Anthologies are particularly difficult to rate or review, because each story will have its own positives and negatives. There might be few which appeal to me as a reader, and some which feel out of place. When the topic that binds the stories together is one as beautiful as friendship, I feel I can’t help but have raised expectations from it.
Friendship: Bonds Beyond time is an anthology of twenty five short stories from authors residing in various parts of the country. I’ve read each story at a stretch, and then noted down what works, and what doesn’t, and rated them individually.
My favorite eleven (in no particular order):
1. Friends for Life: The author of the story, Debasish Mishra, took me back in time to college days with this tale. I liked that he stayed true to those days in dialogue and emotion, and that he portrayed a division that ego brings between friends. What might have helped the story is a flashback when the friends met after graduation and then a return to the present.
2. The Scarlet Tint of Yellow Rose: It’s nice to see when friends become more than that, even after putting obstacles in their own paths, and this story by Prachi Agasti was no exception. The emotions when the two miss each other, that part came out well. I’d urge the author to pay attention to her dialogues, which had an overdose of ellipses (…). Correct punctuation would add to the emotions the reader feels when reading.
3. Camaraderie: The story, co-authored by Sanjana Radhakrishnan and Anmol Singh, brings out how easily we make friends in childhood. I liked that that friendship was strong, and it continued growing, even when it was attempted to separate the two friends. It also showed how writing helps to overcome weaknesses. In this case, I felt a happy ending would have been more apt, heart-warming, so the sad ending felt unnecessary.
4. I’ll Always Be There for You: Anisha Mohata takes us to the world of two friends who are inseparable, and shows how powerful that friendship, one that is accepted and loved by the parents, is. The emotions, be it how one misses the other or how one is there for the other when needed, is well brought out.
5. Soulmates: Sometimes, it is difficult to know what we want in a friend, and what we want in a spouse. This confusion is the base of this story by Tapobrata Kumar. Though friendship and its strength are portrayed nicely, the ending is what moved me the most. The helplessness of the character came out then. The cause of that helplessness, however, felt a little over the top.
6. Homework: Remember your school days, when any fight with a friend could be resolved very quickly? And a real friend would know when we were lying about something? Well, Anirban Nanda took me back to those days with this story. It was realistic, believable, and cute (in the best way). I liked how he has shown even the guilt one feels while getting a friend in trouble.
7. The Deafening Silence: We rebel in college, and friendship isn’t decided by groups or common interests. This story by Prachi Sharma took me to such a time, and she has handled it nicely, with dialogues filled with college lingo and different characters forming a united group. Towards the end of their college life, they mull about the future. A sad twist to the tale affects that future. It was unexpected, and I wished there had been some other way for their togetherness to remain the same.
8. Two Little Sparrows: We often find that inspiration and friendship come from unexpected quarters. Even we do not accept that friendship at first. Rounak Bhowmick Roy Chowdhury shows me one such friendship with the story. I liked that rebelliousness when one set of parents vehemently oppose that friendship. The story and the friendship cried out for a happy ending, but didn’t get one sadly.
9. The Pursuit: One of the lead characters in the story ends up getting a part in a play. And this story by Prakash Guru felt like a play too. The story to me shows the value of compassion, and that compassion pays off for that lead character. It had the possibility of being developed a bit further, because the friendship part of the story was quite quickly dealt with.
10. Khushi – A Divine Soul: Not many would rush to the aid of a lost child, but the character Khushi in this story by Kiran and Kajal Lalwani does. The story that follows takes us to the sacrifices she made as a friend and how she is connected to that child. I liked reading that. On the flipside, it made me wonder about a few coincidences that helped the story in no small amount.
11. Scarlet’s Rose: When most of the stories dealt with college days and such, Aashi Dahiya’s story stood out because of its main character Scarlet, her idea of friendship and the contrast between friendships that she talks of in the story. Other than a small confusion in the opening letter, and that both beginning and ending was sad, I quite liked the story.
And the rest (again, in no particular order):
1. Sparko: It would have been an incomplete collection had there not been a story about the friendship between a person and a dog, I think. Thankfully, Biswadeep Ghosh Hazra stops that possibility with this one. It showed kindness can be repaid in kind sooner or later. The character that comes at the very last leaves a thread open though and I wish he had closed that too. I also suggest Biswadeep, that if he can retain one style in dialogues, it would help the story further too.
