Review: ‘Saturday Stories’ by Rashmi Bansal is a Breezy Weekend Read

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Saturday Stories by Rashmi Bansal

Title: Saturday Stories

Publisher: Harper Collins India

Price: INR 250

Print length: 176 pages

 

Bestselling author of Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish and Follow Every Rainbow, writer, entrepreneur and motivational speaker Rashmi Bansal makes her foray into fiction writing with her debut Saturday Stories. Aptly titled, these short, snappy stories are a perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday evening.

The book was born out of a thirty-day challenge during the Covid-19 lockdown, when the author began penning short stories every day. Having written 10 bestselling books on entrepreneurship previously, Bansal soon realised that all material comes from life, and that fiction and nonfiction are simply two sides of the same coin. Drawing inspiration from her favourite short story writers O. Henry and Jeffrey Archer, she endeavours to lend in each of her stories a twist. The first page outlines the theme of the book: “We know not how this life will unfold” – which in itself is a valuable lesson that the world learnt during Covid.

Since they were written during the lockdown, many of the stories in the book are about various aspects of the pandemic and how it affected people belonging to different strata of society. In ‘What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School’, Champak lives with his family in a chawl in south Mumbai. When his modest enterprise is wiped out by Covid,he resorts to burgling kirana stores for essential items such as Maggi noodles, Amul butter and hair dye packs for his wife. ‘Chal Meri Dhanno’ is about a frail 15 year old migrant worker who cycled 1,100 kilometres from Gurgaon to her village in Bihar, with her father riding pillion. ‘The Last Tribe’ is based on the fact that the remote Indian district of Bastar reported zero Covid cases. It was found that the tribal people living here have high natural immunity due to their traditional diet. Further, the mahua plant found in the region is used for treating respiratory disorders, and the red ant chutney frequently consumed here has strong anti-viral properties.   

In ‘Lambi Race ki Ghodi’, a 41 year old single woman who is a super qualified, over achieving professional, gets an opportunity to work at a high-tech company, which gets her to move to the US. However, during the pandemic, she becomes a victim of racial slur. The story is based on a news report stating that xenophobia was at its peak in many countries during Covid, when several citizens felt that foreigners were spreading the disease. The collection also includes two poems, including one in three acts – ‘Ode to Love’ about the famed city of Verona that is struck by the pandemic. The lilting poem imagines a modern-day Romeo-Juliet story in the times of Instagram, Skype and viral videos. Towards the end of the poem, Bansal slips in a humorous little wish to her readers: ‘May your marriage not feel like forced quarantine’.

By the end of her thirty-day challenge, Bansal devised a three-hour fiction writing course. In the past two and a half years, more than 500 participants across age groups have attended her workshops and written their own stories, six of which have been included at the end of this book. One of the notable ones is ‘And That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbled’ by Mumbai-based management consultant Devakee Rahalkar. Its protagonist is a 28 year old single, office-going girl. Introvert by nature, she is happiest spending her weekend at home eating junk food and bingeing on Netflix. Lured by her best friend to visit a bakery one day, she runs into an old school friend – and finds that sparks fly between them. Rengarajan’s ‘Till We Meet Again’ is a heartwarming story about a dog that belongs to an elderly couple. Over a period of time, the dog develops arthritis, and the woman of the house, a lump in her breast. The man of the house lives to see both their tragic ends. 

In ‘Lambi Race ki Ghodi’, a 41 year old single woman who is a super qualified, over achieving professional, gets an opportunity to work at a high-tech company, which gets her to move to the US. However, during the pandemic, she becomes a victim of racial slur. The story is based on a news report stating that xenophobia was at its peak in many countries during Covid, when several citizens felt that foreigners were spreading the disease.

Possibly the youngest author in the collection, 16 year old Suhani Garg who lives in Bangalore, writes a story called ‘Free to Be Me’ about a 17 year old Afghani girl who is brutally punished by her father when she secretly goes out to a nightclub with her friends. The story goes on to elaborate how she rebels, and the outcome it finally leads to. Megha Mehta shares an autobiographical tale called ‘Ammaji’, paying tribute to her great-grandmother – the author’s “favourite storyteller, playmate, confidante and nemesis” – who told her many stories about her childhood and youth in Pakistan. Told in the style of ‘stories within stories’, Bansal saves the best for last. 

Next, Bansal plans to venture into screenwriting for binge-worthy shows on socially relevant subjects. “Challenge yourself with things you’ve never done before. The power of imagination will open every door,” she advises. 

Saturday Stories is available on Amazon & HarperCollins.

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