various institutes in New Delhi while working for a startup.
After spending more than 10+ years in the US, he relocated to Bangalore to help Intel setup their IT group in India. His professional expertise lies in strategy, technology and management leadership.  More on his professional experience can be found on:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/rajeevnanda
He started writing at the age of 10. In his college years, he picked up controversial subjects, like atheism, to write for the college magazine. He published his first book (e-verything.com: How to map out a viable e-strategy) in 2001. His fiction writing was a private affair until 2005 when he uploaded sample stories on American Book Publishers’ (ABP) web-site. The editorial board of ABP extended the contract in Sep 2005 which resulted in the book ‘Conversations’ in 2009.

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