Down The Road- A Review

on Sunday, February 5, 2012

My short sabbatical to an internet free zone was spent with my nose poking deep into the pages of Down The Road- A collection of short stories by various authors about life on campus, edited by Ahmed Faiyaz and Rohini Kejriwal. What I felt about the book shall come later, but I must share with the readers that I was often found by concerned family members sometimes sharing a ridiculously personal smile, at others a worried pensive stare with the pages of the book. It was not merely because the book was handsomely engrossing. It was certainly because the book shared stories which seemed personal. 

Life on campus is a rigmarole for most of us. It, invariably, occupies a very special place in the chest where we preserve our precious memories. Growing up, finding ourselves, making friends, understanding love, learning, unlearning, failing, trying, enjoying, crying- you look back at college and you find yourself enveloped by a dozen emotions you once lived through, the ones which have played an important part in shaping you as you know yourself today. Quite obviously, I had my hoped pinned high on Down The Road, especially because I am fresh out of DU, and still not quite over the feel of campus life.

The book lived up to its name. Quite effortlessly, it took me down the memory lane. It is a fresh and pleasant collection of short stories by young authors from diverse background and with diverse writing styles. It tells simple tales of incidents we've lived through in school or college. Most of the stories which appealed to me dealt with love and friendship- the discovery, the innocence, the misunderstandings, the whole experience in fact. The book is divided into five sections with 28 stories by 16 authors. The individual authors have explored many different facets of campus life including elections, politics, ragging, teachers, passions, lessons, crushes, placements inter alia.A thumbs up to the editors for selection of stories included in this anthology. Some of the stories will make you smile as you remember the hazy face of that first crush, some others might touch you where you are most sensitive and feel some pain or regret. Narrated with an almost personal tenderness, many of these stories make you reflect on those trivialities which seem to acquire meaning only in retrospect.

What I did not enjoy was the last section of the book, with two essays about campus fiction and campus based movies. I was riding high on the nostalgic atmosphere which the stories created around me, and quite honestly, I did not feel like forcing myself through those passages which seemed a little dry after the wonderful and touching stories. I would give the book 3 on 5 stars. It is worth a read, in fact a few stories are worth reading many times over. Some warmth and some nostalgia you are sure to feel while you involuntarily find yourself living your college days.

My favorite five from the stories published in this anthology-

1. Smells Like Home by Aashish Mehotra
About the reluctant return to his homeland of an NRI student, who experiences comfort in the company of a girl whose presence he takes for granted.
2. Bellow Yellow by Chinmayi Bali
A commendable, mature and intense story about the darker tendencies which inhabit a student's being. Well narrated, delicately handled.
3. The Music Room by Ira Trivedi
The forbidden love story of a bright young student and a docile, out of place music teacher.
4. The Cafe With No Name by Sneh Thakur
A gently narrated tale of the brewing relationship between a student of limited means and a concerned and doting Parsi owner of the roadside cafe. Heartwarming.
5. Remember Me? by Ahmed Faiyaz
This one because it made me revisit Ruheen and Aditya's love story, one I had gotten quite attached to while reading Another Chance.