Promises of a Firefly by Anupam Patra

Just finished reading Promises of a Firefly by Anupam Patra and I am still recovering from the after effects of being subjected to emotionally intense, tear jerking, depth defying tales of love and longing, for the entire journey of 209 pages.
Phew! What a feat by a debutant writer.

I am amazed, sweetly shocked and ready to proclaim this book as one of the best collection of short stories I have read recently.

Notwithstanding the fact that the writer is my namesake and the title, a sweet reminiscent of my childhood memories, I am indeed swayed by the sheer authenticity and innocent novelty of these stories.

But before I color your vision with any more of my syrupy comments, let me take you into the world of Anupam Patra’s Promises.

The book has eleven neatly stacked stories, told in natural fluent style of a nature lover.

The first story begins on a sad note. The narrator recollects his memory of nursing a fatally injured school friend, losing him to the cruel death and only years later, finally musters enough courage to meet that boy’s parents.

The story for it’s entire part moves from one tiny detail to another and connected me emotionally with a teenager, subjected to hideous grief at an impressionable age. Aah! the sensitive souls are bound to suffer and learn the lessons of optimism, in the most bizarre fashion.

Yes, I am being a little cryptic, as I don’t wish to spoil your fun in discovering the little Ray of hope, Anupam promised in his very first story ‘A Pair of Sunshine’.

The first step to the ladder was well taken and I got mighty impressed. Only to be slightly taken aback by Lily, the next offering. I thought why has he chosen such a common subject as gender bias. What newness could the writer offer as there are so many debates and stories already doing the rounds, that perhaps the tale of a female offspring has now become all too familiar and uninteresting.

But, then again, as the story moved towards it’s climax, I was swayed by the lasting image of a dead repentant father, rocking on his chair, lulled by the deathly silence and heavy grief.

As I continued reading the book, I found that this is Patra’s signature style. He would take up the simplest of situations from everyday life, envelop your senses in a gravity defying first person flashback narration and then suddenly pull the rug underneath your feet, by twisting the story to an opposite end.

As love yielded to longing and betrayal, promises led to emptiness and distrust mixed with empathy, I slowly got addicted to these stories. At the end of each one, I needed a break to clear the lumpiness in my throat, the slight twitch I felt in my heart and then only I could progress to the next one, with a clear pallette aka consciousness..

Be it a blind girl’s strange tryst with destiny, a prostitute’s brush with love, a writer’s meeting with one of his own characters or the cherished memories of a childhood sweetheart, each character, each story had a unique flavor and was deftly presented in immaculate, chaste prose, a rarity these days.

You must be wondering if this review is only about the best parts or will I shed any light on the lesser parts as well.

Well, I am nothing if not a nit picker and it did irk me that in ‘Cinnamon Delight’, a blind girl actually described the colors of eye clinic!

It was a slight oversight perhaps but I just couldn’t shake it off, even after I understood that the story was written in a supernatural vein.

Similarly, in ‘Games we never Forget’, the suspense was out way before I could forget to play a detective.

Though Patra more than compensated for it by fooling me amicably in ‘Swans’ and ‘Stranger’, stories I delighted in reading, absorbing them slowly in my conscience.

In a way, all the stories are steeped in real life, complete with the serpentine complex emotional turmoil, all of us are entangled in and thus are savored best, without going into nitty gritty of the whole experience. And, I would say that Patra charmed me every time he finished his story, by spinning the tale towards the end.

All in all, an excellent book, savor it bit by bit, chew, reflect and then move on to the next offering, and you would indeed find yourselves tasting a buffet of choicest exotic cuisines, laid out in the most fashionable manner, all over your reading room.

On a parting note, if you are wondering about the appealing title of the book, Promises of a Firefly, wait till you read the last tale of the same name and I am confident you would be as enamored as I am, by the guilt pangs of a seventy year old man, who paid the heaviest price, anyone could ever pay for one wrong decision in youth. He was the Firefly, the nightly sunshine, in someone’s dark desperate life and ended up causing two innocent souls to suffer inconsolably their whole lives. Undoubtedly, the best story of the book, reserved till the very end.

I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in reading good stories, short in length but capable of pulling your heart strings for a long long time. A clear winner..

Title : Promises of a Firefly
Author : Anupam Patra
Publisher : Story mirror
Price : Rs. 170/-
Pages : 209

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