I always accept the honour of being asked to review a debut book by an author with a pinch of salt; especially if it’s an Indian author. With the publishing industry suddenly exploding in our faces, every third person seems to be writing a book. Admittedly, writing a book is extremely hard work, but I’ve come across so many disappointing works by so-called Indian English authors, that I have now grown wary of them. So I accepted this book with a rather long, unwieldy title for a review with some reserve. It didn’t help that the book’s cover design was juvenile.
But ‘Love, Peace & Happiness: What more can you want?’ (LPH) by Rituraj Verma did not entirely disappoint. It is, at best, trippy. The book appears to be a collection of short stories at first glance, but as one reads on, it turns out to be a series of stories revolving around a fixed set of people, somehow amalgamating into a novella. All stories are about man-woman relationships in the modern society. All couples have relationship patterns common to urban conditions, and are easily identifiable in this day and age. The characters cross paths in the course of the stories, and change their destinies.
Through characters placed in varying life situations, the author tries to make the reader ask himself some fundamental questions about life. What is love? How one may find happiness? What comprises peace? I will not go as far as to say that these stories are fodder for introspection, but sometimes there are questions one catches asking oneself.
One unique aspect of LPH is that the writer offers alternate endings to every story. These alternate ends are available to read on his website, and should a reader not like or agree with the way a story ends, he/she can choose another. While the idea is most innovative, I felt throughout the book that the author was holding back. He did not commit to a story entirely because he had to keep his options open. One finds him building the plot, holding the pace and suddenly slacking towards the end. Other readers may, of course, disagree. Honestly, I read alternate ends of only one story, and found them too insignificant to bother with.
The writer goes on this way with fair, mostly believable stories right up to the end, but it all changes in the last chapter. He adopts a style that is hugely different from the rest of the book, and one is left wondering what the author was smoking when he wrote it. It is part introspective, part crazy and entirely out of place in the book. But then, one must allow an artist of words his eccentricities. The book, on the whole, is a job done well.
Should you read it? I should say yes.