The Kabab Maker and the Consultant - Book Review

12:34 PM Shanky 1 Comments

Publications: Rupa Publications, 2011           Genre: Fiction

I was aimlessly wandering about the Mumbai airport as I had almost 2 hours to kill before I board my flight to Kolkata. And tucked behind a Philips store was my favorite shop of all time - Landmark! I walked starry-eyed with the prospect of buying books or may be even few DVD sets. Just when I was going to buy the trusted best sellers I chanced upon a book titled "The Kabab Maker and the Consultant". I did not realize it is a collection of short stories when I bought it and hence was mildly surprised when I opened it during flight. The back cover introduction promises - 
"The Kabab Maker and the Consultant explores the experiences of love, greed, betrayal, friendship, and guile. There is darkness here, but also a strong undercurrent of optimism and hope, for the stories offer an empathetic view of human side." 
To cut a long story short - the book does deliver on its promise through the 12 short stories written by Mr. Arun Sikka, an alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad.

Now to further nuances, I am the kind of person who would like to save the best for the last. Even if it is a small thing as eating peanuts or chips I usually save the bigger ones for the last. The stories were also arranged to my liking. The cynical, greedy and darker stories were at the beginning while the ones that ooze confidence, hope, optimism were lined up towards the end. It also happens that the usual, guessable stories were at the beginning which means that you wont be having, "Ah! I knew its gonna end like this" or "Not again!" kind of thoughts towards the end and when you keep the book down on the table after finishing it you will feel satisfied that you did a good investment of INR 150.

The characters are real and they really come hard at you - either at your heart or to your mind. Guessable or not - there will not be one story which at the end will make you wonder "How would I have done that?" or "How would I have handled that situation?" Though the title has been chosen wisely to intrigue the buyer, the title story is not my favorite. Flowers that blush unseen is a classic short story that impressed me the most. It is about three women in different strata and stages in life, the mutual admiration & respect that they have for each other and the love that flows in their relationship. While the characters are as much real as in other stories, what sets it apart for me is the excessive optimism about life and the choice of words in the story. Sample this -

"At the fountain she rolled her yoga mat and sat down for her twenty minutes of meditation and breathing exercises. She loved the 'splash splash' of the water as it fell in the pool from a height. The pattern of sound was heavenly; the pattern traced by the drops as they arched through the air, first rising up and then falling gracefully was heavenly; the discipline with which each individual drop chased the one in front, as if both were part of a graceful, choreographed, ballet, was heavenly. She was marveled at the size, the shape, the speed of every drop; each drop unique in itself, yet connected to all the drops that came before it and after it, by forces beyond her comprehension."
I will not spoil the beauty of the paragraph by interpreting it for you :) Another interesting technique handled by the author is to use unusual names for some of his characters. Especially if that character has a negative connotation. For example, bubbles, Dumpy, Oopy!! I think this is a stronger signal than the customary declaration saying it is a work of fiction and I think it is a very positive one as well. 

Aesthetic appeal of the book was very functional. Big letter printing will help even the senior citizens to enjoy the book without hurting their eyes but I also think it might have increased the number of pages leading to the INR 150 price tag while other Indian publications come at a cheaper INR 100. The cover was a little dull and could have been spiced up a little. But I think the publishers were banking on the quirky title to do the sales for them and I must admit the trick worked with me at least. It is one of the good things that comes in a modest package. So if you happen to visit a book store, do purchase this and read it. I am sure you will enjoy the journey with the varied personalities brought to life masterfully by Mr. Sikka.

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1 comment:

  1. I agree about the cover-They could've certainly come up with something better! But then the title definitely draws you to the book-thats what made me pick it off the shelf at the bookstore:)


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