Sunday, December 15, 2013

Terms and Conditions Apply - Review

There are books that feel like a book while reading, and then there is Terms and Conditions Apply. The simple and lively stories compel you to take a look back at your own life, and remember when you put these incidences at the back of your mind. Its not just a collection of stories and a true incident, but also a reflection of what every one of us has seen sometime or the other, in our lives. The characters come alive, time and again as people we may have met, or as a persona of our own self.
Not too many works in recent years have managed to capture the nuances of ordinary, daily lives as effortlessly and fluently as Terms and Conditions Apply has done. A wonderful assortment of 13 short stories and a true incident, Whether it is highs and lows of a relationship, chaos and bedlam of school life, petty or harmless office gossips, or the buzz of a salon; all stories are strongly steeped in reality and yet they take a superb flight of fancy in the hands of a master craftsman. Rich in imagination, broad in its scope and elegant in its style, Terms and Conditions Apply is arguably one of the best debut works in recent Hindi literature.

About the Author
Born and bred in Lucknow, Divya Prakash Dubey successfully completed his Masters in Business Management from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Pune, a premier B-school of the country and is currently associated with a prestigious firm in telecom sector. An Engineer and an MBA, the combination has been going on for far too long to bring a refreshing picture in our minds. But that is what Divya Prakash is, a break from the existing molds of factory made pieces coming in the market. Humorous down to his very core, and equally deep in his thoughts. A voracious reader of Hindi and English literature, he already has a few poems, short stories and screenplays to his credit. Terms and Conditions Apply, is his debut collection, though once you have read it, you will have serious trouble believing it.

Allow me to be direct, and not beat around the bush, and I will say the following – “Terms and Conditions Apply”, according to me, is one of the best collection of short stories that I have ever come across. No kidding. Irrespective of the language, I would rate it alongside the collections of greats such as O’Henry, Saki and Ruskin Bond.

And come to think of it, the author, Divya Prakash Dubey, is a complete newbie, and “Terms and Conditions Apply” marks his debut. What? Seriously? You wouldn't believe it if you read this book, just like I am having trouble accepting the fact.

The reasons are aplenty. The book is a collection of fourteen short stories in Hindi, each belonging to a different genre. That’s a big plus point, ‘cause often reading tales that fall under a single genre can turn out to be a bit monotonous. Just like you long for varieties in life, a reader’s mind too hunts for different plots satiating his / her taste buds. That’s the first thumbs up this book gets from me.

Talking about the plot makes me question the mind of the author. How can a newcomer come up with fourteen plots, all totally unique, all absolutely different from each other, without even a tinge of similarity between them? However, there is one common factor that binds all these stories, and that is none of the stories fail to enchant you, and enamor your senses. Let me tell you what I thought when I started reading this book.

As I finished the first story, ‘They Lived Happily Ever After’, I honestly felt that the author and the publication team should have kept the best story for the last, and thus, I thought, that the other stories might not live up to the beauty of the first one. Then came ‘Class 9th B’, and for a few moments, I couldn't believe that this was written by the same author who penned the previous tale. Both stories were so different, in content, language, and style, and yet, both were brilliant. Kitty, Saloon, Lolita and the rest followed, and I, an avid reader, became a total fan of the author Divya Prakash Dubey.

For the first time in my life, I picked up a collection / anthology where I loved ALL the stories. Normally, I like to rate each of the stories whenever I finish such a collection, but I failed in this department this time. Each of the stories score a perfect ten. In fact, I couldn't even choose my favorite one out of the lot. Mr. Dubey, you really confused me.

But I would really love to be in this state of confusion. I wish we have more such books, in Hindi, English, and in every language, which entertain you, and cater to the taste of every person. True, purists might comment regarding the use of a few English words here and there, but I would debate and say that those were needed, and went in perfect sync with the stories.

“Terms and Conditions Apply” is an epitome of perfection, and sets a high benchmark for the world to follow. I hope that this book is read and re-read by all.

This collection is as novel and refreshing as it could get. I wouldn't even have dared to rate it, as that would spoil the beauty encased in this book. Actually, this book, and its stories surpasses all sort of ratings.

And yet, for the sake of convenience, I conclude the review by rating it a perfect 5 out of 5 (and no, there are no terms and conditions applied in my verdict).

Title: Terms and Conditions Apply
Author: Divya Prakash Dubey
Publisher: Hind Yugm
Publication Year: 2013
Language: Hindi
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
No. of Pages: 168
Price: Rs 95
My Rating: 5/5 (I wish I could rate it more)

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

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