I will put short stories second on the list of preferred choices when it comes to reading books. Poetry is first, and novels at third place. Short stories, because of many reasons, have always fascinated me. This connection with the form led me to read a collection of wonderful (but gloomy) short stories by Anshu Choudhry, Two Minutes to an Eclipse and other moments. Anshu’s literary background finds a reflection in her writing style. And this, above anything else, impressed me and compelled me to read to the last page of the short story collection.
There are 15 short stories in this collection by Anshu Choudhry. Many are around 7-10 pages, a few shorter and a few longer. However, most of the stories revolve around religious themes, human emotions, internal conflicts, and abstract ideas. The trajectory of this collection leads directly to the hearts of the readers, arousing pity, affection, confusion or the conundrum of choosing the fitting emotional response (for the characters of concern).
Two Minutes to an Eclipse, the story that features on the cover page as the title of the book, raises questions that only readers can answer. Doubts, beliefs, faith, intellect… Sins of Ramdin perfectly sums up many among us, the usual lots having a confusing duality to carry – one for society and another hidden inside us. Ramdin meets his strange fate one day, and his life takes a toss. You will enjoy reading about his ‘sins’ and also find your conclusions. A Protest, short story number 8 in the collection, tests your general knowledge, and knowledge in general and also introduces you to the dilemma many young people have in their minds when it comes to leaning, choosing and following an ideology. While you will enjoy the story for its language, setting and resemblance to the real-life scenario, you may end up questioning your reality as well.
The Pigeon Head is the most intriguing story in the collection for me. It raises many moments of pathos. What is about this life? You may ask! All other stories in the collection are very well-written and offer many possible interpretations. It is up to the readers to extract their realities, possibilities, and conclusions from these short stories.
Coming to the critical highlights of this short story collection, you will find one constant scenario. No story ends per se. You will always feel there might be more. And that’s where the author has succeeded – giving her readers something to think, internally ponder and perhaps discuss with others as well. Linguistically, the short stories have kept me impressed throughout the collection. Rich in language, diverse in the use of the narratives (the author herself hints at everything in the introduction about the use of the first-person and the third-person narratives), vivid and broad in choosing themes, and subtle in embedding the messages she wants to deliver, the author has created a near perfect collection of 15 life-like short stories that extend beyond being a literary work.
At times, you might feel that the stories are filled with monologues and talking inside (one’s head). It comes as a byproduct when authors try to add literary riches to their literature – character sketches, landscape details, emotional outburst, or even the act of making a decision to speak might take longer than the speech itself. These things might entertain and satisfy the readers who have revelled in the Hardian or Austenian worlds before. However, those who have graduated with Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi as majors might find the classy writing a little too much to digest.
I do recommend this book to anyone who wants to read meaningful, colourful, literary and traditional literature that does more than merely entertain the readers in leisure. Even if you have been reading 20-20 literature recently and could not find time to read something traditional, you may start with this book and discover what literature feels like when it is not only words against our thoughts. All the best!
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Review by Alok for Indian Book Critics
Two Minutes to an Eclipse and other moments by Anshu Choudhry – Book Review
- IBC Critical Rating
Two Minutes to an Eclipse and other moments by Anshu Choudhry is a collection of 15 well-written short stories you must read!