Amit Shankar's Cafe Latte is collection of eighteen short stories. Short stories is a genre which is always interesting. Amit Shankar has done a good job with his maiden collection.
Death appears to be Amit's favourite theme. Majority of his stories revolve around death. Some of them also deal with after death incidents. The first story in the book Temple of the King looks at the guru-disciple relationship from a modern perspective. 26 Down Express is set in a small town and reminds you of the R K Narayan's Malgudi Days. Code of Honour is a moving account of unvent feelings of a soldier towards his son. Amit brings up the happenings on the war front very well.
The Jazz Player is a poignant tale of a man whose health prohibits him from pursuing his passions smoking and playing saxophone. Let Me Help You Die exhibits how even those who speak of death romantically are afraid of dying. The Black Widow illustrates paranormal activity of a woman who has lost her beloved.
The Lion, Leopard and The Hyena speaks about the domineering and subservient roles in any given relationship. A Rose For Her is a predictable yet touching account of humanity that still exists even amongst the poor.
A Highway Called Life is an inspirational tale about a child who makes it big in spite of his so called handicap. It is one of the few positive tales in the book. Most of the stories in the book are gloomy and disturbing.
The Chosen One sheds light on another issue which many may seldom perceive. It is about the shame felt by a young man who has to take up his family business of selling ladies undergarments. Home Sweet Home is a touching tale which deals with man and his relationship with the guests who have come temporarily to stay in his house.
The Other Side is a story about a nymphomaniac woman from a decent, cultured well to do background. We seem to write off nymphomaniacs to be the special prerogative of the elite class. The Dream Chaser is the story of a poor boy who wants to save the humanity.
The Guardian Angel depicts mother son relationship in an interesting manner. But Amit please tell me where did you find an old woman reading on a bus that too at 10.30 pm? Evey Mouse Ain't A Mickey Mouse articulates the plight of a man trapped in a corporate job and a family which is equally demanding. Smart TV depicts how in today's smart era we are trying to replace our feelings with exotic items.
True Lies is the best story in the book. It shows the bright side of the life in an interesting form – confessions made to a priest. It reinstates that we forget our sorrows when we see others who are suffering much more. Writers Block is a story of a frustrated writer who takes up to crime for he is unable to find a publisher. Though Amit has mentioned in the preface that the collection includes stories of two young writers as well, I was unable to locate which were those stories.
Some of the above stories are indeed novel when it comes to conceptualization. The stories articulate the frustrations of the city bred, who are conventionally successful but are hollow inside, very well. It brings forth their emptiness up to the hilt. However unnecessary descriptions mar the flow of the story. The stories have predictable endings. Then too Amit's maiden attempt does not disappoint you. If you are a lover of short stories this is the book you should buy.
Attractive cover of the book deserves a special mention. I wonder how Amit manages to get beautiful covers for all his books.