Book launch: “Another Chance” and “Urban Shots”

Chennai’s book lovers got a neat little two-for-the-price-of-one deal at a recent book launch at Landmark. You could even call it a three-for-the-price-of-one deal.

Two books – a romance novel and a collection of short stories were launched — and three authors were on hand to discuss the books with the audience that valiantly filled the seats in spite of the rain.

The books in question were ‘Another Chance’, Ahmed Faiyaz’s take on the rather complicated love lives of urban, upwardly-mobile yuppies in India, and ‘Urban Shots’, an engaging collection of 29 short stories by 13 Indian writers on life in our metros.

Both had Faiyaz in common – he’s contributed to three short stories in ‘Urban Shots’, and is the founding member of Grey Oak Publishers, which brought out both books. Their themes are similar too, with a focus on the urban experience in India.

“’Another Chance’ is reflective of our generation, where people are in a relationship but external and internal factors cause friction between them,” said Faiyaz, in conversation with Chennai-based writer Vibha Bhatra. “Careers make them move from city to city, they choose to go back to those they were in relationships with before, and so on.”

The story, then, sets up a love triangle (or should it be quadrangle?) between four beautiful, globe-trotting desi urbanites who’re trying to figure out what they’re looking for in life and love. “My greatest challenge was writing from a woman’s perspective this time, to bring out her point-of-view,” said Faiyaz, whose first novel, ‘Life, Love and All that Jazz…’ came out earlier this year.

‘Urban Shots’ (edited by Paritosh Uttam) touches upon relationships as well, dealing with themes of romance and infidelity. But it also takes on a whole lot else, from the loss of the child to domestic abuse, often with a great deal of sensitivity. Two of the contributors to the collection, Chennai-based freelance writer Malathi Jaikumar and journalist and author of travelogue ‘Chai, Chai’, Bishwanath Ghosh, were present at the launch and discussed why it was an important book.

“It’s very relevant as more and more people move to urban areas today,” said Jaikumar. “There are a lot of conveniences and chances for success, but also a lot of loneliness and depression. Anyone who reads these stories can identify with these situations, and feel like they’re not alone.”

Ghosh described the writers of ‘Urban Shots’ as spanning generations and providing different perspectives. “The youngest writer is 20 and the emotions one undergoes at 20, 25, 35 or 45 are different,” he said. “’Urban Shots’ is really many books in one book.”

This was a coming-out party of sorts for Grey Oak, set up earlier this year. These are its first two books and Faiyaz called ‘Urban Shots’ its “first big step.” “We thought why not make a statement by bringing young writes and noted writers together for a collection, and show our support for Indian writing,” he said.

The question and answer session that followed was a tad lackadaisical, punctuated by a series of mini blackouts. Still, there was time for a fairly in-depth discussion on short story writing and its evolution, and even a profound exchange on Somerset Maugham’s final book. Not a bad deal for the audience, overall.

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