The last time I read an anthology was during my BA days, when hours would be spent trying to thrash a Keating or a Chekov into submitting all interpretations of their work in the Lit. class. I think it was the nostalgia that prompted me to accept a review copy of 'Shades of Love', despite my professed fatigue of reading Indian English writing. Also, the endless intrigue of love pushed me further. Thankfully, it wasn't a bad pick.
Edited by Ankit Mittal (who needs to find a better proofreader, considering the number of errors I spotted), 'Shades of Love' is a collection of short love stories by Indian authors, known and unknown. Some names I was familiar with; Sachin Garg, Naman Kapur, Aastha Atray Banan and Rohit Gore among them. The other new names, were as good, if not better, than the published crop. Mittal needs to be credited for making mostly poignant choices, reflecting indeed the many shades of love in this anthology. However, some stories are entirely forgettable.
I shall recall, here, the most unforgettable ones.
'A Pop Tart's Psychotic Love Story' by Aastha Atray Banan with its 'LOOK AT ME!' title, also has the meat to go with it. We have the story of a girl, unable to forget the lover who has ditched her, pushed to the threshold of madness. She will do what it takes to have him back, even if it means to kill him or his present girlfriend. When she finally walks up to the ex's house, all guns blazing, she is met with a rather unexpected turn of events...
'A Hero Greater Than Shahrukh Khan' by Rohit Gore has a cheesy title (Gore has a penchant for those), but is deserving of mention because of its tenderness. Caught in Mumbai's infamous deluge, an underdog becomes his family's hero; winning love at the cost of his life.
'Stolen' by Naman Kapur is a sharp little story about love between two equals - in crime and in bed. A pickpocket zooms into a target, sparks fly, and the one out to steal is stolen from. Fun.
Apart from these, 'The Remedy' by Sachin Garg, and 'She Called It, Kikugasane' by Tushar Rai are also fair reads.
However, Durjoy Datta's 'The English Teacher' is the most remarkable and shocking story of the whole lot, about an obsessive love, and that's all I am going to say about it for fear of ruining it for a reader. If you need a reason to buy this book, buy it for Datta's story. Yes, ignore the horrible paper quality of the book, ignore the lame stories, even ignore the choice of font on the book cover. Read Datta's story and ask Grapevine India to rope him in to write a novel that would stick to a reader's mind forever.