2. The Colors of Tesu: It’s nice when the title leads a reader into a story. Shubham Sinha’s story does that for me. The friendship here is between Dhvani, her mother and her son. And that friendship is a strong one, which I liked. What I didn’t like as much was that sudden change of voice, when the story which started in first person shifted to third person point of view.
3. Visit of the Dead: I liked the ending line of the story and the descriptive narration by Abhipsa Mohanty, but the story made me wonder, what changed after the arrival of the ghost? And why did it matter that the ghost wanted the friendship to be remembered?
4. Newfound Second Self: As children, we do not think of borders of any kind like rich or poor. Varina Rasquinha shows that part through this story. I liked reading Matt’s compassionate attitude, which was reflected in his parents’ attitude too. Perhaps the end, the acceptance by the parents so quickly, felt a little exaggerated.
5. The Elixir of Friendship: Akashi Srivastav and Adyasha Panda also tell a tale of sacrifices made for a friend’s happiness. However, in this case, the story has a happy ending, and I liked that. I understand the tendency of the character to switch to the mother tongue when in anger, but personally, the dialogues in Hindi felt odd.
6. Friendship is the Cure of Every Thing: Close friendship is sometimes misinterpreted as love and marriage looms on the horizon. This story by Kalyani Yadav shows marriage isn’t necessarily the end of friendship. It also showed the pain of losing a loved one, I feel. It felt quite direct though, and not as developed as it could have been.
7. True Love Saga: In this story by Nidhi, the protective nature of friends is portrayed well as well as how a person changes with the company they are in. It is one of the shorter and simpler stories in the collection, and the combination of both makes it feel like it is rushed through.
8. The Friendly Stranger: It is sad when we’re having fun with friends, and the friend decides to be selfish and go off sooner for reasons that matter only to them. Disha Bhatt brings a story of such a moment, and an unexpected friendship which blossoms from that moment. I was happy that the main character did not lose her way, but I couldn’t quite picture such a quick transition from complete stranger to fast friend.
9. Sherlock and Watson: Anyone can get a friend, and that friend can make an impact in life. One such friendship is the cynosure of Rishabh Patel’s story, and that aspect was quite nice. The story though felt like it was trying to tell too many things in its short length, and ended up a little muddled.
10. Saviour: What I liked in this story by Apoorva Joshi is that a chance meeting turned into a fast friendship, one that helped Sanjana to find the focus that she was missing. However, it felt very fast paced and odd when it came to the time frames. It’s good that things worked out for her, but a little more realistic time frame would have made the story much more true to life and nicer to read.
11. Friends Forever: Elora Rath takes us back to college/hostel life and narrates a very simple story about a gang of friends and a prank they played. The interaction between the friends is quite realistic, and it got a smile. What felt out of place for me was the Facebook statuses in the story.
12. Weeds of Hampi: The story by Mahesh Sowani has quite wonderful descriptions of Hampi, and also of the depressed state of mind. The concept was quite unique and new, but I don’t quite feel that it worked as a story about friendship. The message is quite nice though.
13. The 3 Sevens: Nikita Tak tells a story of three writers and friends who come together to write a novel. The common thread linking them is that they are number 7 personalities. The quick version of the novel that is shared in the story did not appeal to me though.
14. A Tale of Two Mice: Editor of the anthology Saravana Kumar Murugan shows off his imagination with this story as the two friends in the story are two mice, Jordon and Gordon. I liked the first quote on friendship in this story. However, the way the struggle is described felt humorous rather than moving. And I wondered why the protagonist didn’t go to help them if he had considered them as “mischievous roommates”.
I thought a lot of similar themes ran through the book, like friends dying, or sacrifice when the friendship seemed to veer toward love, or friendship in hostel/college. I wished there was more variety. When the book is edited well, with maybe a typo here and there, it’d make the stories the cynosure. Whereas the stories were quite nice to read, the editing was not up to the mark for me. It doesn’t feel nice when I’m reading along and a phrase in incorrect tense or jumbled up words comes up.
The stories overall averaged to just over 3 on 5. I think that is good. Each story had something to love and something that could have been a bit better. The overall editing though let me down as a reader. So my final rating, it saddens me to say, is 2 on 5.
|Title: Friendship: Bonds Beyond Time|
|Editor: Saravana Kumar Murugan||Genre: Anthology|
|ISBN/ASIN: B01721SWA4||Publisher: Shades Publications|
(© 2nd November 2015)